Breath of the Wild shook up the classic conventions of The Legend of Zelda series by changing a lot of what we know about the series. It left behind the classic dungeon structure, equipment, and the linear nature of the game. But what really makes this game special is how it expanded on and changed (for the better, imo) the core design tenets of the older games. When you think of Zelda, what do you think of? For most it is the puzzle solving, among other things that are fairly important such as exploration and a metroidvania-like progression. I will use Ocarina of Time as the main comparison because 1) it is the basis of all 3D Zelda games, and 2) it is my favorite Zelda game.
In the Zelda series, puzzles have taken form in many ways, in the largest way however, it is the dungeons. Think of the water temple in Ocarina of Time, changing the water level to get to different levels of the dungeon to open doors to get items to get to the boss. All of this is one giant, interlaced puzzle and while Breath of the Wild may not have the same dungeon system as the old games, the puzzles in them take form in the Shrines. Shrines are puzzle rooms with a gimmick to get to the end and acquire the all-precious Spirit Orbs (used to upgrade Stamina and Hearts). There are 120 of them in the game, each containing at least 1 puzzle, as some have more to get the optional chest, not to mention the actual dungeons having puzzles, and the 300 Korok puzzles. I think there is plenty of puzzle solving in Breath of the Wild.
The Kingdom of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time is a sprawling open world and is made up of Hyrule Field, Hyrule Castle Town, Death Mountain, Zora’s Domain, The Lost Woods, Kokiri Forest, Lake Hylia, Lon Lon Ranch, and Gerudo Valley. Each of these areas having significant secrets, things to do, and usually houses a Temple or Dungeon (there is no dungeon in Hyrule Field). Breath of the Wild, while obviously much larger, shares a similar design, without all the loading screens. Breath of the Wild is separated into 8 distinct regions, Gerudo, Hebra, Akkala, Eldin, Lanayru, Necluda, Faron, and Central Hyrule. Again, each of the areas having their own secrets and things to do, except here, there is a lot more substance to each of these areas (more = better, right?).
A lot of the progression of the old games are lost on Breath of the Wild, as it ditched a lot of the items we were used to (the Clawshot, Iron Boots, and, of course, a Musical Instrument, among others) for a more simplified method with the Sheika Slate. Most of the equipment in Ocarina was a set of 3; 3 swords, 3 shields, and 3 tunic, in Breath of the Wild, bows, swords, and shields are all in abundance, and there are 15 different armor sets. Breath of the Wild, again, expanded on the design of the old games. Despite the weapon durability system being kind of take-it-or-leave-it, is still an improvement, adding variety to the combat.
Ocarina of Time is my favorite Zelda game, but I think Breath of the Wild is the best one. The changes Breath of the Wild makes to these core tenets has definitely revolutionized the series and I really can’t think of a closing statement other than man this game is fucking great, my second favorite game of all time (behind Ocarina of Time) so that’s cool.