Champions' Ballad Reminds Us of the Best and Worst of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It's oh so right, yet oh so wrong.

Analysis by Nadia Oxford, .

I knew in my heart of hearts Nintendo planned to release The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Champions' Ballad DLC on us with no warning. That didn't stop me from expelling a string of swear words when the news went live at the 2017 Video Game Awards, though.

Best-laid plans, right? This is a tricky time of year; there's a lot to do before Picks of the Year and Holiday Guides are finalized, and Nintendo just plonked a significant load of Zelda content on our heads. Sleepless nights incoming.

Oh well. Life is rough.

Kass status: Still floofy.

I downloaded Champions' Ballad and played through its opening bit. Surprisingly, even though Champions' Ballad is supposed to be a story-based DLC pack, its first couple of hours resemble the previously-released DLC pack, the Master Trials. Link is expected to overcome big challenges while suffering significant handicaps. Needless to say, it's a bit of a let-down if you just want to get your hands on that sweet motorcycle reward.

But I started to appreciate (most of) the opening act for Champions' Ballad as I got warmed up. In time, I understood the purpose of the new challenge: Nintendo uses it to take you back to those very first hours of trial, error, and caution you experienced when you started Breath of the Wild.

Remember how you wandered around the Great Plateau and ran across a low-ranking Bokoblin that used Link's head for tee-ball practise? Yeah, that's going to happen to you again in Champions' Ballad.

"new slate, who dis"

Many of us are returning to Breath of the Wild for the first time in months, and while our muscle memory is still intact, it's in need of a good rub-down. The first part of the Champions' Ballad is like a warm-up by fire: You're only allowed to wield one weapon, and even though it murders your foes in one hit, it drains Link's health to a quarter-heart. In other words, you die in one hit, too.

The Great Plateau is swarming with four nests of powerful enemies that need to be dispatched before you can move on. You can't spam your new uber-weapon, either; it takes a few seconds to charge. It's exactly what you want by your side when you're sneaking up on a silver Moblin, but it won't do you a lot of good against a lowly pack of Lizalfols wielding Deku leaves (this is indeed a scenario I came up against. I died ignobly).

Maybe you stopped fighting stealthily and cleverly by the time you got 20, 30, 40 hours into Breath of the Wild. Well, the first bit of Champions' Ballad forces you to slow down and start looking again. Look at your terrain for hiding spots. Look for rocks and exploding barrels. Parasail in from above and find advantageous high ground. Look for enemy scouts who can be taken down before they alert their comrades to your presence (thankfully, you're allowed to keep your bows and arrows).

"Who wanna play dodge ball?"

I appreciate what Nintendo was going for here, and I enjoyed getting back to the core of what made Breath of the Wild such a unique Zelda experience for us. It'd be a good way to start this much-anticipated DLC, if not for one thing: The Shrines.

It's not enough to beat all the monsters in marked enemy encampments. You have to beat them and complete the new Shrines that rise out of the ground. The first Shrine I came across, Collected Soul, is fine. It's not too short, not too long, it's interesting to solve, and it's named after a '90s alternative band. High marks across the board.

The next Shrine tasks you with navigating a darkened labyrinth, and it's not so bad either. But playing the next one—Stop to Start—is like careening down a spike-lined slide and plunging directly into a vat of salt. You need to make a lot of tricky maneuvers and jumps past spike traps. One hit means death and when you die (not "if"), you start all over again. It's just monumentally unfun.

The final Shrine is a Major Test of Strength that's likewise long, but at least appears to have some checkpoints in it. The area you work through is lousy with Guardian robots, and again, one hit kills you—but it feels a little fairer than Stop to Start because you're not expected to make shaky jumps across moving platforms suspended above pits and spikes. If you fail to notice an enemy before charging in, or if you fail to lock down its pattern before attacking, that's on you.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

I persevered and finished the four Shrines, but I don't have my motorcycle yet (boo!). I intend to keep playing, though I admit I thought of giving up a couple of times during my Stop to Start ordeal. It's weird to see Nintendo get most of this DLC right, then get one small but vital part so wrong.

Hopefully the worst of the pain is over, because otherwise I'm happy to be back in Hyrule with my fine stable of horses.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 4 months ago
    After about 10 tries, I made it to the fourth room of the spike death shrine and died and I don't want to play this any more. It's like "Hey, here's a new story DLC! And a motorcycle! But first, eat this bowl of nails." No thank you.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #2 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    Sounds like Nintendo wants you to really earn it. I think I'm okay with that.

    Some things should be ridiculously hard to attain. Also, this doesn't sound that hard tbh.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #3 CK20XX 4 months ago
    If I cannot beat the Stop to Start shrine, I will be unworthy of playing Mega Man 11. I cannot let mere spikes defeat me.
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  • Avatar for moochan #4 moochan 4 months ago
    As someone that only just started Zelda think it's a good idea to get the DLC now and do it in the middle of the game or wait until much later in the game like post game stuff?
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #5 Roto13 4 months ago
    @moochan You can't start this DLC until after you've freed the four beasts anyway.
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  • Avatar for Vagrantesque #6 Vagrantesque 4 months ago
    @moochan Get the DLC for the dozen or so armour pieces / sets and the map upgrades - They're much less fun if you've already been everywhere. The actual Champion's Ballad part doesn't start till you've done all four divine beasts anyway, but it will be waiting for you to dig in just before you do the last boss :)Edited 2 times. Last edited December 2017 by Vagrantesque
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #7 chaoticBeat 4 months ago
    I'm so torn about what long-ass quality adventure to do first on the Switch: XB2, Mario Odyssey, or continue Zelda. I think I'm going to continue Zelda for now. The motorcycle stuff looks like stupid fun.

    I'm starting to burn out hard on Resi. Evil Rev. 2 raid mode... it was still well worth the $20. Simpler, downloadable games do seem kind of easier to manage at the moment.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #8 NiceGuyNeon 4 months ago
    Calling this story content is kind of misleading based off of what I played: it's really shrine content with a cutscene at the end. You're exploring and doing some challenges, nothing too crazy based on the Gerudo section: find three locations not marked on your map in a general region, complete a challenge to unlock the shrine, complete the three shrines, fight a boss battle under certain conditions (specific gear and minimal healing items), get powered up, and get a cutscene from 100 years ago that Kass is apparently singing to you. Get it? Champions' Ballad. I'm certain it'll be the same format for the other three too.

    The story bit is pretty inconsequential, what the main focus on is the shrines, which makes me a happy camper exploring the lands to find more puzzle rooms. The shrines are my favorite part of Breath of the Wild and Stop to Start was the best one of the initial four. Come on, Nadia, COME ON!

    It does say there's a new dungeon in its description though which makes me wonder if we're also getting a new Divine Beast style dungeon at the end of it all. But so far based on the Great Plateau and the Gerudo quests it's very shrine focused which means it's very much tailored to me!
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #9 donkeyintheforest 4 months ago
    Have you all noticed that the tips of the one hit kill weapon are representative of the divine beasts? Pretty cool.
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