Navigating massive, open-world games like Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield or CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 usually requires a shortcut to span their sprawling maps. Though you can hop in a car in Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto or travel by horse in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, players often look for a much faster way to get around. And sometimes, in games like the huge RPG Starfield, fast travel is required to get from one end of its galaxy to another. Despite its convenience, fast travel can be a contentious issue in game design, and Dragon’s Dogma 2 director Hideaki Itsuno has something to say about it.
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Dragon’s Dogma 2, the upcoming sequel to Capcom’s cult classic high-fantasy RPG Dragon’s Dogma, will feature various ways to move around its world. While fast travel is one of them, it’s not the only means of traveling, and that’s because Itsuno believes that fast travel can be boring when relied on too heavily.
“Just give it a try. Travel is boring? That’s not true. It’s only an issue because your game is boring. All you have to do is make travel fun,” Itsuno told IGN in a January 22 interview. “That’s why you place things in the right location for players to discover, or come up with enemy appearance methods that create different experiences each time, or force players into blind situations where they don’t know whether it’s safe or not ten meters in front of them. We’ve put a lot of work into designing a game where you can stumble across someone and something will happen, so while it’s fine if it does have fast travel, we decided to design the kind of map where players will make the decision for themselves to travel by bike or on foot in order to enjoy the journey.”
Itsuno isn’t throwing shade at any one game, though the first one that comes to mind is Starfield. With its thousands of largely empty and static planets, the 2022 RPG practically necessitates the use of fast travel because of the vast amount of nothingness between the floating space rocks. Unfortunately, charging your thrusters for warp speed all the time, every time, cheapens space’s impact and limits the spontaneous encounters you could have. This is what I think Itsuno is really getting at here; fast travel impedes on emergent gameplay, an important facet of open-world game design that provides those random events that tend to stick with us long after a game’s main quest ends. In Starfield’s case, fast travel became something of a crutch for a lot of players—myself included—which prompted Bethesda to work on “new ways of traveling.”
How does travel work in Dragon’s Dogma 2?
Like the 2012 game before it, Dragon’s Dogma 2 will offer a limited way to fast travel in the form of the expensive and rare resource known as Ferrystones. These magic rocks allow you to teleport to a Portcrystal, temporary or permanent fixtures in the world that you can spawn at in order to make getting around easier and quicker. There are also Oxcarts, wooden wagons pulled by the world’s many horned bovines, that can be absolutely decimated by any of the game’s ferocious beasts, as Itsuno explained to IGN.
“While riding one, you might find the path blocked by goblins and have no choice but to get off and join the battle. Then as you do, a Griffin might swoop in and destroy the entire cart with one blow, forcing you to walk the rest of the way while cursing its name,” Itsuno said. “But none of that has been set up by us in advance. Instead, Griffins naturally have an inclination toward attacking cows they discover as they move, and these pieces all just happen to work together to naturally create the situation. So yes, an oxcart ride in this world may be cheap, but a lot can come as a result of that cheapness. I think that’s the kind of world we’ve managed to create.”
Lead developer Kento Kinoshita explained that because fast travel isn’t a major priority for Dragon’s Dogma 2, there are a myriad of extemporaneous encounters you could have in the game. Goblins could destroy a bridge you’re trying to cross, prompting you to take a different path, which might see you run into a peddler who has their own motives. This kind of gameplay philosophy, Kinoshita said, was designed to give players the space to think for themselves.
“I guess we wanted there to be a cost to shortening a long distance,” Kinoshita said. “In a way, that strongly mirrors the real world too. There are a lot of rules in real life that are needed to make a system possible, and ignoring those rules makes things seem less realistic, or less valuable.”
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The wait for Dragon’s Dogma 2 isn’t much longer now. The game launches on March 22 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S, so in time, we’ll find out just how important—or not—fast travel is to getting around its world. For now, I’m just stoked for the many unexpected moments I’ll have during my journey.