I think there’s a fair criticism to be made of open world games that they sacrifice really good level design on the altar of creating a simulated space that often acts like nothing more than a glorified loading screen. In the same way that there’s been a push back against “big messy multiplayer” games, there’s definitely a push back in the indie space against big open areas in favour of tighter levels.
It’snoteworthy that this is seen as enough of a problem that Sony built this feature and promoted it. My initial reaction was that this was another “addictive design” feature, meant to keep people on the platform. “C’mon, just 10 minutes more, keep playing”. And since it keeps them there, they are more likely to spend money. On reflection, I don’t think it’s entirely that. Games can be messy, people do use guides (See: me and my current attempt at playing Dark Souls 2) and I think there’s probably at least some genuine desire here to open up more games to more people here.
I like the big simulated space thing, though, any I’m only a completionist in that I like to finish the main plot of a game before moving on, so I event with all that I can’t see myself using the feature much. I also don’t know how good an Assassin’s Creed would be as a series of instantly started activities. The thing that has kept me coming back to them is that feeling of how increasingly well rendered the world is, less than the verbs of play (though these are pretty good, they just fall flat after doing them for too long). And maybe if this feature adds some scrutiny and AAA studio self reflection to that problem, that’s a very good thing.