With Pokemon Scarlet and Violet just announced, it’s natural to assume they will evolve on Pokemon Legends Arceus, released with much acclaim last month. Legends Arceus was a great proof of concept but far from perfect. Let’s see what they can do better.
The (Non-)Linearity Scale
The Pokemon website claims that Scarlet and Violet will have a seamless open world, but what does that entail? Let’s remember that an open world does not imply non-linearity. How linear will the game be? Do you think they’ll allow us to complete gyms in any order like divine beasts in BotW?
Let people go wherever they want! Well, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Games need to be carefully balanced to keep players in flow. Legend’s Arceus required you to go through the game region by region. Designers set bosses’ levels to be what they expected most players to be. It might be hard to balance the game without the linearity because it’s turn-based and uses leveling up as a core progression system for stats.
Here are some ideas for how they could add non-linearity to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet:
- Keep the stealth-catching mechanic from Legend’s Arceus. This way, you don’t need battles to catch Pokemon.
- Add Pokemon of various levels in every zone. This way, no matter what level you are at, there’s always something to do. Limit what level of Pokemon you can catch based on your rank so you can’t get too overpowered without exploring multiple zones.
- Telegraph players toward specific gyms. BotW led 85% of players to the Zora Domain first.
- Split the game into 2-4 sections to choose gyms in each section, but you must do all the gyms in a section to get to the next one.
- Use dynamic difficulty – Have a subset of battles adjust their level based on how far through the game you are. Could have gym sections scale based on how many badges you have. Maybe Pokemon in the wild could grow based on your Rank or Pokedex completion.
- Have sections in each area that you can’t reach unless you have a particular vehicle.
- Use lenticular design – hide the way to make the game non-linear from new players, but players who’ve played before know what to do to do interesting skips. Maybe early in the game, a puzzle or hidden path can give you a path to later parts of the game. And you’d only know it exists if you’d finished the game before.
- Demphasize the effect stats have in the battle system. Encourage using different types and strategies to beat bosses.
If I had to choose, I’d split the game into 3 non-linear sections – 1st gym -> 2,3,4 -> 5,6,7,8. This way, they could place more main plot threads in between sections. Then, telegraph the player to 2, 3, or 4 based on their selected starter.
If cities are designed somewhat like Sword and Shield, the main plot could still progress no matter which path players take. For example, maybe each town has a cookie-cutter gym and cafe that only change color based on the city. The scenes could play out the same no matter the city.
In Legends Arceus, you unlock Pokemon Lords region-by-region. Each opened up your exploration possibilities. Swimming, climbing, and gliding are used to unlock more of the world to you, and thus which Pokemon you can capture. These are awesome, but I can’t help but feel that climbing and gliding are overpowered and given too quickly. I would like to see these vehicle mechanics expanded. Maybe they have levels, like how stamina grows in BotW. Maybe gliding shouldn’t include a jump up first?
Explore A Seamless Openworld
One of my biggest pet peeves in Arceus was the borders of each zone. When you approach a border, the game greets you with nasty fog that covers you from all directions. To make matters worse, several areas that look inviting are blocked by the fog wall. Why are the borders so close to the places you will be exploring? BotW’s boundaries are FAR from anything interesting, and you likely will not see them unless you seek them out. That’s the way to make it.
For Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, I would expect the ocean to surround most of the map, and that’s great! A wide-open ocean is a great natural boundary. Some players will go to the bounds and see what’s there but most won’t bother.
Another problem in Arceus – you can’t fast travel between zones without checking in with the Professor and going back to town first. Is checking with the Professor necessary? What does it add? In a seamless open world, I expect that Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will let you teleport anywhere you’ve unlocked instantly, solving these annoyances.
In Legends Arceus, there are 107 Wisps scattered throughout the world. I love having things to collect in the open world, but these seem to pop into existence somewhat randomly. Sometimes you can see them from far away, sometimes, you can be close, and they won’t be on screen. Plus, they’re non-identifiable, so you don’t know which you’ve collected or not. If you’re only missing one or two, good luck finding them!
Instead, they should take more cues from the Unowns. Unowns are uniquely identifiable, so if you’re missing one, you can quickly look it up. They also give you hints, which are fun to figure out.
Items. Items. Items. Oh, your satchel is full! How annoying. Please give us more tools to sort inventory and empty certain items into your storage box.