Ah, downloadable content (DLC), the most divisive aspect of the video game world. To the uninitiated, DLC is content released for a game after the fact that can be downloaded at an extra cost. This could be new maps or loot boxes for an FPS, a whole new area to explore in an RPG, or new story beats for a story-based action adventure.
To some, DLC is a stain on the industry. One where greedy game publishers hold back chunks of the game just to extract money from their fans. To others, DLC is a way of elongating the staying power of a game in player’s conscious, done by releasing new chunks for the game at a reasonable cost.
Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, there is no question that there is ‘good DLC’ and ‘bad DLC’.
Recently the Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild recently released its first piece of DLC. Sticking to DLC tropes, it included new gear for you to find and collect, though they amounted to no more than simple fetch quests, made easier if you were already at the end game, and a new challenge mode called the Trial of the Sword.
The new gear you had to fetch did add a new dimension to gameplay, the Korok mask making it easier to find Korok seeds for example, but nothing spectacular.
In the Trial of the Sword, you are relieved of all your possessions and asked to clear a number of rooms in succession, relying on what you find, and your wits and ability. It’s a fun mode to kill a bit of time, and it is very challenging.
The DLC also included little additions, like being able to access your map and see exactly where your adventure has taken you, and the travel medallion which allows you to register new fast travel points.
These additions, while fairly extensive, aren’t what we would call ‘good DLC’ though. They were decent additions, but not groundbreaking enough.
But, the DLC also included one more update that was exceptional.
Master mode is Breath of The Wild’s little gem. On Nintendo’s official website for Breath of the Wild, they describe master mode as having ‘enemies [that] gradually regain health’ and that those enemies are ‘powered up by one level. For example, Red Bokoblins in Normal mode are now Blue Bokoblins.’
Essentially, master mode is Zelda on steroids.
Some of you may be thinking that master mode is a slightly more complex new game plus mode, and you would be right, but it’s the subtle differences it makes to your playing experience that sets it apart from a standard new game plus. For example, just behind the temple of time on the Great Plateau, there is a Lynel. Now, if you have played Breath of The Wild in any form, you know how hard these brutes are to kill, and in master mode, they plonk one down in the tutorial area of the game. Have fun with that!
That Lynel is not put there to screw the player over, though, it is put there to point out how hard this mode is. You won’t be able to kill it with a tree branch or a woodcutter’s axe, you will have to sneak around it, or downright run away from it. It is placed there simply for the purpose of telling you to run away from enemies, pointing out that you will have to adapt your play style simply to survive
It is in that forced adaptation that master mode shines. Your entire style needs to be adjusted. Rather than running head-on into a group of Bokoblins, you have to scout out the area and really think A) is it worth it? And B) will I survive it? If it is a yes to both those questions, then, by all means, attack, but you still need a style change to succeed.
With enemies regaining health during battle, you can’t just wait, bait out an attack, dodge and strike. If you do that, then whatever enemy you face will start regaining its health while you stand there like a lemon waiting for your moment. To win in battle, you have to be super aggressive, the riskier strategy. You have to hit and follow, rather than wait and dodge, and the tougher enemy you come up against, the harder it gets.
Master mode does compensate your weakness and the enemies strength increase by scattering more weapons around, but they are more brittle, forcing you to decide whether attacking that camp is worth you running through all your weapons. This may sound like it is taking BOTW’s most annoying gameplay aspect and making it more irritating, but coupled with the more cerebral style needed to play the game, it does work.
With BOTW being a game conducive to multiple playthroughs, thanks to the amount of content and its lack of a clear completion roadmap, master mode is the perfect incentive to start again. We very rarely replay games, but master mode has got us right back into BOTW because it’s so good, and crucially, so different to normal mode.
Definitely ‘good DLC’.