Zelda: Breath of the Wild - The Master Trials - impressions
We've spent some quality time rediscovering Nintendo's stunning open-world adventure.
We've returned to Hyrule. We thought we'd wait a little longer as we've already spent countless hours exploring the plateaus, mountains and the desert of this vibrant, living world.
The DLC packs that make up the The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Expansion Pass have the clear goal of bringing back all of those players who ruined their hands climbing, riding, running, fighting, and exploring the whole of Hyrule, those who could hit a Moblin's horn using the bow from 50 metres away — and well, also those who have always wanted to run around wearing the Majora's Mask. The Master Trials avoids delving into the narrative and the characters that shaped the story, but worry not, as we'll get that later this year in The Champion's Ballad.
What's new in The Master Trials then? Here's a summary: three new masks, two armour sets, a new item, a tracking system for the map, a new multi-tiered shrine (dungeon), and an additional difficulty level. It's important to note that the new equipment seeks to scratch the fan service itch for the most hardcore followers of the series, but everything else aims to give players a further challenge, hence the title.
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They are the two sides of this DLC, and it's wonderful to see how Breath of the Wild approaches them both without neglecting exploration, a mechanic that plays a very significant role in this adventure. The new pieces of equipment are merely ornamental and allow us to dress up our dear Link with Tingle's outfit, Midna's helmet or the legendary Majora's Mask. However, they've been incorporated into the world the right way, that is, by inviting the players to find them following little hints that, while not as subtle as the ones found during the main adventure, encourage exploration.
The meat of the DLC lies in the trials that give its name to this content drop. We've mentioned that the main aim of this downloadable pack was to bring back those of us who have spent countless hours with Link and seen the Game Over screen so many times that it still haunts us in our dreams. Well, we're afraid that thanks to The Masters Trials, you'll see this screen even more, and it's all because of the Trial of the Sword and the new Master Mode.
Let's start with Master Mode. We have to admit that when we started the game (sorry, more like re-started) in this mode, it felt the same as the first the time we got to play Link after his 100-year slumber. No, we don't just refer to the wave of nostalgia that hit us as we took in that stunning view of Hyrule upon leaving the Shrine of Resurrection; we're talking about the feeling of defencelessness, the realisation that we were about to embark on an epic journey across a vast, wild, and hostile world.
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The experience you get from the hours spent with the game help you to have in mind the tricks you need to succeed in combat. You know how the enemies move and where they are, as well as how to get those items and weapons that make things easier, but it's not going to be enough to rely on this knowledge. Remember the first Bokoblin, the one that awaits near the old man's fire? Well, it has now turned blue. The moment it starts hitting you mercilessly (as shown in the accompanying livestream's final minutes), you realise that everything has changed. This becomes even more obvious a bit later when you're exploring the surroundings of the Temple of Time only to bump into a White-maned Lynel. That's when you stop and accept that the situation is more serious than expected.
The rise in challenge thrown at you by the Master Mode forces you to change your playstyle. We've always been a bit careless, with our focus on being agile in battles, taking advantage of the environments and the enemies' weapons to defeat them, but this approach proved useless here. The weapons keep breaking, our foes gradually regain their health, and, to top it all off, they are stronger and more abundant. Action and a straightforward approach thus gets pushed into the background and gives way to strategy. You must make the most of your surroundings and anything and everything at your disposal. For example, a Korok leaf doesn't inflict much damage, but it might help you throw your enemies into the water so they die quickly and you don't have to use up other weapons.
You can't, or rather you shouldn't restrict yourself to following the simplest, traditional mechanics. The new challenge level makes you think, analyse the situation, and decide whether it's better to use a tree to ambush some enemies or lure an archer instead so they miss their target and you can take their arrows. Previously obtained experience can be useful, but you need to realise that you're in a living world that may both help you and make you fall prey to a group of Moblins.
It's outstanding how a minimum of modification to aspects like enemy power or their regeneration abilities can make you rediscover the core mechanics of this Zelda. With only a few changes, Nintendo has managed to create a much more hostile world. Even the most experienced players will have to stop and think about the next step. Problems arise in the long run, though, as you get used to those changes and learn how to control them. Hyrule is at your feet one more time and the novelty factor is lost after all the months Link has been with us, even if the battles are more difficult than ever before. It remains to be seen whether more changes have been implemented in the Shrines or the location of the monsters. Rest assured that we will keep making discoveries for a while, as this is an almost excessively large game.
Though it might not look like it, The Trial of the Sword is the exact opposite of the Master Mode. While the latter plays separately, much like other Master Quests, the former is integrated into the original adventure and takes you on a challenge to upgrade the Master Sword and awaken its true power, as well as putting your skills to the test, of course.
The way this new, huge shrine is been integrated into the world of Breath of the Wild isn't the only reason why The Trial of the Sword is completely opposite to the new difficulty level. As we explained before, the Master Mode includes subtle changes in established aspects, such as stats, and the enemies, as well as a little floating experiment involving the Octoroks. The new dungeon, however, introduces new situations and dares to explore mechanics that we could never have imagined despite the countless hours we've spent with the game.
There are 48 levels divided into three areas, and you'll have to use the environments and everything around you to your advantage in order to kill all the monsters in each level. Naturally, the challenge increases as you move your way through the different floors, and dying means starting all over again from the first level of each area.
The best thing about the trial imposed by the Master Sword is that it's not the reward, nor the frustration of falling victim to an arrow you didn't see coming that encourages you to keep trying, but curiosity. You never know what will force you to use your fighting and survival skills. There are areas in complete darkness and rooms where the wind blows non-stop, while some levels are deadly traps swarmed with Guardians. There seems to be no limits to what you'll face.
On the one hand we have the accessories and outfits, and on the other a new difficulty level and an additional dungeon. The Master Trials has come to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so we can keep getting lost in the overwhelming Hyrule that we first experienced back in March. The biggest weakness of this expansion is that the only really new area is a dungeon that can be completed in a relatively short amount of time, but luckily, even if you've played a hundred or more hours, you'd still be surprised by the world and its inhabitants.
In conclusion, The Master Trials serves as a delicious appetiser as we wait for the main course that will be The Champions' Ballad, which will explain to us what happened 100 years prior to the events of the game, this time without the need for flashbacks. There are still a few months until we get to know a bit more about the lore of series, and we think the best way to spend them is by rediscovering the world that made Breath of the Wild one of the best adventures ever created.