Master Trials is the first of two planned DLC packs for Breath Of The Wild, and it can best be summed up as a bag of goodies. No new story content is here, and there are no new dungeons to navigate. Instead, Master Trials adds a smattering of content including costumes, a new difficulty setting for hardcore players, and a mode called Trial of the Sword that challenges you with combat-based puzzle rooms.
Trial of the Sword is far and away the largest offering. The trial is a series of 45 rooms, each filled with enemies for Link to defeat. You start naked and itemless, with only the hearts and stamina bars you’ve earned during the base game to aid you and your runes. As you kill enemies and go from room to room, however, you’re allowed to keep the equipment and food you scavenge.
Trial of the Sword is a pleasantly surprising combination of combat and puzzles. Instead of having room after room filled with waves of enemies that surge toward you, each one is presented as a puzzle that feels akin to Portal’s test chambers or Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions. You often start unnoticed on the outskirts of a level, and have time to survey the surroundings and see what you can use to your advantage. For example, one of the first levels begins with three bokoblins dancing around a fire and explosive barrels. You could surge toward them with a club and attack them one by one, but heaving a bomb toward them is a better option since it doesn’t waste any resources. Later levels have you fighting opponents while gliding through wind tunnels, forcing you to master the slow-motion archery mechanic to take down airborne foes.
The rooms double as both fun puzzles and training modules. During my time with the trial, I learned new strategies for taking on old foes, despite pouring over 100 hours of playtime into the main game – like how you can mount the giant stone Talus monsters once you’ve stunned them and attack their weak points with melee weapons instead of just peppering them with precious arrows. The trial doesn’t add any new story content but it offers an enticing reward: For every checkpoint throughout the 45 rooms you complete, you can upgrade your Master Sword’s attack power by 10 points. Three checkpoints exist in total, so completing the whole trial means you can double the sword’s power.
Master Trials’ other additions are smaller, but not paltry. A number of armor sets from the likes of Majora’s Mask and Phantom Hourglass are scattered across Hyrule Field and are easy to find. These sets have minor stat boosts and effects, like increasing your attack, but those stats are dwarfed by the majority of late-game armor from the main experience, so these costumes are mostly fan service. Along with the costumes is a medallion that lets you place a marker anywhere on the map and fast-travel to it, which is a nice way to reach places that aren’t close to shrines or towers. You can only have one active marker, which is disappointing since you must move it whenever you have a new spot you want to travel to regularly.
Two features of the DLC aren’t straightforward content drops. Hero’s Path is a nifty feature added on to your map that lets you retrace all of your steps from the past 200 hours of gameplay via a green line, letting you see everywhere you’ve traveled and all the places you’ve died. This is a surprisingly useful tool that lets you see all the areas you haven’t been to, so you can go check them out for loot or shrines. A new difficulty mode called Master Mode lives up to its name by creating a much harder version of the main game. Beyond adding mode-exclusive enemies, modifiers are in play that make things more challenging, like enemies regenerating health, and archers on new platforms capable of killing you quickly with elemental arrows. I played through some of Master Mode, and despite knowing strategies for defeating most of the enemies, even basic foes killed me quickly. This diversion is definitely a hardcore-only experience meant for those seeking a challenge.
Taken as a whole, Master Trials ends up feeling like a fun mess of goodies, but the lack of a thematic unifier for all this content draws attention to how sparse the content here is outside of the meaty Trial of the Sword. This DLC isn’t enough of a reason to head back to Hyrule if your adventure has already come to an end, but it’s nice for those still slowly making their way to Ganon.