My mom recently showed me that you can pick a point on Pikmin 4’s map and then press a button to return to the game with your character looking in that direction—a delightfully convenient feature. Nintendo really has a knack for designing in-game maps. Bethesda, however… well, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, don’t we?
Among all the praise and other commentary, “bad maps” has emerged as a common Starfield criticism as players make their first excursions into outer space. The starmaps aren’t very exciting, but it’s really the surface maps that are the target here. They’re rendered as topographical point fields, which looks sort of cool, but communicates little, especially in cities, where buildings and streets aren’t represented at all. To illustrate how devoid of information they are, the map above represents the city of New Atlantis, which looks like this from the ground:
We’ve all played enough GTAs or the like to expect at least a basic street map, so when he started working on his Starfield review, Chris reasonably wondered if the maps were bugged or something—nah, that’s just how they are.
Others have had the same feeling: A Reddit post with over 3,000 upvotes compares a Skyrim town map, which illustrates walkways and buildings, with one of Starfield’s city maps, which mainly illustrates that dots can be arranged to form a grid. The poster doesn’t need to elaborate to make their point.
There’s something to be said for not over-feeding players with directions, though. Some games used to scoff at the idea of in-game maps: they came in the box, printed on cloth, or you drew them yourself. I’ve heard from the Starfield players at PC Gamer that finding your way around the cities isn’t that hard, if you pay attention to the so-so signage—which isn’t to say they’re satisfied with the maps, just that the maps aren’t their biggest complaint.
Some on Reddit also pointed out that, actually, Skyrim’s maps also suck, although that’s perhaps not the best defense of Starfield’s maps. The growing thread includes a mix of opinions, from shrugs to total exasperation.
“For me this is the most egregious problem in this game, particularly when coupled with how much fast traveling you do,” wrote one player. “The cities DESPERATELY need maps. I spent 45 minutes looking for a gun store because the maps refused to tell me if one existed, and when I wanted to see where one was using the in game directories (which are immersive in concept) they just told me there’s one in a certain district. I would even be fine with needing to use the directories to find things, just give me something direct that shows me where I have to go for services and to see things.”
I’ve just started Starfield, so I don’t know where I personally stand on the issue yet, but it is sorta funny to imagine that the future won’t include one of the most popular present day technologies: the street maps we use on our phones all the time. Maybe we got tired of Google and Apple knowing where we are at all times and chose to sacrifice the convenience of GPS to put an end to it? Good for us, if so.