Alright time for my detailed thoughts on the game. tl;dr incoming.
First thing I want to mention because to me this is the most impressive aspect of an overall very impressive game is that I've played for 115 hours and encountered exactly ZERO bug. I don't think people truly realize the monumental achievement this represents. This game completely demolishes the totality of its competition when it comes to the wealth of mechanics and depth of systems it offers and it is essentially perfectly stable when far more simplistic titles release broken beyond repair. Nintendo have created a pristine title with virtually no glitches besides those speedrunners are actively seeking out. All of this on PS3+ level hardware. Nintendo programmers are anomalies.
Of course if the game was simply a physics sandbox it probably wouldn't deserve all the praise it gets but it doesn't stop here. From the day it was revealed the new Zelda would recycle BotW's map a lot of people started worrying about TotK being an unjustified sequel and looking more like glorified DLC. I admit I was one of those people. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong because playing TotK for any significant amount of time makes you quickly realize none of the 6 years of development were wasted. TotK is probably around three times larger than BotW, but it's not just a question of size, the amount and variety of content is much greater as well.
The first main difference you notice is that the map has now a frankly unique and never seen before level of verticality. Hyrule now has 4 strata of explorable space: the sky islands, the surface, the caves and the depths. Each of these layers has its own esthetics, atmosphere, traversal, puzzle solving and combat challenges. Going from one elevation to another is entirely seamless and only dependant on your knowledge of the environment and the core mechanics (all of them usable for vertical traversal at the macro and micro level), which is again something that shames every other open world out there.
That's not all there is to it though because the interactions between the different layers aren't a gimmick, they're used in frankly mindblowing gameplay scenarios. I'm not going to be too explicit because I wouldn't want to spoil things for people who haven't reached that part yet but let's say that on the surface of Hyrule there's a couple of situations where Link has to use Ascend to enter a closed off building. TotK uses this concept but at the scale of an entire region. At the time I encountered this challenge there was no hint whatsoever because you're supposed to do it at a certain part of the main quest, I simply did it out of order through curiosity and experimentation. Even more astonishing is that after solving this mystery you're given a small easy challenge that recontextualizes another aspect of the aforementioned vertical exploration. You can now use that newfound knowledge somewhere else to find and complete an endgame dungeon early. It's like a hidden tutorial for sequence breaking and this particular series of events is probably my favorite section of not only TotK but of any open world I've ever played.
These obviously aren't the only memorable gameplay scenarios in the game, the main quest is full of them. Before talking about these it's important to mention something about a contentious topic when it comes to this new Zelda formula: dungeons. TotK dungeons probably won't satisfy those who're still clinging to the OoT template but from my perspective they do something very interesting with the concept. Keep in mind Nintendo have tried since at least Twilight Princess to change the definition of a dungeon by adding a lot of different challenges before entering the building proper which itself might be something that doesn't necessarily look like a dungeon. Snowpeak Ruins immediately comes to mind. In fact one of their stated goals with Skyward Sword was to blur the lines between a dungeon and its direct environment by having puzzles and boss encounters in the open. TotK manages to do just that.
The entire approach of the Wind Temple is one of the most visually striking and mechanically creative things I've ever experienced in a game but I personally think the Zora questline is the most successful example of this new philosophy. The Water Temple in itself is quite weak but what you have to do to reach it is incredibly satisfying. There's at least 8 different sections to go through and they're extremely varied and taken as a whole easily as complex, evocative and inventive if not more than any previous dungeon from the classic formula. It should also be noted that this approach allows for more variety in the overall structure of the main quests. For example as mentioned the Zora quest puts the emphasis on the pre-dungeon challenges while in the Gerudo quest the dungeon is the star of the show. The game also thankfully has unique dungeon bosses.
Temples aren't the only additions obviously as they've gone wild with sidequests. There's so many of them I probably have seen less than half but what I've done was excellent. The newspaper (featuring the best new NPC in the game), the reclaiming of a certain village, Link's real estate property, the music band, the more intimate moments at Tarrey Town or Hateno, the multiple Yiga storylines, the very peculiar figurine gallery, everything involving poes etc etc. They all vary in scale, themes and mechanics but are of utmost quality and I wouldn't hesitate to say they're the best the series has seen since Majora's Mask. The rewards are also more tangible and completing them will greatly help you for the rest of your adventure.
I've been waxing lyrical for a while now but that's not to say the game is devoid of issues. Ergonomically TotK is a bit of a clusterfuck. I'm not sure how they could have done any better with the staggering amount of mechanics at your disposal but I'm still occasionally getting the Ascend activation and item throwing mixed up. The amount of menuing is also sort of preposterous. There are ways to mitigate it but never enough to prevent it from annoyingly breaking up the pace especially during combat. The worst example of this though is the new Champions abilities that are a total trainwreck, relying far too much on contextual prompts and scripted behavior to be used consistently which is a baffling decision that runs contrary to the core appeal of the game.
I'd also say that even if TotK does a phenomenal job at adding significant content to BotW it sadly iterates on the previous game's structure to a fault. This game made me realize I really didn't like shrines. Even if some of them are very satisfying to complete in alternative and creative ways, the samey esthetics, overly abstract challenges and the way they're closed off from the rest of the world makes them stick out like a sore thumb. When everything else is so coherently connected being teleported to an entirely new plane of existence to clear self contained challenges evokes the feeling of being a laboratory rat. I hope they'll keep expanding this open world formula in the next game in order to better integrate shrine puzzles and combat scenarios in the overworld proper.
That's about it for my gripes really, I could have mentioned the memories as another controversial aspect but I ended up enjoying them, mostly because they take advantage of the vertical nature of the map and because the story resonated with me, culminating in one of the greatest ending sequences I've ever experienced. I had goosebumps when it happened and can't help but smile everytime I reminisce about it. Its interactive nature, its visuals, the way it ties things together thematically is nothing short of genius.
I want to elaborate a bit on the narrative because this is something I want to stress: it's not simply that this is a technical and game design marvel not only relative to its hardware but in the global industry context as well, it's also a GOOD game in every sense of the word. It's a story of good versus evil, gods and demons, princesses and knights, of traveling through heavens and hell, of the union between opposites. It's rife with traditional symbolism and evokes the legends, myths and fairy tales of old. It has zero cynicism, no ulterior motives. It doesn't try to lecture you about whatever real life political issues americans are currently obsessing over, it isn't subtly insulting or condescending, it doesn't have any "critical distance" or meta quips because it doesn't own up to what it is. How many titles, especially in the AAA space can say the same? Everything is subversive now and even if I can like well executed subversive stories when the majority of the cultural output is like that a classical adventure like Zelda feels all the more unique.
Breath of the Wild was never going to be erased by its sequel and indeed for me it's still a game I prefer. It had a purity of design that Tears of the Kingdom lacks, being far more cluttered both visually and mechanically. The feeling of discovery experienced in BotW is absent from TotK, these moments where you familarized yourself with the world, its rules, its inhabitants, its architecture and topography. Still it's hard to deny TotK meaningfully adds to an already legendary game and the result is a monumental success that is the new gold standard of the open world action adventure genre.
Seriously if you dislike Tears of the Kingdom or even think it's no big deal why are you even still playing videogames?