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.
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.
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.