When the first-person shooter craze died down, it was inevitable that some genre would rise up and take its place. That is indeed what happened as open-world games—the ones in the vein of Assassin's Creed, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Watch Dogs—burst on the gaming scene, and developers rapidly took notice. Even the Zelda franchise received the open-world treatment during E3, much to the delight of fans worldwide (though it may be argued that the open-world convention of Breath of the Wild is merely a return to traditions past).
The consequence is that one metric of apparent quality has risen just as fast: how large is the game's map? Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 were heavily scrutinized based on the sizes of the in-game worlds, gameplay and design choices notwithstanding. Likewise, people have speculated far and wide concerning the world size of the hotly anticipated Breath of the Wild, with some claiming it's as large as 170 square miles. However, this beckons the question: just how important are map sizes?
A good sandbox game needs quite a lot of the proverbial sand (in this case, content). Offering a large game world with scenic vistas, dungeons, and so on helps encourage the player to explore; games like Skyrim provide this in plenty, and seemingly every corner in the in-game world hides a secret waiting to be uncovered. Simply put, a bigger map means more stuff.
However, there's a twist. It can be argued that the striving for massive game worlds leaves a lot of them barren; the upcoming Final Fantasy XV is speculated to have an almost comically large world map that utterly humbles and humiliates the likes of Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V, with the world map speculated to be 780 square miles. One must ask, how on earth are the developers planning on filling that massive game world with meaningful content?
As far as I'm concerned, the craze for massive maps is starting to get dull. Just imagine how much of the developers' time and energy is spent on building and crafting these huge worlds: resources that could be spent adding more gameplay elements. We've seen this happen with games like Mirror's Edge Catalyst, where what can only be an extraordinary amount of resources devoted to creating an open-world map that could be navigable with parkour movements, but the game suffered from a myriad of smaller issues, leading to an underwhelming Metacritic score.
Where do you stand? Do you appreciate large game worlds, even if it might come at the expense of other game features? The metaphorical podium is all yours.