My word, you've put to words what I haven't been able to explain to myself for the last year!Zelda 1 had structure to it. It had set objectives that were required to progress. Exploration was what the entire game was all about, and you were not only encouraged to explore, you were required to explore. There were major places that you couldn’t even reach without exploring around, and those areas were your reward for finding the correct item or ability.
BotW in contrast has no structure to it at all, and you are never required to explore anything, or are even really motivated to by the game. Everything is unlocked as soon as you finish the great plateau, and everything that isn’t unlocked is such a minuscule thing that they never have any bearing on how you play the game.
None of these are necessarily bad things in a video game. I’m not the biggest fan of how BotW handles it, but they can be done well in games. Still, to say that BotW is similar to Zelda 1 is, blatantly put, wrong. In the way the world and exploration are designed, BotW is more similar to Skyrim or even Minecraft than any Zelda game.
I think it comes down to item progression as well since BotW doesn't allow the player to find items in the overworld that unlock new abilities or make new areas accessible (yah know, cause all the areas of the game are already accessible).
We could also talk about BotW's emphasis on "statistical player progression" versus Zelda 1's "mechanical player progression". Simply put, it's more fun to get a new item that gives the player more abilities rather than getting a heart piece or a sword that does +2 damage.
(Man this conversation bums me out. I hope BotW2 incorporates some of this stuff.)