The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released earlier this year, and ended up becoming one of the highest rated, most critically acclaimed games of all time (early indications are that it will dominate the awards season as well). The game was a fantastic reinvention of the Zelda formula, as well as an elevation of the open world concept. Its first, and only, major story focused expansion, which was announced for this year end before the game was even out, is actually something that has been awaited with fervent anticipation for a while now.
The Champion’s Ballad is, finally, out. And it is a largely safe addition to Breath of the Wild‘s main quest, giving us more of the kind of exploration, puzzle solving, and sense of freewheeling adventuring that made the original game stand out so much. It doesn’t break from the mold much- you still encounter puzzles, you are still given initial objectives, then told to find them based on your familiarity with the world, and you are absolutely not bound to any sense of story progression. There is a story that the expansion tells- mostly, like the name suggests, it fleshes out Mipha, Daruk, Revali, and Urbosa, as well as Princess Zelda and the fan favorite Kass- but it acts more as supplementary material to the main game than as anything revelatory. The storytelling itself is similar to how the base game does it, presumably owing to considerations of non linearity. There is a dungeon, and a boss battle- and they are the best in the game.
“Where The Champion’s Ballad excels then, is largely in the exact same places as Breath of the Wild did. If you liked what Breath of the Wild had to offer, you will like The Champion’s Ballad, too.”
Where The Champion’s Ballad excels then, is largely in the exact same places as Breath of the Wild did. If you liked what Breath of the Wild had to offer, you will like The Champion’s Ballad, too. It is, very literally, giving you just more of that goodness. Conversely, if Breath of the Wild‘s radical shift was too alienating or jarring for you, then The Champion’s Ballad is not going to change your mind.
However, where the expansion truly comes into its own, in spite of it being beholden to the base game, is where it encourages you to engage with the world in new ways, or to master existing ways of interacting with it. I don’t want to get into spoilers- but mechanically, The Champion’s Ballad shows off Breath of the Wild at its most inventive best. This is evident not just in the new puzzles, which represent some of the best ones in the game so far, but also in what you need to do to get to those puzzles. Mechanics as varied as snowboarding, waterfall scaling, and monster hunting are emphasized, and you are told to master them to get to these new puzzles. You are challenged to keep track of the weather, of the time of the day, of the lay of the land and the topography, as you try to find your next objective. You are told to navigate the world without markers, and such visual aids as you can muster, with nothing more.
In other words, The Champion’s Ballad tries to recreate the delightful beginning of Breath of the Wild, by constantly putting you at a disadvantage against the world- arguably, the points where the base game shone the most, before you got too well equipped to feel any real threat or ensuing urgency.It largely succeeds on this front- and it is not a stretch to say that the content in it includes some of the most enjoyable content in Breath of the Wild, period- and this is without even getting into the Master Cycle, the ridiculous, but totally awesome, motorbike you can unlock for Link to traipse across Hyrule with.
“It’s a victory lap by Nintendo, flexing their muscle by doing more of what won them so much adoration, and giving fans more of exactly what they fell in love with to begin with earlier this year.”
It’s fan service at its best- and indeed, that’s what The Champion’s Ballad at large feels like. It’s a victory lap by Nintendo, flexing their muscle by doing more of what won them so much adoration, and giving fans more of exactly what they fell in love with to begin with earlier this year. The Champion’s Ballad still holds an ability to surprise you- but it surprises you by variations on the familiar. Breath of the Wild‘s introduction of something altogether new and fresh is not to be found here- not that one should have reasonably expected it in a DLC pack.
If you liked Breath of the Wild, then, this is an easy purchase- perhaps the easiest there has been. The Champion’s Ballad is literally more Breath of the Wild, just at its best. It adds a hefty chunk of content (the main quest alone is around a dozen hours, and there is a lot of additional side content to be found in the expansion on top of that). It fleshes out the best characters in the story. It has some of the most inventive utilization of the game’s great mechanics. It has fantastic music, and is replete with fan service. Where Zelda goes next after Breath of the Wild remains to be seen- but The Champion’s Ballad, in reminding us why we loved Breath of the Wild in the first place, serves as a potent reminder of just how great the series can be, and only serves to excite us further at what is to come.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Adds a hefty amount of content, fleshes out fan favorite characters with some story moments, great soundtrack, some of the best and most inventive moments in the game, great fan service.
Lacks the emphasis on story we were promised, feels like a rather safe iteration on the formula in the base game.
If you liked Breath of the Wild, The Champion’s Ballad is an easy purchase- it is more Breath of the Wild, at its very best.