Hi, yes, it’s me again, one of the 14 people on Earth who enjoy playing Battlefield 2042. As I enter my sixth month of playing the game, and as I approach the game’s level cap, I’ve found my attention of late turning towards the finer details of the game’s maps, and which ones I prefer playing.
Six months ago I think I hated all of them. Or at least hadn’t yet come to understand how they work in this much-changed entry in the series. It’s in the same way I think a lot of series veterans are still struggling to come to terms with so much else about Battlefield 2042. They all seemed so big, so empty, so suited towards chopper and tank play and little else.
I’ve put enough hours into the game now to know that’s only somewhat true. Some of the game’s maps are indeed barren wastelands that are in dire need of a retune, but others have grown to become some of my favourites from the whole series. Let’s find out which is which (and note that I’m only ranking 2042's own, original Conquest/Breakthrough maps here, not the classic maps in Portal like Caspian Border which have had their day!)
Yikes. This map is a complete disaster, from top to bottom. Which, funnily enough, are the only two levels Kaleidoscope takes place at. Its flat, central “bowl” shape has turned it into a meat grinder, a place where only snipers positioned in the towers looming over the periphery can have a good time, and I will audibly groan every time I see it loading up. And I’m a sniper, so that’s saying something.
There are some cool areas here on this enormous desert map, like the half-buried stadium, residential villages and downtown area, and when battles focus on these flashpoints they can be great! But the wide open dunes in between them are a nightmare for both infantry (because of vehicles) and vehicles (because of choppers), and whenever you hear about a player complaining about long slogs for foot soldiers, this is probably the map they’re talking about.
Discarded looks a lot more interesting than it actually is. The various, enormous rusting ship hulks should be the highlight here, but the wide open spaces around them and repetitive architecture makes them a bit of a drag. Instead, it’s the smaller vantage points on the edge of the map, like a temporary settlement paired with a comms tower, that lead to the most enjoyable showdowns.
If someone is complaining about a long walk on foot and it’s not Hourglass, it’ll be Breakaway. But DICE’s depiction of a climate-ravaged Antarctic base also has some exquisitely-linked capture points in its main cluster of buildings, and a terrific elevated “gateway” point where the towering ice shelf ramps down to the valley below. I’m also a big fan of the absurdity of its mountaintop station, which can only be reached by aircraft or a single zipline.
The most visually appealing map in the game, Renewal’s defining feature—and my favourite thing about it—is a gigantic wall that runs right through the middle of it, separating a desert region from lush green farmland. Enormous battles are thus almost always centred around who is holding this wall’s central entry point, which looks cool as hell, but also in turn makes any flanking breach an exciting firefight.
Here’s a big surprise! If you’d asked me a week after release which was my least favourite map, I’d have said Manifest, because the fact it’s 70% stacked shipping containers was repetitive as hell. But first impressions can be deceiving, because this map’s various levels of elevation, and the endless struggles to control the central hill looking down on the rest of the map, mean this is actually one of the most interesting—and varied—maps available, in terms of the kinds of experiences it offers to all classes and vehicle types.
None of the maps I’ve listed above are perfect. They’re all saddled in some way with compromises or half-finished design ideas, the way so much of the rest of the game is. Orbital, however, feels like a brief, shining fulfilment of what Battlefield 2042 was supposed to be. It’s a big map but never feels like a chore to get around, and has big open spaces for vehicle duels but also plenty of cover and terrain variety for infantry. It has iconic focal points but also large tracts of interesting countryside in between, and even the game’s standout map-based trick, when a huge space rocket either takes off or explodes on the launchpad mid-game.
Battlefield is at its best when everything is big, loud, chaotic and explosive, and Orbital is the place you get the most of all of those in 2042.
A note before we go: I’ve tried to rank these on some kind of vague overall level of enjoyment, instead of catering it towards certain playstyles. And this is how things stand in March 2022; I’ll add to this list whenever the game gets new maps, which will hopefully be soon!