I hate random encounters in games, pretty much without fail. They’re pretty common in role-playing games, and I think that they really hurt the experience for me. They’re one of the reasons that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish Wizardry 8, in fact; they just drove me nuts. They really kill the feeling of becoming more powerful and making a difference in the world. If, after your heroic return to your home town, there are still swarms of goblins terrorizing the townsfolk, you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished much.
Also, when you return to a lower-level area, you usually have a very good reason to. A quest has required you to return to a character that you met earlier in the game, or you need to retrieve an item you left there, or you need to train. You’re not there because your level 25 guy wants to go kill some level 3 monsters. Having them there is just annoying. They don’t present a challenge; they just waste your time. If you return to your hometown and now it’s peaceful and people are free to walk outside again, then you really feel like you’ve had an impact on the game world.
This isn’t as big of a deal for me with World of Warcraft, and there would be no real feasible way to happen. When I’m playing World of Warcraft, my character is much less “important” to the storyline; there are a million people all doing the same quests that I am. For that to work, I can’t really have any useful impact on the world. I don’t really expect it, and it doesn’t bother me when it doesn’t happen. And, when I’m trying to go somewhere, I can just ignore the lower-level creatures and they’ll ignore me, or if not, they’ll stop following me once they realize they have no chance of defeating me. But, when I’m saving the town from monsters on my own computer, I expect the world to change in an appropriate way, and I expect not to be trifled by those stupid low-level enemies that I fought before.
Even worse, though, is when random encounters are scaled up to match your level. This was the case with Wizardry 8, and all it did for me was make traveling so tedious that I couldn’t bear to keep playing. I couldn’t get anywhere without fighting a few dozen creatures, and they were hard creatures, not the easy ones that used to be there. That just sucked more than I could stand. The less time I have to spend on distracting things that aren’t the front-lines quests to save the world, the better, and random encounters that scale up in difficulty just ruin the game for me.