Nintendo had a tough task on their hands. How do you improve on one of the greatest games of all time? In The Champions’ Ballad we return to Hyrule armed with new story DLC. Resembling the main game there really isn’t much of a story, it’s more of an overarching theme. The environment was the story, the survival. I was excited to see what they had done to fill in the gaps.
The Champions’ Ballad starts off with Link returning to The Shrine of Resurrection where we encounter a new weapon, the One Hit Obliterator. As the name suggests this weapon kills any enemy with one hit, fancy that. The trade off is the best part. The weapon is so large that it takes all of Link’s energy to wield it leaving the player with only one quarter of a heart left. Link can kill enemies with one hit but so can they. This introduces a whole new difficulty curve. Link must clear out four enemy encampments in The Great Plateau before advancing.
This was my favourite portion of the sizable expansion. Each enemy stronghold presented different environments and a range of varied enemy types from the bats to the tallest boss like creatures. One hit kills you and vice versa. There is no margin for error and I love things like that in games. Nothing beats a well made challenging game in my eyes. The combat mechanics in ZBOTW are fantastic so having this true test of your skills was great. Life of death with every movement.
Unfortunately when this mission is complete the One Hit Obliterator is returned to the Shine to rest for eternity. That’s all you get which is a real shame. I would love to have travelled around Hyrule using it. Oh well.
The Champions’ Ballad aims to flesh out the story of the battle from 100 years ago. Each of the four Divine Beasts now have a podium nearby. These serve as clues to locations of more shrines hidden around Hyrule. Solve the clue, find the shrine. The problem here is that it requires an intimate knowledge of map. Considering that most people have not picked this game up in months it really is a stretch to expect us to remember these places. One of them really annoyed me. “Find what the light’s path shows”. What? So the sun? I have to find where the sun reflects? Come on. I used YouTube for solutions to 9 of the 12 shrine locations. The clues are far too vague.
Another “clue” was pretty straight forward. It called on me to collect the horn of the fire dragon, I can’t remember it’s name so let’s call him Jim. So, I travelled to the usual spot where I farm Jim The Dragon for parts but it did not trigger the cutscene when I did it. It turns out that it must be done at a different location after you speak to a stranger. Why? I brought the thing to the thing…make with the shrine Jim, make with the shrine.
The reward for completing each area is a cutscene for the relevant Champion of the Divine Beast in question. We see a little more story, not much, before a recreation of the boss fight from what I assume was 100 years ago with a twist. Link only has a limited arsenal as his disposal but at this stage most players could beat these bosses blindfolded using a Guitar Hero controller. Maybe it’s just me? I’m so cool.
Luckily the shrines make up for the lacklustre methods used to find them. Each of the 16 new shrines are the some of the best that ZBOTW has to offer. As someone who has found all 120 shrines (twice) I was really looking forward to more. Each one is imaginative and has enough of a challenge to make you want to go through the slog of finding the next one. My one piece of advice here is to just use YouTube to find them. It’s not worth the satisfaction of finding them yourself.
After completing the 16 new shrines Link is presented with a new dungeon and it is comfortably the best one in the game. The previous four dungeons could be accessed in whatever order you wished so it they never really had a huge difficulty spike. They had to be accessible to players who had just started as well as those who were on their fourth and final one. The fifth dungeon added in The Champions’ Ballad has no such hangups. The DLC can only be accessed after beating the main game so there is a level of expectancy here from the mechanics. Once you figure out how the literal moving parts work you are off to the races. There is a variety here that is lacking in the original four.
All of this leads to the final boss, a very surprising one in fact. I won’t spoil it here. It happens in multiple stages and is a fun send off for the story. From the Shrine of Resurrection to this, you need to invest heavily to be wrapped up in the story but it’s there and it’s enjoyable.
When the final note is plucked in The Champions’ Ballad Link is awarded his own Divine Beast, the Master Cycle Zero. Zipping around Hyrule on a motorcycle is surprisingly simple and fun. It looks out of place but hey, it’s fun.
The Champions’ Ballad is not the almighty final story DLC that we had hoped. The path to finding the 16 new shrines is not an enjoyable one and I hated losing the One Hit Obliterator.
All of that aside this is an excellent send off for 2017’s best game. New shrines, an excellent dungeon and new story elements. It’s a trip back to an incredible game for 10 hours. What’s not to love? 3.5 Meltzers.