Posted on December 11 2017 by Andy Spiteri
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass experience, a wonder of game design, and a joyous form of absolute freedom. It is a masterpiece, plain and simple, and deserving of every award it’s won so far and will surely continue to win. As a story though, Breath of the Wild is the total opposite. Far too often, it simply tells instead of shows, breaking the golden rule of storytelling. There are glaring plot holes, and some major plot points that don’t even get explanations – they just are. For such a monumental game in the Zelda series, the plot is frustratingly pedestrian.
I had been holding out hopes for The Champions’ Ballad to hopefully smooth over some of Breath of the Wild’s rougher edges. I even wrote an article detailing the things that the newest Zelda desperately needed it’s DLC to do in order for it to complete the story. Like many a Zelda fan who was pumped up watching the Game Awards last Thursday, I spent all weekend playing The Champions’ Ballad.
Having just finished it, I’m left feeling the same way I felt after fighting the Calamity Ganon: like something was missing.
FULL SPOILERS FOR THE CHAMPIONS’ BALLAD TO FOLLOW (such as they are)
Nintendo’s second batch of DLC gave us some great new Shrines, an awesome new dungeon, a really tough boss fight, and a motherf****n Divine Motorcycle (I don’t care what the purists say, that thing is awesome). But what it didn’t give us was anything new in terms of story.
Previously, we had seen memories of each Champion interacting with Link; The Champions’ Ballad just offered us the Princess Zelda equivalents. The Champions’ characters weren’t explored any deeper; Mipha’s still sweet, Revali’s still an asshole, etc. We got some nice interaction scenes – but nice isn’t what this game’s plot needed.
What Breath of the Wild needed was closure for its Champions.
Imagine an Avengers movie where Nick Fury goes around the globe, recruiting Hulk and Thor and Captain America and the like. Nick’s telling each one that he needs their help in the upcoming battle with Thanos. Nick doesn’t really say who Thanos is or what he wants or how he got his powe; He’s just an evil guy that needs to be put down. Thanos represents Calamity Ganon: as one dimensional a villain as there maybe ever was in the Zelda series.
Continue imagining this Avengers movie. The Avengers are given one scene together before they all go their separate ways, deciding that alone they stand a better chance at defeating Thanos than together. We get no scene of the Avengers working together in combat; no scenes of the other members helping each other out, learning to begrudgingly respect each other even if they don’t like each other. Just a quick pow-wow and then, boom. They’re off. This hypothetical Avengers movie isn’t sounding so good, is it? Unfortunately, this is exactly how Breath of the Wild’s Champions proceed.
Now continue to imagine in this Avengers movie that Tony Stark is facing Thanos alone. What’s happened to the other Avengers? Well, they’ve all died off screen actually, killed by some of Thanos’ interchangeable minions. These deaths might have made for some pretty powerful scenes, but due to time constraints, Marvel has elected to have them offed quickly and quietly, as Tony’s computerized suit tells him. Pretty crappy way for Cap and Spidey to go out, isn’t it? Well, imagine how the four Champions feel, because that’s exactly what happened to them.
Breath of the Wild spends all this time showing us the Champions’ prowess in battle and then expects us to go along with the idea that these Blights got the better of them. They’re given no chance at redemption, save for warning Link about the Blights in the Divine Beasts. Their deaths aren’t treated like a big deal in the game, so why should we think differently? Clearly Nintendo didn’t think that these four characters deserved a nice send off. Why should the audience?
And therein lies the fundamental problem with The Champions’ Ballad’s story – why bother to build these character up in life only to ignore the emotional impact they had in death?
Contrast this to the way that last years Star Wars: Rogue One’s characters were allowed to gracefully sacrifice their lives for the greater good and you’ll see exactly what a powerful moment the Champions final moments could have been. These heroes of Hyrule deserved a better ending than the one that they’re now ultimately stuck with.
The final memory of all the Champions taking a selfie was cute, but this story needed better in order to be complete. I just can’t help but think that something’s… missing. Like the story of Breath of the Wild isn’t over, when in all likelihood, it is. It seems like Nintendo set up the Champions for something special, but just… forgot to execute it. Which is too bad, because Mipha, Urbosa, Daruk, and even that prick Revali deserved a better fate than the one Nintendo gave them.
If you’re looking for more excellent puzzles, tough challenges, or reasons to explore Hyrule again, The Champions’ Ballad is absolutely perfect. If you wanted an answer to Breath of the Wild’s plot holes, closure for any of its characters, or definitive answers to any of the games many questions, look elsewhere.
The Champions’ Ballad is really the perfect extension of Breath of the Wild – it carries all the same strengths and all the same weaknesses. Maybe the rumors of more DLC will come true and a future pack will be the answer I’m looking for.
For now unfortunately, The Champions’ Ballad fuels rather than fixes all the narrative issues Breath of the Wild has.
Andy Spiteri is a Managing Editor at Zelda Dungeon. Even though he used the Avengers in his analogy, he likes the Justice League better. Follow him on Twitter here.
Feature art by UG
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