FF-X reminded me of an older approach to challenge related to travel. In XII and XIV, you can see every enemy on the field and avoid them. All versions previous to that, it was a random event while travelling. This is somewhat jarring in X, especially related to rare monster hunting. One particular bugger only shows up every 20 fights it seems and I need 10 of it. Random battles are certainly frustrating and being able to pick and choose your enemies is more fun approach. Especially when it comes to ambush attacks that instantly kill your party…damn Marlboros.
I’m also playing a bit of Quest for Glory (in the 2nd one now) and combat in the wild is deadly. I can take on one type of enemy so far, what being a weakly wizard, so I want to avoid travel in most cases. Skipping the content here would remove the feeling of “argh, run away, run away” I get while crossing zones.
UO had visual enemies on screen that I could (should) avoid. Destard, the dungeon of dragons, was a death pit of running around avoiding everything that moved. Even the rune/recall system was fraught with death, especially if you bound the rune to a really bad spot. High level recall books often had a few runs smack dab in the middle of a lich/demon cave. That’s ignoring the entire PvP aspect of travel. NPCs broke chase, enemy players did not.
EQ took a slightly different approach, notoriously with the massive trains (hello Butcherblock!). Enemies had massive aggro ranges and followed you the entire zone. SoW was the only way people survived some of these places. I chose a necromancer specifically for the dead man floating buff, which allows me to travel the skies above the death traps. Travel options were severely limited and death from a wrong turn (including potential corpse loss) was a bit too much for me. If enemies broke chase after a while, I think this would have been a fine compromise.
WoW originally had a densely populated world, where travel on the roads was often deadly. Sure, they didn’t follow you forever but if they caught up with you, bye bye. It was very easy to chain a bunch of enemies together without trying and world PvP (STV and the Mill) created massive death zones. BC kept this approach for leveling and then it introduced player flight…
Player flight removed any and all risk from travel in the game, similar to what I did in EQ with my necromancer. Since you couldn’t fight enemies in the air, there was rarely any serendipitous socializing. The world became empty with people dropping in, dropping out and avoiding interacting with the world at all. WotLK took a similar approach and made 2 zones that were near impossible to travel without flight. Cataclysm gave flight to everyone, everywhere and there are entire zones I never experienced. Combined with the massive dependency on phasing, I barely grouped with anyone at all, if I could ever actually see anyone. MoP was the final kick at the can for this model.
Timeless Isle is the best success Blizzard has had with non-raid content since launch. Emergent gameplay cannot happen with everyone in the air, so no one flies on the island. They have stated a few times now that the TI model is going to be used for WoD and they still haven’t committed to any flying at all during the expansion.
I think this is a great thing.