Optional, extended challenges are a rather familiar feature when it comes to The Legend of Zelda. The Wind Waker had Savage Labyrinth, Twilight Princess had the Cave of Ordeals and Cave of Shadows, and now Breath of the Wild has Trial of the Sword when people purchase The Master Trials DLC. While each of these additional challenges is a way to prove your prowess and get rather nice badges of honor and bragging rights, there’s something special about Trial of the Sword. Of all the dungeons I have played, it feels like it is the one that is most manageable for players.
I’ve attempted and, in the case of Savage Labyrinth, completed some of these challenge dungeons. They’re all situations where people who know what they are doing are given an opportunity to excel by relying on their skills and wits. But with previous dungeons, there were moments when I felt overwhelmed. In particular, Cave of Shadows was always something I felt was beyond me. (I’ve only made it to about the halfway point.) But with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it feels like Trial of the Sword is designed to be a bit more accessible. It is still a very challenging ordeal, but there are all these elements that feel like they are in place to help people who might normally shy away from such a dungeon find their footing and also eventually clear it.
It starts with what you actually bring with you. You start Trial of the Sword as a blank slate. You have the same amount of hearts you had when you kicked off the challenge, the same amount of stamina you’ve accumulated, and any buffs from foods or potions taken before it begins. This means you could go into this dungeon with some perks to help you through the first few floors. You also have access to all of your runes, each of them with any upgrades you’ve accumulated. The final bonus is that the first seven floors are all forested, with plenty of trees you can climb and use as high ground. This means someone could essentially “Bomberman” their way through these first few floors, relying on bombs to blast enemies from above.
The layout and selection of enemies is also rather helpful. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Trial of the Sword has a set layout, which means you will always have a boss before a rest area or escape segment. So you’ll have thirteen floors with one rest area on the seventh floor, then seventeen floors with rest areas on the fifth and eleventh floors, and finally twenty-four floors with rest stops on the sixth, twelfth, and eighteenth floors. You can skip the first and second blocks after clearing them. Also, if you’re having trouble with bosses, you can always head out into the world and fight enemies like the Stone Talus, Blue Hinox, Black Hinox, Guardian Scout, Stalnox, Igneo Talus, Lynels, and various Guardian models to prepare yourself for those bosses and stronger opponents.
But I think what I feel is most inviting is the general appeal of Trial of the Sword. Instead of being in these caverns and rooms that all look alike or don’t have any remarkable features, you’re actually going through varied spaces with landmarks, unexpected boxes with additional goods, bird’s nests in trees, and even challenges where you’re riding gusts over pits to reach platforms. Its rooms feel as diverse as the Hyrule we explored in the game, which means you may be using skills you picked up from exploring the world and completing shrine puzzles to find your way through.
All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Trial of the Sword doesn’t feel as daunting. I mean, this is absolutely a challenge. Anything that drops you in a room with a creature like a Blue-Maned Lynel or multiple Guardians with whatever you hopefully picked up in rooms along the way is absolutely a difficult dungeon. But the way it is set up and organized somehow makes it feel as though this is something you can do, even if you had trouble with similar dungeons in previous games.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available for the Nintendo Switch, as is The Master Trials, the first add-on.