After two generations of open-world games, there is little left in the genre that hasn't been explored. That's why it's pretty remarkable that Nintendo is able to come into the open world genre with something as refreshing as Breath of the Wild. And to do that with an established IP like the Legend of Zelda is certainly no small feat here. There are conventions and standards to honor, and I can say that all expectations of the legendary series are met.
The magic of Nintendo games has always been the simplicity by design. The result of this simplistic design is a game that is easy to pick up and appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike. The less is more philosophy is not very popular in modern games but Nintendo is an expert at applying this to their games and the sheer elegance of its simplicity is really the envy of the game industry.
Much of the game world is populated only by wildlife and nature and while this may feel like barren, it actually creates a better sense of depth and exploration. Many other game will try and stuff as much events and things to do until the point where you need to stop and chat every 5 minutes. I can't tell you how many open world games I played where I'm not appreciating the details of the game world because my eyes are too focused on the mini-map to get to the next location.
Breath of the Wild doesn't have a mini-map on-screen or even a map screen on the Wii U gamepad. While I initially loathe the idea of scrapping the Wii U Gamepad second screen for console parity with the switch version, I soon come to realise it made the game better and more immersive. In fact, I even made my Witcher 3 session more Zelda-like by removing the mini-map now and relying on my own sense of direction instead. It sounds like a crazy idea especially after relying on the mini-map for over 60 hours on The Witcher 3 but part of me realised I wasn't focusing on the game world as much as I should be even before playing Breath of the Wild. BOTW was just the final nudge that made me realised it and now this is how I would probably play all open-world game from here on.
Another simplistic design element of this game is the musical score or lack of. There are no grand musical score except for the major cutscenes so for the most part, the game feels very lonely. I have seen divided opinions on the game musical score and so far, I don't really mind having less music in the game. It's certainly much better than hearing the battle score of Fallout 4 over and over again every time I play that game. I was a bit disappointed how little voice-overs are used in the game, there was simply too much text reading like the old Zelda games.
The world of Breath of the Wild is pretty vast, I remember going from point A to point B without backtracking or fast-travel and it was days before I finally felt the need to go back to a village. If it's not about the destination it's the journey then that saying certainly rings true here. I always find that fast-travel detracts you from the open world immersion and would like to avoid using them as much as possible. What Rockstar did with GTA V when you switch characters is pretty cool where you don't see any loading screen, I only wished more open world games would do that.
I could go on and on about the Breath of the Wild, I find the game so addictive without able to pinpoint what exactly it is that keeps me coming back. The intangible element that makes a game great, not the story or the characters, I guess you can say it's the heart. While I still don't believe any one game alone can justify the purchase of a system, Breath of the Wild make a pretty darn good case for that.