The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Master Trials DLC review

We have unfinished business in Hyrule, and Breath of the Wild is offering plenty of incentives to return for a round of new challenges in the Master Trials.

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Version reviewed), Wii U
Release Date: June 30th, 2017

Despite at least two other major titles launching in the month of March, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild managed to utterly consume the consciousness of gaming communities for weeks on end. Now, in early July, we have settled a bit and moved on to other titles with a good chunk of Shrines under our belt. Nintendo is not done with us, though, as they have invited us to return to Hyrule for the first of two upcoming DLC adventures: The Master Trials.

Those interested in story expansion or new, explorable areas will need to patiently wait for the holiday DLC, but that’s just fine and dandy. Rather than adding anything dramatic or new, The Master Trials acts as a warm invitation to return to Hyrule and clean up your unfinished business with new incentives. There are new armor pieces to hunt down, a new challenge to power up the Master Sword, a “Hard Mode” in the form of Master Mode that includes its own separate save file (praise Hylia) and daunting enemies the minute you leave your stasis cave.

breath of the wild master trials

Credit: Nintendo

First, let’s talk about Master Mode, which is the aspect of this DLC I feel most ambivalent about. Master Mode’s most obvious change upgrades most enemies to, effectively, their “next level.” Red Bokoblins are now Blue, Blue Bokoblins are now White, with all the health and damage increases that come along with that. Some enemies, such as Keese and Chus, are not upgraded and still can be dispatched with one good swipe of a Boko Club. You also may find stronger enemies in unexpected places, such as the Lynel patrolling an area of the Great Plateau or Moblins puttering around a forest you need to stroll through.

The enemies are also more numerous, and bring along a few new tricks to the fight. An area in Normal mode might only have three Bokoblins around a campfire, but in Master Mode, it’s a full squadron of five Bokoblins, two more in the woods, and another two playing lookouts atop wooden platforms hovering via Octorok Balloons. These floating platforms are numerous, if disappointing, as they are easily dispatched with an arrow or two. Seeing them initially, I expected more, similar weird tricks from my foes, but venturing into the wider world of Hyrule I mainly just found more floating platforms.

breath of the wild master trials

Credit: Nintendo

I feel that Master Mode was a necessary component of this game that ought to have been included at launch and that the wait to July for this game mode was not necessarily worth it. While the Great Plateau is Great Fun to explore with the changes, its existence as a self-contained environment allows for easy design shifts like sticking complex Bokoblin camps exactly where you need to be, right now. You’ll need to fight, no matter what, and when you do, you better be prepared to get good, fast. Enemies regenerate health if you leave them alone for more than a few seconds, so brush up on the dodges and Flurry Rushes. You’ll need them.

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But I found Master Mode to be more frustrating than fun once I got into the main game. I began to naturally attempt to avoid combat wherever possible, a choice which will continue to keep me far away from discovering the few secrets the mode harbors over Normal Mode, such as Gold enemies. There are few rewards beyond satisfaction and bragging rights for working your way through Master Mode, making it truly a playstyle for those with plenty of time, Zelda skill, and desire for challenge. Had it been there at launch, I may have been more likely to take the plunge, but as it is, it’s not worth another 40+ hours to complete when I’ve already seen all the puzzles, story, and most of the map.

breath of the wild master trials

Credit: Nintendo

While Master Mode failed to draw me in, I have nothing but praise for the tiny additions to both game modes in the form of new armor, Hero’s Path, and the Trial of the Sword. First, the armor: it’s a silly extra challenge to find, but the game gives you the quests for each piece the minute you drop in, meaning you’re not stuck relying on the Internet for help. There’s a bit of lore involved in the hunt, too, and a few of the pieces take you to places you may have overlooked in your original quest. Plus, some have some serious utility: haven’t gotten your steaming pile of golden poop yet? The Korok Mask will help you track down those pesky missing Koroks.

Hero’s Path may be my favorite addition. When I finally put Breath of the Wild down in March, I had cleared 90 of the game’s 120 Shrines–just enough that I was no longer regularly stumbling upon them. Hero’s Path allows you to see where you’ve been on the map, and how frequently, providing easy identification of areas missed. Immediately, I found plenty of open spaces I had somehow managed to avoid exploring, and relished the opportunity to see new places, find new Shrines, and uncover new secrets. I quickly knocked out five more Shrines using this mode, found several more Koroks, and stumbled upon a weird treasure chest on a mountain. Neat! These were the discoveries that captivated me about Breath of the Wild to begin with.

breath of the wild master trials

Credit: Nintendo

Finally, the Master Trials, which I am still struggling to complete. Like Eventide Island and Master Mode’s Great Plateau, the Master Trials strip you down to nothing and drop you into a challenging environment, with around 45 floors worth of battles and obstacles to clear to fully power up the Master Sword. This, more so than Master Mode, felt like a carefully planned challenge, as each floor deliberately places its monsters to force you to plan, strategize, and react appropriately.

Right from the early levels, you must start from sticks, steal your enemies’ weapons, manage your durability, and carefully tiptoe your way forward with few food items. Breath of the Wild makes you work for your unlimited Master Sword, making it a worthy reward for anyone who can prove they’ve already mastered both combat and survival skills throughout the game.

Put it all together, and the Master Trials DLC works well to entice players of all stripes back. Though I personally did not embrace Master Mode, its challenges will be eagerly met by those who didn’t find Breath of the Wild’s combat punishing enough the first go around. Meanwhile, there are plenty of trappings for more laid back players like myself, who are just wondering where that last Shrine is or when they can dress up like Tingle.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - The Master Trials

Nintendo

7.5

There’s a reason this DLC is called the “Master Trials.” It’s heavily focused on challenging combat, with a few cosmetic rewards. If that’s your forte, you’ll find the design of Master Mode and Trial of the Sword to your liking, though Master Mode is a touch late to the party in terms of time investment and reward. It’s not a new adventure, but it will do just fine until the second pack, complete with story DLC, drops this holiday.

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