Which Way Is North?: Making Sense Of Video Game Maps

When you’re playing any video game and you’re looking to tick off a number of quests from your to-do list, you highlight the quest you’re in the process of finishing and then consult the in-game map to know exactly where you need to go to get to your destination. Most maps are straight-forward and allows you to place a marker at or near the area you want to be. But when a map is poorly designed or just too damn difficult to understand, then it makes your task much harder to complete.

For as long as I’ve been playing video games, there hasn’t been too many maps I absolutely hated referring to for a location check. A lot of in-game maps are designed well enough to serve its main purpose of going from Point A to Point B. Even with my terrible sense of direction, both in real life and sometimes my gaming life, I eventually find my way. This hasn’t quite been the case during my sessions with The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

I’ve been making good progress with The Witcher 2 for the last few weekends. I’ve made it to Chapter 3 of the game and the final leg of the story. I would say it’s looking pretty good to have this game crossed off my list before the end of the month. However, my time with the game almost got derailed by its horrible map.

There were plenty of times I couldn’t make heads or tails of The Witcher 2’s map. There was really no way to add your own marker on the map to make sure you were headed in the right direction, and don’t get me started on the no fast travel option this game sorely lacked. Yes, I want the full RPG experience but it would be nice if I can save Geralt the time and trip of revisiting the same forest area or burned village for the 1,000th time on foot.

This is an example of what a bad map looks like. Did the designers get lazy half-way into creating this game?

Key areas in the map like an NPC’s house were not labeled at all, and it was always a crap shoot trying to figure out where people were who you needed to speak with. There was one point in the game I was trying to find the houses of Cecil Burdon, an alderman of the town of Vergen, and Philippa Eilhart, a powerful sorceress, when I chose to do Ioverth’s path in the game. Even with the supposed “Tracked Quest” icon on the map, it was utterly useless to me. It never quite told me where either of these people were, and both were important to the completion of some of these quests to move the story forward. It finally took looking up a bunch of walkthroughs online to finally figure out where they were located. I had to make mental notes of what was in the surrounding area to find my way back to them again because, you know, you’ll have to revisit them for something else much later. Revisit I did.

Then there were the times I did a few side quest missions that led me to forests or deep dark caves. The winding paths on the map were so confusing I often missed my mark more than once. I was either so close to it I could almost touch it but never get there, or I was inexplicably too far from my destination. I dreaded the caves or mines maps more because I had to toggle between being on the alert for monsters popping up suddenly, while going back into the menu to scrutinize the map fully. In other words, navigating the world of The Witcher 2 was plain exhausting and annoying.

I had to take some breaks from the game because I spent more time running around in circles as Geralt and getting absolutely no where. Luckily, I’m pretty persistent when I want to be and it led me to Chapter 3 of the video game.

I never thought a map would leave a bad taste in my mouth but here we are. Other than the awful map design, The Witcher 2 has been a solid game experience so far. I’m excited to see how Geralt’s adventure ends and I won’t let terrible in-game maps spoil all my fun.

Did you ever encounter in-game maps that were just poor by design? Did it turn you off from continuing with a video game, or did you soldier on? Let me know in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Which Way Is North?: Making Sense Of Video Game Maps

  1. I felt this way about the map in The World Ends With You! I think the colors indicated fashion trends? But I never followed the fashion trends, and since the map didnt seem to correspond with the layout of Shibuya I ended up having to memorize where the different areas were. Luckily the game wasn’t so huge that it was impossible, but it would have been nice if the map was more functional. XD Great read!!

    1. Thanks! Funny thing is, I don’t really recall the map layout in The World Ends With You. I did play a little of the Nintendo Switch version so I’ll have to take a look at the map again. Most likely I don’t remember the map in TWEWY because it didn’t bother me as much or at all! I do believe all game maps should be simple and functional without causing a player too much confusion and stress. A game map should be the least of your problems when you’re trying to knock back quests on your list!

      1. I’d be interested to see if the map on the Nintendo Switch version is different! I briefly started it, and then it was borrowed and I havent seen it since, hah hah. But yeah! These days I rely pretty heavily on the maps to know where to go, so if it isn’t designed well or easy to use it drives me crazy!

  2. FABLE III’s WORLD MAP!!! I hated it so much! You could barely tell where you were, couldn’t fast travel to specific spots from it (despite being told to), and you couldn’t even easily look at it. You had to go to the stupid Sanctuary first! Ugh… It’s been nearly 10 years and my distaste for that map is still easy to summon! 😀

    1. Haha, you know a map is pretty bad if you’ll never ever forget how unusable it was. I think for me The Witcher 2 is the first map I’ve encountered that was awful. I only hope when I get around to playing Witcher 3 the map will be much better! If not, then I dread how the map will be for Cyberpunk 2077.

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