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Avoiding fast travel brings out the true beauty of Breath of the Wild

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Travelling along the vast countryside of Hyrule I stop to take a break. 

I feed my horse a few carrots, scout out my surroundings from the top of a hill and look for some landmarks. It's an area I've been through a few times, Hyrule Castle stands distinctly nearby and I plot my course around a Guardian wandering ominously ahead. 

And beyond is a beautiful vista of mountains, forests and a shining river. 

It's such a damn shame few people see Breath of the Wild's true beauties due to the game's mechanics. Because exploring the game without fast travel makes the game so much better. 

I understand the decision to include an extensive fast-travel system in Breath of the Wild. In fact, I agree with the decision. For most players they want to consume new content, which is something expansive games like this offer. In games like Fallout or Skyrim you want to see new sights, experience new quests or find new loot. 

Games nowadays are constantly being updated with new content. In fact if a game isn't drip-feed with post-release content nowadays it's considered unusual. 

The "gamers have short attention spans" argument is a bit over-simplified, but it's not wrong. People want to experience content. Not to mention many quests in big, open-world RPGs often require the player to dance around the map to find items and return to quest-givers. Games like Skyrim would be triple their length if players avoided the fast-travel mechanic.

But it's made my experience with Breath of the Wild so much more memorable for so many great reasons. Just a few I'll list below. 

It fleshes out the world as a real place

One of the biggest reasons why forgoing teleportation improves Breath of the Wild is that it ties the gameplay in with the title. 

In Breath of the Wild, the world is as much a character as Link or Zelda. It moves, it rustles around when you play in it, it houses creatures big and small, it has its ups and downs and it's aged. Hyrule is a vibrant yet tired world and it's characterized so  well. 

Yet so many people avoid actually seeing the world. I've ridden and walked down it's paths more than most players, returning to hubs like Kakariko village or the central area of Hyrule Field. It makes the world feel much smaller, more homely when you trod down the same path multiple times. 

But it also makes the world feel bigger when you do stray away from the beaten path. When you climb that mountain you've seen from the distance a dozen times it feels like a momentous occasion. 

Villages feel important

One of the best feelings I get in an RPG, one I've had since childhood, is coming upon a village for the first time.

My head's always swirled at what NPCs I might meet, what the place looks like, what stories I'd find and (the inner shopping nut in me screams) what I can buy there. 

With fast travel, villages feel like expendable places to get new quests, buy arrows and then leave. They don't feel like locations, they feel like services. It's like treating a farmers' market like the shopping mall. 

But if you only return to villages when you're physically able, after hours of adventuring, when your stock of supplies has run low, it feels so refreshing. Imagine coming up the winding, mountainous path of Kakariko village and seeing the smiles of all the villagers to welcome me. Or returning to Hateno Village eager to try out some new dyes on my clothes. 

The game is more difficult

Breath of the Wild is not a hard game. For the first few hours when you have poor equipment that easily breaks you'll be slipping past large monsters, sneaking up on sleeping enemies and attacking from strategic vantage points. 

But later on you'll be walking up to massive beasts non-chalantly and taking them out with massive golden swords twice your body weight. 

There are ways to remedy this. First is to challenge yourself by only having three hearts. Or maybe you do the game without armour? 

Playing the game without fast travel does so much more, because it doesn't test your combat abilities but your navigational abilities. You have to read a map, follow directions and look for points of interest. You haven't just made the game harder but more immersive. You now spend more time figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B. 

How do I get to Hateno Village with this mountain range in the way? Do I go over? Around? The game challenges you to navigate it in more than one way when going back through old areas. 

Conclusions

One of the most wonderful things about Breath of the Wild is that you don't have to agree with me. You can play the game however you want and enjoy the game's vistas, world and combat however you choose. 

I don't use the photo mode, but maybe Pokemon Snap players will go nuts for it. I prefer to play stealthily with liberal use of quick headshots to dispatch straggling foes, but maybe others prefer to use their best equipment to steamroll anyone in front of them. It's all down to the players and how they chose to experience the game.

I can only recommend how to play based on what I've experienced, and through my lack of fast travel I've seen a beautiful, pulpy world that feels vibrant and storied. 

If you haven't you should seriously consider grabbing your oft-ignored horse and just wander around. You may not enjoy it, some just plain won't, but for me it was when this game truly shone and showed it's pure beauty. 

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About Casus Gamingone of us since 7:55 PM on 10.17.2015

The word 'amateur' is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to me as a human being.

I'm a writer and a video game player, with that last one taking up way too much time out of the first two.

If you like From Software, Persona and have a hard-on for retro shooters and the N64, I think we'll get along.