I'm about 10-15 hours in (honestly not sure), done the first divine beast and am really not feeling this game like I expected to. In fact I was ready to pack it up after my first day's play. I feel like they went for quantity over quality in a big way. About 80% of the map could be randomly generated every time I boot it up and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. At their best, Zelda games are so tightly designed that exploring every nook and cranny is a real joy, but here that kind of focused and rewarding design is nowhere to be found. Searching anywhere is a real slog and will likely lead to something totally inconsequential like a weapon (which will break two fights later) or some food items/materials. It barely even feels like a Zelda game in many ways. It feels empty... soulless.
I understand that the series has been in decline for a long time now and I appreciate what they were going for - a modern take on the original - but those ideas which sound so good in theory (cooking, for example) simply don't make for an enjoyable game. Now, instead of carrying four bottles' worth of fairies and potions, you can carry up to 60(!) health-refillable items in the form of your cooked meals, not to mention fairies and other abilities on top. How is that balanced? How will the later game be of any challenge when you can just heal after every hit? I know Zelda games aren't renowned for their challenge but still, it seems like far too much of a crutch. And where are the dungeons to even lose your health in? Seems they've been replaced and now everything is just a puzzle. The elephant is interesting and well designed, but it's just a series of puzzles... there has been nothing in here so far remotely like a typical Zelda dungeon- and dungeons are one of the strongest aspects of Zelda games! Almost every shrine is simply a one or two room puzzle. Again, they're often clever and well designed, but man do they become dull and samey after a while. There's nothing to really get your teeth into in this game, it's all just fluffy sidequest stuff which can largely be ignored if you so desire. I get that they had to fill the world up with something (and creating a map this vast must have taken an immense amount of work) but I'd take eight proper dungeons over 120 shrines any day.
I must mention that the graphics are stunning, they really make for some breathtaking views and the colours can be quite mesmerising at times. The visuals are the game's strongest point for me. Standing at the peak of a huge cliff and seeing the whole world around you - and knowing you can glide your way towards any of those places - is really, really cool and is done better here than I've ever seen it. Shame about the frame rate but it's not too big of a deal most of the time.
I'm not trying to be too negative or to put a downer on this game for anyone but it's just not my cup of tea and I thought I'd voice my opinion to offer a different perspective since all I seem to read everywhere is unabashed praise. I think if you're in the mindset to just shut your brain off and chill, then roaming the lands will suck up hours of your time, but I just don't find it very engaging and frequently, outright boring. Maybe I'm just too set in my ways, I don't know, but as a long-time fan of the series (ALttP and OoT being two of my all-time favourite games) I've heard people call this "the best Zelda" and I just can't get my head around that.
Really appreciate this insight, thanks for sharing. Indeed dungeons, or at the very least fleshed out side missions, are the strongest point of a Zelda title. The rest of the game's merit is the beauty of the composition around those elements, which is why the earlier Zeldas stand tall over the newer.
I'm definitely intrigued by your take on this.