The problem with Piranha Bytes world design is that it often feels very arbitrary. ELEX being the latest example, you have areas that are logically challenging/impossible for a new character, but then you also have areas blockaded by challenging enemies that are just sort of there for no good reason (Why is there a Slugbeast guarding a sword a new player can't use right outside Goliet? Why is there a Slime Drakon right outside of the Domed City?). As you said, it's effectively linear, or is linear at least for the first 10 hours or some such. People complain about New Vegas' open world for similar reasons, since the player is effectively forced to complete that Goodsprings->Primm->Novac->Boulder City circuit before they get to New Vegas itself and the game actually opens up, although experienced players can circumvent this. It's just a difference in the development priorities, really.I don't consider open world design that's effectively linear due to massive level differences to be particularly good design either. It feels very artificial for there to be an area of level 1 goblins to be right next to an area of level 9 million demons.