Having finished ALBW 100% earlier tonight, I really can't help but feel pretty disappointed in the whole experience. It's still a fantastic game, a 9/10 and easy to recommend to people, but as a Zelda I feel like it was lacking in what I enjoy most about the series.
Zelda for me has always been about exploring a world, entering dungeons to find more gear to help you further explore that world. This has been the basic concept from the original LoZ all the way to the most recent game Skyward Sword. ALBW throws this concept on it's head by instead allowing players to rent/buy items from a shop very early in the game to give players a non linear experience to explore the world at their discretion. This for me created three major problems
1- Just by exploring the world, I was able to have enough money to rent every item in the shop after clearing the first dungeon. The game is supposed to have a risk/reward system where dying removes all your rented items, but combat is too easy and you'll never even come close to dying removing the risk. Even if combat was difficult you could always quit and reload your save before you died completely killing any semblance of risk.
Giving the player access to almost every item at the start eliminates the joy of exploring the world. A great deal of the joy I got from Zelda was finding a strange place and wondering what kind of crazy item I'd need to access it then remembering about said place when I found that item. ALBW I already have everything, when I go to a new area I just suck up all the collectibles and puzzles and never come back. I never had a reason to rexplore any locations because I was able to get 100% of items in that area the first time I visited minus the few things you needed Titan gloves for. Maybe some people prefer to not have to back track after finding a new item, but for me personally that was one of the most enjoyable parts of Zelda.
2- Giving you every item also limits the usefulness of your items. After the first dungeon the bow and arrow is almost completely useless and is outclassed by the fire rod as a damage dealing ranged weapon. The boomerang is outclassed by the tornado rod as a stun weapon and by the hookshot as a ranged grabbing item. The hammer is completely useless outside of the few token pegs you have to hit and the 1 dungeon it's required for. The hookshot is useless as a movement device when wall merging completely dominates it.
Other Zelda games would eventually have your items become outclassed yes, but generally these better items were accessed later, or had certain restrictions like magic meters. Arrows and bombs had a limited use so free items like a hammer or boomerang could still see use. In this game all your items share one meter that's also shared with your wall merging ability. With all items gotten at the same time and all sharing from the same pool it really limits most of their usefulness the moment you get them.
3- Dungeons are almost completely pointless now. First off you already know what item you'll need to clear the dungeon before you even enter it, second there is no dungeon reward item in the first few dungeons, and the later just give you gear/stat upgrades to make an already easy game even easier. Because the designers can't assume the player has any inventory items besides the one required item, all puzzles in each dungeon require only that one item and wall merge. First dungeon is bow and wall merge, next two are hammer and wall merge or tornado rod and wall merge. All that's there are puzzles that all have one of two solutions, you either need to wall merge, or you need to use the required item. I found it hilarious when the game introduced enemies that acted like bombs just in case the player didn't have bombs to blow open cracks in dungeons.
By giving the player the ability to tackle the dungeons in any order, any semblance of a difficulty curve is out the window. Dungeons can't grow in difficulty or length because every dungeon has to be beatable as the "first" dungeon a player explores. This creates a game where every dungeon is no more difficult then the Deku Tree from OoT. Previous Zelda games in the later dungeons could throw puzzles at the player that required multiple items to complete and was able to throw stronger enemies in later dungeons as the player would for sure have more life and more weapons, something LBW can't do due to it's non linear style. The only areas that LBW challenges you to use multiple items are the optional treasure puzzles that net you rupees which I've seen a lot of people say are there favorite parts of the game. I agree they're my favorite too, as they're the closest the puzzles ever get to resembling the more challenging puzzles from later dungeons in previous Zelda games.
In the end, I feel like ALBW's lack of difficulty scale and loss of excitement really ruined my enjoyment of what is otherwise a fantastic game. Accepting it for what it did and what it's trying to do it nails it and excels, but that isn't what I look forward to in each Zelda. I did really love the wall merge ability, I loved the toned down tutorials and hand holding, I loved being able to access most of the world from the beginning of the game. I hope that a future Zelda figures out a way to keep the more open world but put items back in the dungeons and return dungeons to being linear so that they can get more difficult. Or make it so that dungeons get harder and change depending upon what order you do them in. There are a lot of ways they could fix this games issues, and hopefully this game is the ground work for something truly special in Zelda WiiU. As a stand alone game however I have to put this game in the middle of the pile, not as good as the truly special Zeldas like LttP or MM, but better then some of my least enjoyed titles like AoL and PH.