I like Zelda breath of the wild fine, but i do think there were some problem that came with the change of direction the series went with. Because is almost impossible to discuss something about it without some very passinonate fans(to put my euphemisms to use) coming and declaring their love of everything about it, and how perfect it is, and how that another thing is worse so why you're complaining, and how it got a 97 so stay salty, and etc, its hard to talk about it directly. So i wanted to just have it written somewhere. If you feel like those fans that makes me happy, so please don't be mad while reading to this. It's not a direct attack, is just a thing i wanted to do for myself.
Also i want to recognize beforehand that a lot of the problems i'm about to point to are just the result of the development team not having infinite time and resources. At some point they needed to have the game out of the gate, and with them seemingly changing directions to something more open while still in development, a lot of my gripes with it are understandable and easily addressed in a sequel. I'll also refer to this in more specific points, but its more useful if i can just refer back to this later on.
1- The armor system completely negates the climate challenges and all systems related to it. Cold in botw is only a problem while you are on the great plateau, because once you get the armor on the ice peak with the old man, it is solved forever. In any snow area later, you dont have any reason to care or fear the lower temperatures, just go to the menu and equip the armor and its done. There's no interesting choice here, it is the only useful answer, unless you want to make it harder for yourself by eating food or traveling with a fire sword. This applies to the vulcan and desert areas too, and it makes the fact that the game has these different enviroment mechanics borderline uneventful. I feel like applicating some direct player setbacks to using said armors, like making you move slower or in a different way depending on which equipment you use, would help them feeling more special, and the enviroment challenges more interesting( I know,of course, that the equipment have different status and do more or less damage than others, but because of how the weapon and combat system work, it doesn't really matter, more on this later).
There are,of course, armor pieces that affect the player more directly, such as the zora armor and the climbing armor. I do like the idea of them, and i hope that's the direction they go the next game.
2- The game doesn't have enough meaningful rewards. Look,i know to some people climbing by itself is satisfactory, and the way the land is made makes the game feel like a great fantasy adventure and whatever, but to me it is not enough. While you're going by in botw, the number of meaningful things to do, to me, is limited. You can either hunt korok seeds, look for a shrine or just go to the next story path. Most of the time you find something different or weird, it is related to those three things, and it just makes them feel less special. the korok puzzles often catch you off guard, but it also just mean that every time i see something weird in the overworld i already know what it is beforehand; just a korok seed puzzle. Sometimes you find old structures, like a maze or a fallen castle, but i also already know what they are; a path to a shrine that will give me something. It makes the world feel less special.
As i said before, i do understand it isn't like this to everyone. I know that to some people, simply being in the maze and finding your way is already enough as a reward, but i'm not like that. I do enjoy being in the maze, but knowing that its just the same shrine model that i see everyone in the overworld just makes me tired. It is an aesthetic problem i admit, but i dont think that makes it not important regardless. On that maze example, if the reward was the same( a piece of armor, if i'm not mistaken) but the location in which you get it is an old altar, or if there's an old warrior boss rooting in a deceased dungeon waiting for you, it makes it way more engaging. It tells you about the world, and it makes it more memorable. So i hope that they diversify in the sequel. Make some of the korok puzzles different things, with a different context; it makes all the difference. Don't tie every weapon/armor reward to a shrine, it just makes it feel less special.
3- The combat is way too simple, and its also way too inconsequential.
The only times you can die at any moment on an enemy encounter in this game are the first hours, before you have more than 5 hearts, and that's only because a lot of enemies do more damage than the health you have, which means a bunch of them one-shot you. Once you get enough hearts however, you can just pause and eat at any moment and avoid dying,so you can bruteforce them. You can just escape easily without dying, because at most they will throw an arrow at you or, in rare cases, follow you by horse.
Even then, i have a hard time making myself engage on the combats regardless because for starters, after you get enough good weapons fighting enemy camps will just drain your resources; they won't have anything better than what you already has. Most of the loot is also things you can find somewhere else in the overworld.
And the combat itself is, to put it mildly, boring. I dont expect it to be devil may cry or anything, and i do understand they probably wanted to emphasize the use of the enviroment and your other tools to take down bad guys, instead of just pure swordfighting. But there needs to be more to it. Most of the fights resume to you attacking with the normal three hits, avoiding the offensive, using the slow down mechanic to do a rush counter attack. Repeat. There's basically nothing to it, which made me not want to ever waste my time on that activity. If some of the armor unlocked more moves, or if you learned from some old sage or whatever, i'd feel more compeled to give it another shot.
4- The story isn't charming enough for me to even consider it a meaningful reward and go after. I don't expect anything complex or heavy handed from zelda, what i want is a reason to care. One of my most liked aspects of the franchise is that it's not just that you save the world by beating a huge demon boss at the end, you get stronger and help people more directly by making them happier, and helping them personally. That's why characters in old games are more memorable even if the writing was always very simple. Here i'm just recruiting dead people that i dont know and their stories of the past, and i'm sorry but i dont care. It's like starting FFVI in the world of ruin without the first part to give it context and meaning, i wouldnt give a shit about anyone or anything. I don't care about zelda just because of her diary, i didnt experience any of it. I just saw glimpses of something i'm supposed to care because the game told me to. Avenging the a world that i only saw on its deceased form is not compelling enough for me. Not in this case at least, the cutscenes only sold me on mipha and that's mostly because her character defining factors is very simplistic and easy to symphatyze with.
5- Dungeons and shrines need aesthetic and structure changes. I already said how i feel shrines become less special very quickly, but is not like they need to throw the concept away entirely. I understand they can't make every single one of them unique, because its unfeasible, but they can, as a suggestion, separate them in categories. Make the tests of strength look a certain way, the puzzle heavy ones another, the maze like ones another, etc. Also, as i said before, try to not have shrine when you're just entering them to get a chest, integrate the reward in the world.
The dungeons, funnily enough, are not that bad in my opinion. They are made in a way that requires you to understand how they operate, and change their layout to progress, which is a thing i'm a big fan of. I just think they could integrate them more in the overworld, and make the athmosphere of each one more memorable. They all look the same on the inside, they all have similar mechanics, and they all have a boring boss that also looks similar, even if they function in a different way. Again, i understand that a lot of that just comes out like this because time and money aren't infinite, but as a consumer i can always respectfully ask for more. I do also think they can implement more things now that they have an engine that they are familiar with, as well as a lot of ready to use assets.
These are the ones that i find the most grave, tho i have a loooooong list of smaller ones. I didn't adress stuff like enemy variety, the weapon and armor limited slots and how it affects things, how rain works and etc because i am confident on those being things they would change in the sequel, and i also didnt wanted this to be too long. I'm carefully optmistic about the sequel, if they work well it could be one of my favorite games of all time.
As it is, botw is a very good game and maybe the best beta of all time. But that's all.