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The Champions’ Ballad, still not making Zelda: BotW a perfect game

Warning

This post will contain spoilers. If you want the DLC spoil free, play through it first.
Not really a review, but some thoughts I had in the wake of finishing the DLC.

Marketing

I think it is a bit of a shame Nintendo already spoiled all the items you will get with this DLC. The ultimate reward this time around is the motor cycle. They should have kept that a secret, yet it is the centre object in one of the promo images I’ve seen and the finisher of the DLC trailer.
In contrast to all the loot box bullshit lately, I guess it’s nice to know what you will be getting for your buck. But please Nintendo, leave us some surprises. The promo material of Super Mario Odyssey was also giving away too much Kingdoms before the game was released.

Skills you need

In the first DLC, you actually needed to be good at the game to be able to complete it (Master Sword trials, hard mode).

This time, you will need some map reading skills to be able to beat this DLC. To unearth the new shrines, you’ll need to perform certain tasks on the map. The clues you’ll get are in the form of the songs Kass sings and images that appear on a special platform. The catch here is that these images are satellite images. They are in full colour and don’t translate 1-on-1 with the monochrome simplified map you got. You’ll need skills to be able to tie landmarks and colours together.
I only had some trouble figuring out an image where the entire map was covered with snow, but found it eventually.

Cutscenes

The things that are the most interesting out of the DLC, are the added cutscenes. You want to know more about the champions and that’s what you get. Not all that much though.
But I have to admit, I was smiling throughout each and every one of the them.
I just was hoping that you would have to play a “blast from the past”. That you would play alongside the champions. That sadly isn’t the case here.

Rehashing the bosses

I first completed the Urbosa song. Ow, how delighted I was to find out the end trial after the shrines is a rehashed boss battle. I hated the boss from Vah Naboris and know I had to fight him again … The twist in these fights is that you have to fight with the items the game assigns you. It seems these bosses actually take more damage with each hit and the damage you receive has been reduced. So they are manageable. But old tactics might not work because of the gear. I took the original Vah Ruta boss down mainly with arrows. In this rehash, you only have 10 arrows and have to take advantage of a slate power to be able to finish him off.

What ever happened to the old bosses?
Old bosses: You need to use a specific object at the right time to make it vulnerable and then attack it with your sword.
New bosses: throw every attack you have at it. It just comes down to chipping away the health bar. Some tactics are better than others, but you have “player freedom”.

I also don’t like that all the main story bosses look very similar. They are undeniable connected, but feel bland because of it. Even Ganon.

The threat of running out of something during something

One of the things that has been nagging in the back of my head about this Zelda is the fact you can run out of everything. Weapons, bows, shields, arrows, health items, potions.
In old Zelda games, this might have also been the case, but it never felt as a threat. You could run out of consumables, but not your sword and shield. The older games mostly placed pots around with a couple of the items you needed if you would run out of them. Giving you a helping hand. You could still fail, but it was less likely.
In Botw, you are just screwed if you aren’t prepared. Luckily, I have played enough games to know what to bring with me. Nonetheless, it really feels cheap if you fail something because you run out of stuff (not that it ever happened to me, but I can imagine younger players falling in that trap).

During the Vah Naboris boss rehash, my weapon was about to break near the end. So if I would have hit the shield of the boss 2 or 3 times more, I wouldn’t have had any weapon left to finish him off.

Even the new Divine Beast, the motor cycle, requires fuel. Luckily it can drive for a lengthy time, but you’ll need to drop items in it to refuel.

Physics

I said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate physics in games where they are not a core game mechanic, both from a gamer’s, as well as a game developer’s perspective. Physics result in unwanted effects and leave you to the grace (of the randomness) of the calculations.

In one of the new shrines, I actually completed guiding a metal ball to its goal, only for it to fly out of the bowl because it had a tad too much momentum. They have other similar puzzles in the game where they had walled of the goal’s sides, so why haven’t they done it here?

In another shrine, I knew what I needed to do to guide a ball to the goal. Yet, the physics were constantly screwing me over. If my ice pillar was not in the correct spot, the ball would end up losing any kinetic energy and stop moving.
I was so fed up at one point, I decided I was going to try to freeze the ball in time and add momentum to it by hitting it with an arrow. But for some reason, at that point, the ball had enough energy to roll to the designated area.

Controls

Another thing that came to mind why I don’t see this as the perfect game people claim it to be, are the sluggish controls.
A big part is due to the animations. The game does not register action inputs when a character animation is still playing. It happened a lot that I was whacking a guardian 4 times, the combo animations playing and at the 4th animation, I pressed the trigger to ready my bow. But my bow wasn’t drawn although the trigger was being pulled. So I needed to release and re-press the trigger, taking just a bit too much time and giving the guardian enough time to hit me with its beam. Resulting in the annoying rolling animation that also takes too long, again giving the guardian enough time to fire before I could react.

I’ve had a situation where I was battling a Lynel, but there were floating corruption skulls around too. This sometimes led to the lock on button to focus a skull, rotating the camera, pulling the Lynel out of sight and giving him a possibility to hit me with an attack … Moving the camera back to be able to see the Lynel also took too long. Again, resulting in a hit because I just couldn’t see him.

Open world shenanigans

If you are subjected to the whims of an open world, it can mess with you unintentionally.

Here is one very frustrating instance during this DLC:

I was doing a monster killing quest where I also needed to take down the flying guardians. They are pretty annoying to take down. When I was battling my last monster of this quest, a blood moon occurred. Respawning all the monsters I had killed before … If the game would have had a predictable blood moon cycle, I would have known not to start the quest. Yet, because of an older quest, I knew Blood Moons don’t have a set cycle. I know I could have watched the sky, but was too busy killing the monsters.

And again, I had rain at moments I needed to climb.

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