God of War was a surprise. I know everyone and their giant snake were banging on about it but it was a far more interesting game than I had expected. I’m not going to sing the praises of the narrative, which was great, or tell you about the great combat, which was nuanced. Instead, I’m going to talk about how liberating I found the map.
I’ve spoken before about the site’s collective love of maps in my Hollow Knight article, so all I’ll say is “Maps. Phwoar,” and leave it at that. What I will say is that unlike Hollow Knight, God of War is a fully-fledged AAA release that could easily fall victim to all the trappings that tag implies. We could easily see Assassin’s Creed levels of junk layered over the map making it a nightmare to parse. I am unbelievably thankful that is not what happened. Instead, God of War’s map is one of the most beautiful, fantastical and yet unreliable maps ever created.
Let’s start with the obvious, God of War is a beautiful game. Every aspect from the character animations to the detail and care put into every environment, look fantastic. And then there’s the map. God of War’s map is a 3D bird’s eye view of the world showing all the different landmarks, architecture, mountains, hills and every element in unending detail; just looking at the map screen is a treat.
Each area in God of War has its own lovingly made map and in the tradition of modern video games, we have plenty of icons and places of interest to visit. They are not obnoxious or panic-inducing, instead, they are intriguing. Journeying to each is its own micro-adventure full of battles, exploration, interesting characters and the occasional puzzle. And while you are GPS’d to your map the location or directions is often wonderfully vague.
Much like a real map, you need to look around to find what you are looking for. If you’ve ever done some Geocaching, then exploring in God of War is somewhat akin to that. You got a location and are forced to look around rather than exclusively following a waypoint (there are those but they are mostly for guiding you through the main story). This means that exploring is far more organic and satisfying that going to an exact location, doing a thing and moving to another exact location.
The fact that the map is also not a 100% exact representation of item or point of interest also lends itself to the historical fantasy setting. Yes, I know there is the whole GPS thing but let’s ignore that for the moment. The map makes thematic sense is this world of magic and gods. It is suitably grand and fantastical but also ancient and traditional.
If you haven’t played God of War yet, then the map is the cherry on top of a fantastic game. For a map lover such as myself, it was a joy to open and watch the fog gradually disperse as you uncover every element of this fascinating world. By having the map point the start of an adventure rather than guiding you through each element, it makes the world come alive and removes the distance between the GPS map and the fantasy world. To sum up: “Maps. Phwoar.”
Thank you for reading. If you want more game stuff, then check out our videogame year ahead or read my article about Hollow Knight. For something book-y, why not ready my review of Tales of Heresy. Go on, treat yourself.
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