I'm intrigued about what these subtleties and intangibles are in BOTW that make it so revolutionary. It just sounds a bit hyperbolic to me, like as if the divide between the two could be so great. When you say that if you strip everything back, Horizon is nothing but BOTW is amazing when you consider everything, that's what makes it hard for me as somebody who hasn't played the game to really get an idea of where you're coming from.
Sorry not to answer so soon, work and life don't permit as much as one would like.
I am not denying that all the points you are stating are relevant in considering a game of the year. And yes, fair play to Horizon for delivering on a lot of what it does. Yes, its graphics/performance is fantastic. Yes its enemy design is also exceptional. And yes, its open world structure is quite good... even if not the greatest.
But for example - The Order 1886 - exceptionally good looking game for its time. Good writing (story was a bit shallow in the end but still), some exceptional sound design, never dropped its framerate at any point, great voice acting.
But was it a good game? No, not really. It was average at best. Horizon is a great game. And yes, to some people may be the GotY. And if it wins... hats off to it.
But if you stripped Horizon back to its core elements, it is just another open world game with a good and well thought out story and that's it. Its ideas and mechanics aren't anything new even if its story and world are. The beauty of BotW is in its subtleties.
Doesn't it strike you as strange that BotW, without its state of the art graphics, no real story, awkward flaws and as you put it, link pulling a paraglider out of his arse, is in the top five games of the year? Do you not understand why it is there?
Nintendo are not about graphics. Nor do they really care about story. They care about their games. And I say this as a Sony man who, don't get me wrong, I love Nintendo and buy their consoles, but their games aren't about realism. Christ... why should there be an explanation why he pulls a paraglider out of nowhere? What does it matter? Does it matter that Clouds sword disappears in FFVII when it isn't in a fight? Does it matter that your character in Fallout is very obviously not carrying around one hundred plates from the last house you ransacked? George Stobbart emptied his pockets in Broken Sword and had a sewer key just tucked away! And Nintendo do not get a free pass with this, its not like people ignore a lack of story (How many times has Peach been kidnapped?) but its not about that... and it never will be...
There is a beautiful sense of whimsy that you get from BotW which I, along with many others it seems, have enjoyed. All your points are valid about Horizon, and I won't ever dissuade anyone from playing or enjoying it. As a technical achievement it is ground breaking and the story and idea is great. It deserves its nominations. But when it boils down to pure gameplay... the feel of the game, how it makes you feel... the enjoyment of the game... I lean more towards BotW... not because it doesn't have voice acting or cinema quality writing... but because its a good game.
Now I admire the strength of your conviction and it is partly the reason why I have answered after so long. I do believe in this case, we play games for very different reasons. Please do not take offense when I say I believe you look at games from a technical viewpoint. Their graphics/sound/script etc. and while these are important in 'certain' games, (certain games being Uncharted/Broken Sword type games) they aren't deal breakers to me. When I boot up Resogun, I am not playing it for the in depth story about a world gone to hell... I play it because I enjoy it... maybe its an age thing? I have played games from the C64 through to now and its a relatively new thing (PS2 onwards?) that story/world building have been a dominant force in the industry... perhaps this is why I lean more indie/retro these days... I enjoy games that are fun even when they are hard (Cuphead for example). So... I am going to stop rambling now...
To put it another way, doesn't it just come down to you preferring the gameplay of one over the other? Like as if somebody playing Horizon couldn't stop every now and then and watch the wildlife - towering, mechanical beats - interacting with the environment, or just be amazed at the snow effects, or day becoming night in the jungle area and with the crocodiles around, or - possibly most of all - just slowing your character to a walk for a whole 2-3 minutes after surviving an epically difficult battle with several of said beasts in one of said environments, and just taking it all in? I've done all of that too.
Personally I don't even rate Horizon as up there with the GOAT (it's close after expansion), but that's just my take on things as somebody trying to understand the incredible amount of praise that BOTW seems to receive in abundance. From the outside looking in, BOTW seems almost like a similar game to Horizon just with more focus on different areas. Exploration over story, whimsy as you call it over sci-fi. But is that not just a matter of personal preference? Like, it's an open world with great attention to detail and a weapon durability mechanic from what I can tell. I don't know if that's revolutionary though. Maybe for the Zelda series it is, but to me hardly cause for some of the borderline pretentious comments or outright dismissal that certain other games seem to cop for having the audacity to be compared to it.
Probably one of those, you haven't played it so you wouldn't understand things, but that's usually the case I find. Backlogs are difficult!