“These titles will be open-world RPGs, a first for the Pokémon series,” states the narration throughout the dwell stream. “There is no set path to Gyms,” a submit on the video games’ official web site confirmed, tantalizing followers with the notion that actually any path all through this world is theirs to blaze.
Then issues come screeching to a halt with the very subsequent sentence: “You’ll be able to purposefully search out a stronger Gymnasium Chief, or you may merely cease by a Gymnasium that occurs to be positioned in a city you got here throughout in your journey. This time, you get to plot your very personal path alongside Victory Street.”
To understand why that seemingly-innocuous pair of sentences would give players pause, you’ll first need to understand “level scaling,” a game mechanic where enemies don’t have set levels but instead increase in level proportionally alongside a player’s own level. This is typically used in open-world games in order to ensure a player has a smooth experience: They won’t run into overpowered enemies, nor feel underwhelmed by incredibly weak ones no matter how they choose to explore the environment.
So it’s a big deal that the next generation of Pokémon games — the first open-world titles in the mainline franchise’s history — likely won’t have this mechanic, especially for gyms, which are the series’ version of major boss fights. The point of an open world is to explore at your own pace, following a path of your choosing. Removing level scaling, however, narrows the open world and, by extension, the paths players can reasonably pursue.
Disgruntled followers have already began voicing their distaste for the design choice, and who can blame them? It represents yet another stumbling block Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have created for themselves while transitioning the Pokémon series, which is built on turn-based battles, random encounters and preset story progression, to a fully open-world experience. If you present the fans with an open world, they’ll want to explore it in any order they choose. Why create a difficulty gate by making some gyms (you need to clear eight to reach the end game) require a higher level to beat than others? On paper, the choice makes it all but impossible to actually progress in whatever order players choose.
Video games keep getting longer. It’s all about time and money.
To be clear, the official Pokémon website never explicitly states that there isn’t level scaling in “Scarlet” and “Violet.” In theory, it could be that every gym has a set base level, with some higher than others, on top of which a level-scaling system is applied. Regardless, the post indicates there is a clear path of progression from gym to gym, since some gyms are inherently “stronger” than others.
Game Freak, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo did not respond to a request for comment.
Traversing the Pokémon regions from gym to gym, catching and leveling up Pokémon on a set path to the final challenge of defeating the Elite Four — it’s a gameplay loop Game Freak has relied on for two decades worth of mainline games. Therefore, it’s admirable they’re attempting an open world where, theoretically, players can go wherever they desire. However, without level scaling “Scarlet” and “Violet” risk essentially funneling the player back into the same gameplay loop of the past two decades: One set path, one specific order of gyms, one route to the Elite Four.
Earlier this year, “Pokémon Legends: Arceus” took a crack at creating an open-world experience in certain areas; it too faced several stumbling blocks in the transition, particularly around the graphics and tech. That being said, one major change for the series — its lack of gym leaders — worked hand-in-hand with the open world structure. Players weren’t funneled into a predetermined path.
It appears as though “Scarlet” and “Violet” take heavy inspiration from that game; some open-world traveling features teased for the two upcoming games, like flying, appear nearly identical in function and animation to their “Arceus” counterpart. It’s still unclear if “Scarlet” and “Violet’s” catching mechanics will take inspiration from “Arceus,” which included not simply the traditional catching mechanics involving turn-based battling, weakening and throwing a Poké Ball, but additionally a “Pokémon Go”-like hybrid that concerned sneaking up and throwing a wonderfully aimed Poké Ball earlier than the battle even started. “Scarlet” and “Violet’s” battles and UI had been solely briefly showcased throughout the Pokémon Presents.
Eight generations of Pokémon video games with the identical system present that Recreation Freak has difficultly letting go of the extra long-running features of the Pokémon collection — even those who immediately battle with its new path, and the design ideas of open-world play that players have come to count on. However when a Pokémon evolves, it turns into stronger. Recreation Freak ought to take inspiration from its personal IP.
“Scarlet” and “Violet” will launch for the Nintendo Swap on Nov. 18, 2022.