Zelda: Breath of the Wild Master Trials Review: Playing to Strengths

Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s The Master Trials DLC expansion is additive rather than wholly original, but that just means more of a great thing. Our review.


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was an all-in game. All-in, and then some, since more people bought the Switch version of Breath of the Wild than bought Nintendo’s console when it launched alongside Zelda earlier this year. Such a high adoption rate points to the likelihood that that most people played Breath of the Wild as I did: gorging rather than nibbling on arguably the greatest game Nintendo has ever made.

After so much binging, you might still be detoxing. Whether or not you’re in the mood for more Breath of the Wild so soon after putting your life on hold to consume it will go a long way in determining how much value you get out of The Master Trials, the first of two planned DLC expansions.

The Master Trials seeds the overworld with new gear to discover and a combat challenge called Trial of the Sword, the DLC’s main attraction. If you turned over every rock in Wind Waker or Twilight Princess, you should already be familiar with Trial of the Sword’s gauntlet structure. The challenge unfolds over dozens of rooms, each containing a variety of progressively harder enemies as you advance. The main difference is that in Wind Waker’s and Twilight Princess’s combat gauntlets, rooms were nondescript caverns. The environment was irrelevant; you took all of your items in with you and could use them to dispose of enemies as you saw fit.

In Trial of the Sword, the layout and content of each room can make or break your odds of success. Some teem with tall grass and plants. Others hold towers, moving platforms, explosive barrels, and other actors. The multitude of configurations means you can tackle each arena in a way that suits your play style. Sneak through grass to creep up behind enemies and land critical strikes, leap off towers to pepper larger foes with arrows, or set chu-chus on fire and light a stick using the flames they spread as they ooze along to increase your attack power.

Only the resourceful will survive Trial of the Sword. Before the crucible begins, Link is stripped of his meals, ingredients, and gear. To fight, you’ll need to loot weapons from enemies. To heal, you must scavenge for provisions, such as climbing trees to steal eggs from nests and breaking open crates to pillage apples. Pass the trial, and you’ll permanently power up your Master Sword from its base rating of 30 to 60, a boon normally only applied when you face corrupted enemies such as the four main bosses and Calamity Ganon. Die before you clear the final room, and you start back at the beginning.

The penalty for failure is harsh, but high stakes are part of the trial’s draw. Being dropped into diverse environments and made to live off the land is the best way to show off Breath of the Wild’s deep game systems, as well as the skill you’ve built up over hours of learning how to exploit them.

The rest of Master Trials’ additions are hit or miss. Hero’s Path draws squiggly lines that retrace your every move over the last 200 hours of play. I got a kick out of watching my route unfurl, but it comes with the more practical application of showing where you haven’t explored yet, which can be helpful if you’re still hunting down shrines. New gear spans masks and armor you uncover by locating diaries that divulge clues to the whereabouts of items.

Master Mode, a higher difficulty level, ratchets up enemy toughness and places harder enemies in most areas. There’s even a Lynel, far and away the game’s toughest non-boss monster, in the starting area. Like Trial of the Sword, Master difficulty will appeal to players who can’t get enough of Breath of the Wild’s intricate system. It goes without saying that casual players should look elsewhere for a good time.

While I’ve enjoyed my time with The Master Trials so far, I’m in the camp of fans who overindulged on Breath of the Wild and have since decided to take it slow. The Master Trials offers more of a great thing, but I feel no compulsion to immerse myself in its accoutrements.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Zelda: Breath of the Wild epitomizes the old saw of journey over destination. The game’s first expansion plays to that strength by letting you work your way through it at your own pace. If you’re looking for more story, though, you’ll have to wait until The Champion’s Ballad, the second expansion, serenades players this fall.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
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    July 7, 2017 2:30 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Zelda: Breath of the Wild Master Trials Review: Playing to Strengths

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      July 7, 2017 2:42 PM

      Thanks for the writeup. I largely agree - I'm going to run through the Sword Trial this weekend (hopefully goes better than my first attempt) but I'm not doing much with hard mode for now.

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        July 7, 2017 2:56 PM

        Yeah. I actually prefer the DLC's structure of sprinkling in bits of content I can tackle here and there. Trial of the Sword takes the most commitment since you can't save after you begin, but the Switch wakes up from sleep mode so quickly that I felt comfortable chipping away at it.

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          July 7, 2017 3:01 PM

          Yes, totally this - if it weren't for the sleep functionality I'd never be able to play content like this!

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        July 7, 2017 3:02 PM

        Yeah, I hadn't realized exactly how hard it was going to be. I think I got used to using the environment against certain kinds of enemies but by the time I'd reached others I had the armor and everything else to just tackle them head on. So now I need to look at things a different way (especially the lizalfos).

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      July 7, 2017 2:46 PM

      Good write up, thank you, I haven't played much of it yet so I enjoyed this piece and it was pretty informative for me

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        July 7, 2017 2:56 PM

        Glad you liked it! Think you'll get to play this weekend?

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          July 7, 2017 3:00 PM

          Wife's family flies in tonight for a week, so probably not until next week over lunch at work :( Something to look forward to though!

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          July 7, 2017 5:59 PM

          Got to play while waiting for them to get off the plane - so far I really like it, I love starting with nothing, that island / shrine in the main game like that was my favorite part of the game.

          Can't wait to see how far I can get, as long as I don't have to fight a lynel :/ fuck those things

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      July 8, 2017 6:40 AM

      I started master mode and am getting my ass kicked. I think I've forgotten a lot since my original playthrough as well, so this is going to be pretty tough for me to get into.

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      August 20, 2017 5:52 PM

      Man this has been one of the best Zelda games I have played. I had to beat the game twice, my son deleted my first game progress after I beat Calimity Gabon. The master trials is a real tough challenge, fun but really hard. This is the only other game I play. I'm a huge fan of Call of Duty Remastered, checkout my website and watch some of my COD videos.

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