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11/12 - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Champions' Ballad DLC
This was a strange piece of DLC. I was actually pretty down on it at first, but it gets consistently better as it goes on, and ends on a good high note. It doesn't really add anything particularly new to the game, and is mostly more of the same, with the initial portions feeling kind of underwhelming. It starts you off just doing a bunch of shrines, which would have been fine on their own, but they decide to force you in to a situation where you die in one hit for this section. They do this by forcing you to use a certain weapon that has the ability to kill anything in one hit, but also gives you that aforementioned handicap. It doesn't really add to the game in any way, just makes it harder. The shrines you do in that area aren't particularly special, and making it so you have to start each one from the beginning if you make a single mistake is a pain. The way they deal with this weapon seemed really obtuse and arbitrary to me. It looks less like a weapon, and more like some sort of ritualistic charm. That, combined with how powerful and unusual it is, makes it seem like it should be a big deal. It makes the Master Sword seem like a letter opener in comparison. Yet it's imposed on you without any kind of fanfare, and then quickly taken away just as unceremoniously. I was glad to be rid of it though.
Next you have a series of tasks and shrines out in the wider world. Twelve in total, three for each champion/Divine Beast from the base game. These are fairly fun, but nothing amazing. The tasks to uncover the shrines are pretty repetitive, and more or less the same as many of the other tasks you have to do to unlock some of the shrines in the base game. The shrines themselves though are some of the best in the game, but they also don't really break a huge amount of new ground. Just basically more shrines.
When you finish all the shrines of each area, you then have to defeat the boss from the corresponding Divine Beast from the base game, but with only the equipment you are given for the fight. I thought that was pretty dull and underwhelming, just recycling content from the main game, with arbitrary restrictions, and a distracting fuzzy filter over the screen too. You do get upgrades to each of your Champions' powers for beating the bosses though, but it's still kind of underwhelming. Just a time reduction for the cooldowns. I can appreciate that for the practicality, but it's not exactly exciting.
Then finally once you've done all that, you get a proper Divine Beast-sized dungeon to go through. Again, it was nothing particularly different from the main game, but it was up there among some of the best bits. It ends off with a really cool boss fight, that finally feels like something different and new for the game. Definitely the best bit of the DLC. At then at the end as a reward, you get a damn motorbike.
So this DLC starts off pretty poorly I think, but gets progressively better as it goes along. Overall I still think it's only really okay. Almost all of it feels like simply more of the same, with some bits dragged down by frustrating limitations and recycled content. Even though I enjoyed that last dungeon and boss, I'm not sure I could say they made up for the rest of it.
On a side-note, I also bought the season pass for this DLC, so I haven't played any of it before now. Before dipping in to this second DLC, I did have a short go at the first one. The Trial of the Sword in particular. As I assumed, I didn't really like it. I only gave it a single, casual attempt, but it turned out to be what I expected, so I doubt I'll bother with it again. I've never really liked the idea of "hard Zelda". That's just not really appealing to me, and I don't think it works with the strengths of what makes Zelda fun. On top of that, when you push the game to that extreme, I think the mechanics start to fall down a bit. While they're fine for the normal game, the controls in BotW have always felt a little bit clunky to me. They often don't respond as quickly as I'd like, and sometimes the camera can freak out, or Link gets in to an awkward position and won't face the right way. On top of that, this game has a lot of physics-driven nonsense going on, that can screw you over in comical ways. When you put those kind of systems in a challenge where one tiny mistake can destroy loads of progress through no fault of your own, that just doesn't sound like a good idea to me.