Been playing for the last week thanks to press privileges and my general opinion is that, while it’s a fun game that successfully builds on the foundation of Breath of the Wild, it’s also extremely disappointing. I find it the most conservative mainline Zelda in decades, in the sense that they basically tweaked their very groundbreaking and forward-thinking game and shipped it again with new abilities and slightly different content.
I was shocked the most by the fact that even the music, sound cues and interface are the same as in Breath of the Wild. I wouldn’t mind if the game played differently, but that’s not the case. The general game-loop of finding high ground and chasing shrines, then doing a portal test-chamber style puzzle remains completely unchanged. Combat is the same, traversal (running, climbing, using the paraglider, riding horses) also is a 1:1 carbon copy. Even the narrative is delivered via the same method of finding the X spot on the map and receiving a flashback as a reward.
From TotK I was expecting something more along the lines of what Majora’s delivered coming from Ocarina. Similar control scheme and visuals to build a completely different experience both tonally and structurally. Tears of the Kingdom really is just more of Breath of Wild, a time extension on the same amusement park ride.
Even the mechanics I was expecting to have the most warping effect in terms of changing the dynamics of the former game end up not being so. Vehicles are most of the time a mere option, and spending 5 minutes building a boat, riding it for exactly 30 seconds before discarding it forever is always worse and more time consuming than the most direct approach of just swimming or climbing something and using the glider.
The silver lining is that since the experience is so similar, if you are looking for exactly “more breath of the wild”, the game certainly delivers. I’m having fun, and I intend to finish it, but yeah, I was expecting a lot more from this game.