Beyond Redemption – A failed attempt to de-minimap the most recent R* Game

Posted on 14/06/2010


The day started with a little catastrophe, as my horse fell to it’s bloody death in a canyon somewhere northwest of the McFarlane Ranch. I was on the way to Hanging Rock, to take care of some ne’erdowells that had a nice bounty on their heads, when I found myself lost in said canyon.

Luckily, some poor bloke had his horse running loose in the gorge maze, so I indulged myself on hitching a ride. After getting my directions from the time on my pocketwatch, my trusty paper map and the position of the sun, I started out west, where there indeed was a way of the canyon.

From there it was a short ride to the edge of the plateau surrounding the Armadillo Lowlands, the town being in plain sight in a distance. The map told me that Hanging Rock was somewhere to the northeast, so off I took.

At the end of the day I had slain a cannibal and the ne’erdowells, and not once was there the need to glance at the minimap. Or the in-game map for that matters.

Not even the catching of wild horses the next day made usage of this damned contraption necessary.

Finding the cannibal in the hills north of Hanging Rock, now that was a bit harder to pull off, and proved to be a lot more of a challenge without the mini map telling EXACTLY where to look. But after getting to higher ground, and having a good look, even that was easily done.

Hanging Rock and the town of Armadillo are splendid landmarks for orientation. It’s much easier getting lost in the woods north and west of the McFarlane ranch.

There was however a time when I was indeed strongly tempted to give in to the urge of using the minimap, which was when on the way back to the ranch I discovered a prisoner transport that stood crashed by the roadside, the lawman begging me for help with two escaped prisoners.

Finding those two with a minimap would’ve been a matter of seconds. Without it, this took somewhat longer, but eventually wasn’t too much of a problem, although I admit these missions in particular are very strongly designed around the use of a minimap.

There it is again - the dreaded Minimap with horse stamina and dead-eye gauges.

A few days later, I find it just too damn annoying switching back and forth from the menu-map to the game – abandoning the experiment.

Full two weeks into the experiment, I find myself giving up.

The minimap doesn’t ruin the game, but the game has been built relying on it too often and heavily, making it’s voluntary omission just too much of a hassle to be fun.

Crucial information is missing, most of all the amount of “Dead Eye” bullet-time that’s remaining – and more importantly, when and how much of it has recharged. The horse stamina meter on the left side of the ‘map is entirely unnecessary, the horses provide enough hints by themselves, and their stamina rapidly recharges anyway.

During missions, the minimap becomes too important to miss, giving up information that’s not provided in any other way.

I agree that it’s lazy. All those infos, especially on enemy locations in random missions can be deduced from the main menu map, but going back and forth breaks the flow worse than just accepting the minimap.

Also, a lot of missions need the player to find a very exact, otherwise unmarked spot on the map, which is quite a hard thing to do without constantly switching back and forth without the minimap. Those missions have been built with the player’s utilization of the minimap in mind, so not using tends to lend these missions a broken feeling.

So mostly it’s a comfort thing. I’m playing with the minimap on, but try consciously to not use it for things like general orientation.

For most of the game, the minimap isn’t needed, until you hit a mission that’s been designed with it in mind.

And most instances in which it is needed can be described as sloppy design.

There is a game that handled the usage of maps and waypoints in an open world environment a lot smoother. Far Cry 2 had a “minimap” of sorts the player could bring up with the push of a button. Red Dead Redemption would’ve benefitted greatly by a similar solution, especially since the constanly present minimap with pinpoint enemy locations tends to make the game a bit easy at times.

All of this is not to say that Red Dead Redemption is a bad game. It’s not. It’s a very enjoyable experience, and some of the missions come close to the open world feeling I would’ve preferred the game to have overall, namely the treasure hunts, in which the player has to deduce the location of a treasure chest by landmarks.

This proves to me the designers knew of the lure of landmark-based navigation. Here’s to hoping there’ll be more of that in the next open world.

Posted in: gaming, Videogames