Which Splatoon Maps Will Return For Splatoon 2?

Over three months into its run, Splatoon 2 remains a fresh and popular title even in the face of strong competition (*cough* Super Mario Odyssey *cough*). Part of this has been the game’s strategy of releasing weekly content updates, which introduce “new” weapons and multiplayer stages and keep the game from becoming stale. For the most part, however, “new” has meant “old stuff from the original game,” as many of the added weapons and a few of the new stages (Kelp Dome, Blackbelly Skatepark, etc.) are moved over to Splatoon 2 with minimal changes.

At this point, I’m assuming that every weapon from Splatoon will eventually end up in Splatoon 2 (I’m still waiting for my N-Zap ’89), but whether or not all the old maps return is another question. So far, the maps here tend to share some distinct characteristics:

  • Aside from Sturgeon Shipyard, they’re all completely static (no moving parts).
  • They tend to have multiple paths out of each spawn point to discouraging spawn camping.
  • They tend to be very wide, almost to the point that they feel square (Port Mackerel and Manta Maria being the notable exceptions).
  • Their centers tend to be open, but they also feature a lot of uneven ground to serve as minor obstacles/lookout points and make things more interesting.
Map Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality
The Reef Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Minimal
Musselforge Fitness Yes 3 Wide Open, Small Lots
Starfish Mainstage Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate
Humpback Pump Track Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Uneven
Inkblot Art Academy Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Lots
Moray Towers Yes 2 Narrow Open, Small LOTS
Port Mackerel Yes 3 Narrow Obscured, Small Minimal
Sturgeon Shipyard No 3 Narrow Open, Small Moderate
Manta Maria Yes 2 Narrow Open, Medium Lots
Kelp Dome Yes 2 Wide Open, Large Moderate
Snapper Canal Yes 3 Wide Open, Small Moderate
Blackbelly Skatepark Yes Narrow Open, Small Moderate

*This was my attempt to measure the ease of spawn camping on a map, but its actual usefulness is questionable.

Based on this criteria, can we make any inferences about what other original maps might return in the future? Let’s take a look at the stages that have not yet made it into Splatoon 2, and see how they stack up against their newer brethren:

Arowana Mall:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Narrow Open, Small Moderate Yes

The adoption of smaller maps like Port Mackerel bodes well for the return of Arowana. It’s a difficult map to spawn camp on given the presence of a side path that leads directly to the map center, and the terrain has plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. I think it gets expanded with minimal rework (more than Kelp Dome, but less than Blackbelly Skatepark) and re-released in the near future.

Saltspray Rig:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Offset, Moderate Lots No

SaltSpray stands out from other Splatoon maps because of its symmetry (vertical rather than horizontal), its offset center with an obvious chokepoint, and its lack of inkable terrain on the bottom side of the map. Its crane also gives it a dynamic component (which admittedly wasn’t that useful), which is not something you see from most new maps (and none of the returning ones thus far). I just don’t think this map suits the playstyle Nintendo is looking for in Splatoon 2.

Urchin Underpass:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 2 Narrow Open, Moderate Lots Yes

After all the work that went into Urchin Underpass, I’d be surprised if this didn’t reappear in Splatoon 2. It’s not an easy map to camp on despite its lack of direct paths from spawn, and the center is fairly open with plenty of verticality to take advantage of. Just like Arowana, I think it gets widened a little bit and otherwise left alone.

Walleye Warehouse:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 1 Narrow Open, Moderate Little No

Looking back, it’s kind of crazy to realize how boring Walleye Warehouse really was. The spawn points are set fairly deep in a passageway that makes spawn camping a major concern, and the center area is mostly flat and uninteresting (it’s basically a less-exciting version of Inkblot Art Academy or Blackbelly Skatepark). I don’t think this one come back.

Bluefin Depot:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 2 Narrow Split, Moderate Moderate No

One interesting trend in Splatoon 2 is the lack of split-center maps that force players to work their way around a specific side of the map to reach the enemy (Snapper Canal is about as close as Splatoon 2 comes, and it’s not that close at all). Throw in Bluefin’s diminutive size and lack of interesting center features, and I don’t think it’s a great candidate to return.

Camp Triggerfish:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 2/3 Narrow Split, Small Moderate No

Camp Triggerfish is basically a more-extreme version of Bluefin Depot: The entire map is divided in half (with limited opportunities to cross the gap), the center is pretty small with little turf to ink, and the design is narrow despite the map’s decent size. Throw it the dynamic gates, and this looks like a no-go to me.

Flounder Heights:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Wide Open, Moderate Lots Yes

Flounder Heights feels like a perfect map to bring back from Splatoon. It’s large, it’s got lots of different vantage points and places to explore, and it’s pretty darn hard to spawn camp on. The center might need to be expanded a smidge to allow for more action there, but I think this would be a great map for Splatoon 2.

Hammerhead Bridge:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 1 Narrow Obstructed, Moderate Lots No

Forget the map details for a moment: It’s been two years since Splatoon, so shouldn’t this stupid bridge be finished by now? The spawn point is set too far from the map’s branching paths (making spawn camping a concern), the center is not open or conducive to massive battles, and its size is due to its length more than its width. I never liked this map, and with any luck I’ll never have to deal with it again.

Museum D’Alfonsino:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Open, Moderate Lots Yes

Its dynamic qualities are a strike against it, but I still think this map is a good candidate to return. It’s got the wide open design that Splatoon 2 craves, there’s some decent verticality and lots of little places to explore, and its side paths make spawn camping fairly difficult. I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing this map come back in the future.

Mahi-Mahi Resort:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate No

Mahi-Mahi takes map dynamism to the extreme, with half the center left underwater until halfway through the match. It’s got a lot of the qualities Splatoon 2 wants (wide open design, decent spawn camp difficulty), but having the map change this drastically during play is probably a (Hammerhead) bridge too far for this game. You could potentially remove the dynamism and just make the map large from the start, but that would remove some of the resort’s uniqueness and hurt its appeal to longtime fans. Unless some of these other changing maps return and signal a shift in map philosophy, I’d say this one doesn’t come back.

Piranha Pit:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 2 Wide Open, Large Moderate No

My favorite thing about Piranha Pit was that it was a big map that played small due to its spawn camp placement. However, Splatoon 2 tends to favor interaction/conflict between the teams, and having large side areas where players can disappear for sixty seconds and never see the opposition doesn’t match the game’s philosophy. Throw in the moving platforms and large center structure that divide the map, and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for Splatoon 2. (Dear Nintendo: Please prove me wrong and bring this map back!)

Ancho-V Games:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate Yes

Despite there being no comparable feature in Splatoon 2 multiplayer to this map’s propeller lifts, I could totally see Ancho-V make a return in the future. It’s a Reef-sized map with plenty of spawn paths, and the moving platforms help to make up for the lack of terrain features in the map center. I think this makes a late-game debut similar to how it appeared in Splatoon.

Of course, Nintendo could prove me wrong and just re-release everything in the next year or so, but they seem to be shooting for a specific multiplayer experience in Splatoon 2, and not every Splatoon map can clear this bar. Still, another five maps from the original game would placate longtime fans and introduce new ones to the joys that Wii U players have known since the beginning.

What can Splatoon Learn from Overwatch?

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Splatoon was the breakout shooting game of 2015, and wound up as one of the best games released all year. With its unique objectives, colorful atmosphere, and funky-fresh attitude, the game completely reimagined what a shooting game could look like, opening a ton of eyes in the process.

However, for all its awesomeness, the game had some glaring flaws when it launched, most notably an overly-simplistic online lobby setup and a general lack of game modes. While Nintendo did a laudable job of patching these holes with free updates, even now there remains a lingering sense that the game could be made even better.

Enter Overwatch, arguably the Splatoon of 2016 (both are shooting games that came out in May, became smash summertime hits, and were/are well-positioned to claim some year-end hardware during the award season). Where once the cool kids hung out and talked about Inklings and save-scumming, they now hang out talking about ultimate skills and how much they hate Bastion. (Seriously, the dude gets so much flak that even Alex Rodriguez feels sorry for him.)

Given that Splatoon 2 is almost inevitable, what could Nintendo take from Blizzard’s new behemoth to improve their inky shooter? Here are some possibilities:

  • Building Teams for Turf Wars. Let’s start with the obvious one. Overwatch, like most other FPS games, allows you to form groups of up to 6 players to take on the world in the game’s various modes. Splatoon belatedly added squadding as an option for Ranked Battles, but it’s time to extend Twin, Tri, and Quad squads down to Turf Wars.
  • Declaring a “Player of the Game.” Having a single “Play of the Game” doesn’t make sense for Splatoon, since these are usually earned in Overwatch through well-placed alts that kill multiple enemies, something that Splatoon’s special weapons are not terribly effective at doing. (Some of them have the potential for mass mayhem, such as the Kraken and Inkzooka, but they tend to be used tactically against a single, specific opponent.)

    Instead, Splatoon could anoint a Player of the Game based on their overall performance in a Single Match. While the winner of this award wouldn’t be much of a mystery in Turf Wars (Spoiler: It’s either the squid with 2000 points or 8 splats), but Ranked Battle calculation could be a lot more interesting: Who inked the most turf within the splat zones? Who spent the most time on the tower? Who carried the Rainmaker the farthest? Without a single play to key on, the PotG winner would just be announced via a static screen displaying the pertinent statistics.

    Winners could receive a small point/money bonus (say, 200p), and players over Level 20 could gain an extra experience point or two. Overall, it would be a nice way to reward players for their Splatoon prowess.

  • Offering a variety of PC types. While Splatoon focuses on gear and weapon customization to trick out your standard Inkling, Overwatch offers a smorgasbord of unique characters with quirky and fun personalities, albeit ones with static weapon choices. The natural question is: Why can’t we have both?

    Splatoon could do an awful lot by offering a few variations on their generic Inklings (and indeed, some superfans on FimFiction have already brainstormed some neat ideas). Adding different types of Inklings, each with a stat set, on top of the existing gear and weapon options would add some fun options for new players while giving power users more opportunities to tune their Inklings to their play style.

    (Of course, we haven’t even touched on the idea of making Octolings or other existing characters playable. Callie and Marie, anyone?)

  • Match Stage Selection. Oh wait, Overwatch doesn’t have the either. (Or does it? Such is the danger of discussing a game you’ve only ever seen on livestreams…)

Of course, in some ways what Splatoon should not learn from Overwatch is as important as what it should. I would personally recommend that Splatoon avoid the following:

  • Increasing the map size. Overwatch maps are massive compared to Splatoon arenas, which works well when the objective is concentrated in a certain area (secure a certain spot, move an object along a static path). Larger maps, would sap the fun out of some Splatoon modes:
    • In a Turf War, players could conceivably all go their own way inking every corner and crevice of the map, and never actually engage the opposing team. This could be countered, however, by increasing the number of players on each team.
    • In Rainmaker, a team with the lead can effectively play keep-away with the Rainmaker on the current maps. Imagine how frustrating it would be if the maps were even bigger!
  • Adding any sort of chat capability. Limiting team communication to “C’mon!” and “Booyah!” was a polarizing issue, but I believe Nintendo made the right call, especially given the company’s stance on shielding younger players from the horrors of the Internet.
  • Loot boxes. The gear purchasing/ordering system is fine as is. (Although I wish Spike would just freaking fill in the $%&@ gear sub-abilities the way I want him to…)

Let’s be clear: Splatoon is an excellent game as it stands right now, probably the best that the Wii U has to offer (you’re darn right I went there, Smash Bros fans). With a little inspiration from its most recent competition, Nintendo could take their newest IP to a whole new level, and make a whole lot of gamers happy in the process.