Breath of the Wild’s Champions were one of the most intriguing aspects of the title. From the elegantly graceful Mipha, furious, but motherly Urbossa, protective, yet fun-loving Daruk and finally the tempestuously standoffish Revali learning about them made the latest iteration of Zelda both a mental/emotional journey. But, as of December 15th fans of the game were blessed (or cursed depending on your stance with downloadable content) with the Champion’s Ballad DLC. The Champion’s Ballad promised to flesh out the aforementioned characters and give them the much-deserved depth they so desperately needed in order to fulfill the desires of the fan base, but did it succeed? Does the Champion’s Ballad meet all the hopes and expectations built from these months of anticipation and truly complete The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s storyline in a fulfilling manner? Certainly, after such a long period of waiting it has to have done so, doesn’t it?
Characterization is an important aspect of Breath of the Wild which features a colorful cast of characters with varying personalities. But, while the colorful cast has their moments, they’re primarily relegated to memories and flashbacks of a hundred years in the past. As Link remembers more of his past and puzzles together the history of how he ends up in the Shrine of Resurrection in his present, the players learn of these historical figures and the impact they had on the protagonist. But, ultimately The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s characterization and development goes to Princess Zelda herself. The princess growing from a self-doubting, morally conflicted character as her parent try to force her into a role that she’s not quite certain she’s suited for to a strong woman willing to protect those her people at all costs. Her story is the overall focus of the game’s major narrative and it’s even present through the development of the other characters. However, that focus left a large gap in the story behind the other’s motives and it was meant to be the Champion’s Ballad that would fill the void. Sadly, the DLC doesn’t feel like it delivered it properly.
Fans of the game were eager to learn more about their favorite heroes. A legendary team that fell to each of the Blight Ganon’s and ultimately took their revenge with the help of the legendary hero Link. Each of them with their own unique gifts and abilities, along with incredibly distinctive personalities made the Breath of Wild’s main storyline a pleasure to play through to the fullest. But, instead of fully dedicated chapters or the ability to even play as them, the players were instead given the opportunity to experience the trials that made them eligible for the title of heroes. Yet, you’ll go through them as Link using his current assortment of tools to creatively solve the Champion’s solved in the past. You’ll fight monsters, shoot targets, survive lava, and swim through waterfalls, but in the end, you’ll still be just Link, and the challenges weren’t even that complex being easily solvable without even looking up online guides. Once you beat the challenges you’ll be presented with a rematch against the respective Blight Ganon that killed them and by beating it you’ll earn a new “memory” that makes zero sense as to how Link could remember it because he isn’t present in any of them. At the end, you’ll be possibly a little bit closer to these characters than you were had you finished the game without the extra content.
Which is because of the method the developers used to go about it. While Princess Zelda had an entire story arc dedicated to her throughout the games along with two separate diaries. The Champions only get about two or three side-quest to their names (and thankfully their own diaries as well). A few challenges here and there don’t do much to explain to me about them as individuals. Which is made even more bitter as the challenges were also easy, and the one that gave me the most difficulty took three tries at most. To provide an example of this, what I learned from Mipha was that she loves her brother (something I already knew) and that she could be stern at times; from her diary, I learned she fell in love with Link after he fought the Lynel in the summit. From Revali, I gather that he was proud and egotistical (again something already knew); from his diary that he was furious at how stoic Link behaved and wanted to have a duel once Ganon was finished. All of these things failed to convey more about the characters I love and simply added on to their one-dimensional characterization. Which made me feel quite sad as I had been anxiously waiting for this DLC for months.
The Ballad of the Champions is… short to say the least, it adds perhaps five hours of additional gameplay depending on how quickly you complete the missions. It finally culminates with the completion of Kass’ own journey to finish the song from his master, and an additional memory in which we get to hear the voice of Purah or Impa when they were younger while they take a commemorative picture of the Champions. The image is sweet, and the song is a rather epic tale, but the DLC left a lot to be desired. It seems the team developing the story did not have the required focus or concept on what they were trying to create. Had they been allowed more time or taken a different approach to how they developed the story it might have been a lot better, but instead, at the point where everyone has finished the game, it was simply too easy. Even the final fight at the end was simple if you had the proper technique (but, it was still kickass and I recommend everyone to experience it at least once). Still… there are some positives in the DLC.
Link get’s a badass motorcycle with an unicorn horn that he can ride all over Hyrule and it is completely worth it. Urbossa gets some actually decent development, and you learn more about why she has taken such a motherly role with Zelda as well as a fight scene which left me both partially aroused and afraid. You get a few new pieces of clothing, and some additional weapons are also introduced. The fights against the Blight Ganon’s are minimalistic and force you to become creative in how you defeat them, using both your wits and skill level to win (even further so in Master Mode). The one-hit challenge at the beginning is tense and serves to give an idea of how serious the challenges faced by Link can become, but all of these things could have been in the base game and it wouldn’t have given us any more insight into the Champion’s lives. Which is what a lot of fans were actually hoping for instead…