Returning to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild following a nine-month rest provided me a good reminder why Nintendo's action-RPG deserves the accolades it won at the 2017 Game Awards. But Breath of the Wild has flaws, as does every single game in existence (barring Donkey Kong Jr Math, of course), and I'm disappointed the Champions' Ballad DLC doesn't address most of them.
In fact, Champions' Ballad carries a unique flaw of its own. Breath of the Wild is a tight game; I still think it's based around one of the best open worlds ever built. And there is a lot of it. When I downloaded the Champions' Ballad, I also got to try out the Path of the Hero feature for the first time. Path of the Hero literally retraces Link's steps through Hyrule, and I was astounded at how much of Hyrule was technically still unexplored. "I can't wait to foul up all that uncharted territory with my sweet-ass motorcycle," I said to myself.
Just one problem: You need to complete the Champions' Ballad DLC before you're awarded your motorcycle. Content-wise, Champions' Ballad gives you your money's worth with a whole lot of new Shrine challenges. But those Shrines are scattered across the four corners of Hyrule, and it's disappointing you can't step on the gas to get there. Sure, there's a new harness and saddle that lets you teleport your horse to any location (the harness is stored under the cherry tree that serves as tribute to the late Satoru Iwata—O, my heart), but unlike motorcycles, horses are filthy cowards who refuse to fling themselves off high cliffs.
Okay, so, no motorcycle from the get-go. That's just one issue I have with Champions' Ballad. There are a few more.
- While I think the initial survival challenge you're pit against in the DLC's opening moments is invigorating, one of the Shrines you're expected to conquer during the mission is not well-designed. I kvetched about this in detail last week. To be fair, subsequent shrines are much more fun: I particularly enjoyed one challenge that instructs you to keep a ball on an unobstructed path to a switch.
- The boss fights in Breath of the Wild aren't bad, but they're not especially memorable, either. I don't think anyone was aching for a rematch with any of them, is what I'm saying, but handicapped rematches are a big part of Champions' Ballad. That includes another showdown with Thunderblight Ganon, which is not something I'd ask for in a zillion years. The Champions' Ballad would be a great opportunity to introduce new bosses, or even call-backs to old bosses utilizing Breath of the Wild's Jomon-inspired designs.
- Similarly: More enemies would be nice, period. Breath of the Wild's enemies are way more than mere canon fodder; I remember freaking out (then laughing) when I disarmed a Moblin and it retaliated by throwing one of its Bokoblin underlings at me. But there's a noticeable lack of enemy variety in the game, and Champions' Ballad doesn't fix this problem even though it should. More critters! More critters!
Is Champions' Ballad worth dishing out for? If you're a big fan of Breath of the Wild's puzzles and the Shrines they're contained in, I say yes. There are a lot of new challenges to tackle, and there's a nice variety going on: Some force you to stop and think, while others ask you to take up arms and defend yourself. But if you're like me and you enjoy Breath of the Wild most for its open world, characters, and story, you might find yourself a little disappointed. There's still a lot of untapped potential in Breath of the Wild's overworld, and Champions' Ballad doesn't give those beautiful rolling fields the attention they deserve. Not getting your hands on the motorcycle until the end of the DLC is probably the biggest bummer out of everything else.
Now I'm super-motivated to take my bike, travel to some virgin corner of Hyrule, and draw a big swear word on the grass with the help of Hero's Path. Can you see that from the highest tower in Hyrule castle, Zelda? Can you?