The concept of “fast travel” is simple; open world games require a lot time-consuming traversal, minimized by allowing the player to instantly teleport to places they’ve already visited.
The inclusion (or disclusion) of fast travel in open world games, though, can make or break the experience in a lot of very important ways.
In games like Watch Dogs or Grand Theft Auto, a fast travel system doesn’t always make a ton of sense. Part of the actual exhilaration of gameplay is driving cars, trucks, and bikes, and quickly, so it’s silly to undermine that gameplay by allowing players to teleport.
In a series like Assassin’s Creed, it makes complete sense to include a fast travel system. Narratively speaking (spoiler alert.. I guess?), the games are basically “memories” being replayed by an in game character. So, being able to hop between locations is something that feels acceptable. It also focuses on events that happen in many places across the country or world, so traveling across those long distances doesn’t always seem appropriate.
In Fallout, I’m torn about it. The way these games are designed, there’s a decent amount of “nothing” between all of the “somethings” locations in the game. And that nothing plays an important role in the mood and the storytelling of the game. It creates tension and suspense, it gives ambient backstory, and it forces the player to experience the world in a direct 1:1 way that the player’s character would be. It leads to a lot of emergent gameplay and storytelling that might be lost otherwise. On the flip side, there can be a lot of travel time in this game. It can take 20 minutes just to walk from point A to point B. And that’s assuming you just walk straight and don’t meander, explore, get distracted, or ambushed at any point. In my opinion, Fallout is one of the great examples of a game that is benefited from the inclusion of a fast travel system, especially because it doesn’t push it on the player too heavily.
[ Today I Was Playing: vacation day 1… ]
November 16, 2015