World Maps in RPGs

While playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake, my wife and I were talking about how the sequels will handle the rest of the game. One question I wonder about is: will there be a world map that you can travel on. This game is all in one city, so there’s no need for one, but huffing it across the world was one of the memorable parts of the original. I think it did a lot to found the sense of adventure that was so important for making the original great. World maps, however, are pretty dated. Call-back games like I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear did them, but they were made to be as much like golden-age RPGs as possible. A game like FFVII Remake with a world map might just look too weird.

I personally really enjoy a good trek over a world map, but I feel like I might just be an old timer who longs for the days of SNES and PSX. Is it just me, or is there a special world-map-shaped place in your heart, too?


I would say that I may be in the same “old-timer” boat, as I too still have a thirst for world maps if done right, and not just in the Metroidvania sense, where I feel it is mostly being done, with Hollow Knight being a prime example that I can think of.

One of my two favorite world maps of recent memory beyond 2D examples, would be that of both Dragon Quest XI and Tales of Berseria. I feel as though the maps were big enough for the adventures that unfolded, while not feeling so big as to have empty spaces or areas which were not used or used efficiently. They also looked gorgeous, were varied and well-detailed, and the music for both, especially for DQXI was just amazing.


I think my favorite take on this – or at least a step that I felt was in the right direction – was the classic Dreamcast game Skies of Arcadia. In that game, you fly around in an airborne pirate ship to travel from one continent to the next. Obviously you’re moving about faster than a boat would in real life, but having to take a decent amount of time to go about the world really sold the illusion of exploring the uncharted seven seas (or skies, rather) as you progressed through the story. Monsters would attack on the deck of your ship, and sometimes you would engage in actual naval combat between ships. It was always a treat to discover a new continent and see what was there. Literally filling in the map of the world added to the feel of being a kind of cartographer during the age of discovery.

I’m not sure how many RPGs these days go for that sort of “travel around the world” narrative, to warrant the need for overworld dungeoning. Tales of Berseria had you using a menu for the boat, rather than actually traveling in it – but it did at least have you running around (or hoverboarding around) in monster & treasure-filled areas that connected cities to dungeons. Perhaps that’s the sort of compromise that makes more sense these days. (Curious to see how Arise will handle any of this.)


“Overworld dungeoning” - there’s a very useful term!

@Prin - oh yes, very much world maps done right. I remember hearing that Dissidia 012 had a world map, but I was crushed when it turned out to be a kind of slapped-on feature that had little gameplay (and no towns). I wondered - why even have one? But one reason I’ve never gotten into open world games is that they often seem too big with little content. You’re right - DQIX and Berseria had just the right amount of space to explore without getting bogged down in a lot of running. FFXV seems like a great game, but it’s just too big (for me).

@Reset_Tears - I’ve heard awesome things about Skies of Arcadia, and I’ve always wanted to play it. Alas, it’s always too expensive when I go out to look for a copy. And you’re probably right: we get a compromise, in a way. I do miss world-trotting narratives. Playing them as a teenager, I was encouraged to travel our own world. I kinda miss that.

Old timer, indeed. Complaining about the good ol’ days…


I love Skies of Arcadia so much, ahhhhh. I’m really hoping for a remaster or something.

The style of “World Map” in Berseria was first in Tales of Graces, and then again in the Xillias and Zestiria. (Honestly, FFX, which is my favorite game, and even FFXIII function much the same.) I don’t think I personally referred to it as a World Map, but I honestly really enjoy the way that it functions. Berseria and the first Xillia are my favorite Tales games, not including the huge amount of time I’ve put into multiple Symphonia playthroughs. I know when I first played Symphonia: DotNW, I was disappointed in the fact that you just selected the next area on the map, instead of actually traversing it. I really wanted to explore it after what happened at the end of Symphonia. I do love actual world maps, but I don’t think people have the patience for them in modern gaming. :frowning:

Also, Lufia II has best overworld music.

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