I'm delighted to report that I'm writing a new monthly column for GameSetWatch called "Abbott's Habit," and I hope you'll check it out. My first piece contrasts the game worlds of Demon's Souls and Assassin's Creed II. Sometimes artist-conceived environments can be more effective than those drawn from real life, and I try to explain why these two games illustrate that point.
Here's a snippet:
Imaginative artist-conceived game worlds can draw players in and entice them to explore the unknown, accentuating discovery of a landscape unbound by the limits of verisimilitude. Demon's Souls' crumbling derelict world visually reinforces the sense of despair and moral decay that defines the player's experience in Boletaria. The world itself feels alive and unfixed, a hostile force to overcome.Assassin's Creed II seems to want to deliver an open-world experience to the player, but for the most part that world is look, but don't touch. The game offers two awkwardly implemented city tours (the first carrying a box through Florence for Leonardo Da Vinci; the second a walking tour of Venice courtesy of Alvise da Vilandino), but these introductions serve little meaningful purpose since the only real rewards for exploring are locating hidden chests, feathers, glyphs, and other collection-oriented gameplay add-ons. Despite their extraordinary visual presentation, these great Italian cities usually function as little more than labyrinths for acrobatic chase sequences.
You can read the entire article here. Many thanks to editor Simon Carless for the opportunity to write for a site I've long admired.