Innovation is something that Pokémon fans have been requesting for a long time. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild demonstrated what an open-world could do to revitalize a series, and many among the Pokémon faithful have been hoping for a similar revolution for their franchise ever since. Low and behold, at the recent Pokémon Presents, The Pokémon Company announced Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and it fulfilled everyone’s dreams… or did it? We’re extremely glad that Pokémon is stepping into uncharted waters in a meaningful way. But at the same time, that reveal trailer raises some genuine concerns that we hope can be ironed out before launch. Here are five concerns we have for Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
How will progression work?
Mainline Pokémon games have by and large stuck to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. Linear routes let players progress through most given Pokémon titles. Along the way, they’ll capture Pokémon and defeat roughly eight gym leaders before taking on the final foe(s) and eventually claim a legendary Pokémon for themselves. With the new open-world nature of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, a lot of this structure will be seemingly thrown out the window. In ancient Sinnoh, Pokémon trainers and the Pokémon League do not exist yet. Without the regular gyms to serve as bosses that gate your path through the main quest, how will Pokémon Legends: Arceus make you feel like you’re making tangible progress?
Completing the first-ever Sinnoh Pokédex is the goal of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but maxing out a Pokédex is nothing new for Pokémon veterans that often consider this to be endgame content. Progression in Pokémon means different things to different players, but can Game Freak provide a fulfilling alternative for players that weren’t as interested in Pokédex completion? Some players enjoy simply finishing the main adventure, while others have fun using the various in-game facilities to breed strong Pokémon for online battles.
There isn’t enough information right now to understand how Game Freak will approach storytelling in an open world or online functionality. If many of these features are outright missing and progression is solely tied to Pokédex completion, could the game end up feeling hollow or repetitive for many fans? Hopefully, we can have our fears put to rest the next time the game is shown.
Can Pokémon present itself better?
Pokémon games have rarely been graphical showcases, but many of us were disappointed by the visuals on display in the reveal of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Game Freak is still relatively new to developing for Nintendo home consoles, so there are valid reasons to be concerned about this. The trailer cast a looming shadow over potential stability issues.
Will the game be able to run at a consistent clip given the choppy frame rate we witnessed? Flat textures and empty landscapes painted a less-than-pretty picture of what should be a beautifully fresh Sinnoh, and the oddly small amount of wild Pokémon in the environment seemed to be animating at a lower frame rate too.
An early 2022 release window gives the studio ample time for improvements. Though, when mobile games like Genshin Impact and Switch launch titles like Breath of the Wild are more visually impressive, it hammers home that there’s a lot of potential being left on the table right now. As part of the highest-grossing media entertainment franchise in the world, it’s fair for us to hold a new Pokémon title to a higher standard. Ideally, Game Freak can make some strides in the visual department before release, but we’ll have to wait for the next presentation before we find out.
New movement mechanics
An open world brings new considerations for traversal. Linear routes in prior Pokémon entries meant that this was never an issue for those games, but with a new and vast wilderness to explore, Game Freak will need to give players better movement mechanics in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Perhaps the bicycle from Pokémon Sword and Shield might return, or stamina-based climbing could be introduced. Yet, even the idea of using a bicycle sounds insufficient for such a potentially big space. Can Game Freak introduce a new vehicle or bring back the ability to ride your Pokémon?
Leaked screenshots suggest that Pokémon riding could make a return, but as with the idea of climbing, we’re taking this with a huge grain of salt for now. That said, Pokémon riding would be the ideal solution for traversal. Using a Lapras to skirt over water, a Charizard to take to the skies, or a Rapidash to gallop over fields would all be fun ways to take advantage of Pokémon’s lineage. Though, we can’t be sure if Game Freak will pull off an idea this ambitious until we learn more about the game.
The shift to open-world design
The Wild Area of Pokémon Sword and Shield was a metaphorical dipping of toes into open-world design, compared to the head-first dive that Pokémon Legends: Arceus represents. Is Game Freak ready to conquer this radical shift in game design? The scenery featured in the trailer seemed worryingly sparse and devoid of much life. A lack of NPCs and the aforementioned lack of Pokémon have left an ambiguous first impression of early Sinnoh. Breath of the Wild may be part of the inspiration for this game, but unlike the Zelda hit, Pokémon Legends: Arceus hasn’t yet presented an open world that feels alive.
Pokémon in an open-world setting has undeniable potential. Large varieties of Pokémon that populate the landscape and interact with each other (think Monster Hunter) could do wonders in creating a living and vibrant Pokémon world like none before it. However, whether the final product can live up to these lofty aspirations remains to be seen. In the meantime, we’re concerned that the empty-looking environments could indicate a lack of interactive elements or activities to take part in. Emergent gameplay is important for an open-world game, so with any luck, there will be more than meets the eye in the Sinnoh of Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
What will the battle system look like?
Traditional Pokémon experiences involve turn-based battles that focus on taking advantage of elemental strengths and weaknesses. These battles are set to return, but without traditional gyms or trainers to fight, can the combat sustain player interest over the entire game? After all, without fellow trainers to battle, you no longer need to strategize against an opponent that could swap between multiple backup Pokémon to counter your plans. There is an alleged leak that this game will make use of Final Fantasy‘s Active Time Battle (ATB) time-limited battle system, but could that feel artificially restrictive for players that like to take their time strategizing? There is very likely more to this new system that we just don’t know, but I can imagine that battling nothing but individual Pokémon could feel too simple for most players.
New action RPG elements like throwing Poké Balls in real time or starting battles without having to transition to a separate battle environment could make the world feel more seamless, but how will these work in practice? What will be the ratio of Pokémon caught in real time to Pokémon that must be battled? Additionally, the new dodge roll feels a bit out of place unless the game is designed to let Pokémon attack you during real-time exploration. Blending real-time mechanics with the staple turn-based RPG Pokémon formula is a new venture for Game Freak, and we hope it pays off.
What are your hopes and concerns for Pokémon Legends: Arceus?