By the grace of the almighty Postal service, I got my copy of Pokémon Legends: Arceus just in time so I could play a couple of hours and have a taste of what is the future of the Pokémon game series. The post contains minor spoilers.
Edit: in the meantime I wrote a more comprehensive review on the game, check it out!
I was a bit anxious about pre-ordering this game, because I really didn’t know what to expect. I have some bad experiences with my otherwise favourite type of games, the ones where you have a vast wilderness to discover.
Exploration focused games can go very well or horribly wrong. Developers have to find a perfect balance between the sense of a wild and untamed landscape, but still fill it with enough content to keep you motivated to keep exploring.
After some hours in Arceus, I am not convinced yet, that in this case it was well executed.
The story so far is nothing of great interest. You wake up in the presence of a mysterious force that sends you on a mission to discover every Pokémon and then it reveals itself for you. I won’t spoil much but saying, this force is Arceus himself.
He flings you through a space-time rift that whirls right above Hisui, and you wake up after being knocked out by the fall. You .eet Professor Laventon, who does not hesitate to immediately send you on a mission to help him hunt down 3 stray Pokemons.
Some lack of immersion.
Here I’d like to point out one thing that bothers me. No immersion whatsoever. I know this is Pokémon, I am not expecting some huge plot twist riddled plot, however my character just fell from the sky, in an apparently different time in history. Yet after just two minutes I just happily stroll around catching Pokémon.
In my opinion finding yourself in the wilderness, slowly coming to your senses from confusion and scouting the area could have been more beneficial to the story.
Let’s say you stumble accross a fierce Pokémon that chases you through the woods, and once you escape, you find yourself in a strange village, where everyone is wearing clothes from hundreds of years ago.
I said previously, that Arceus is not an ugly game, defended its artistic style. But putting some effort into the direction could have been nice.
A wild frontier.
The premise of the game -as it was already revealed in the trailers as well- is you joining the Galaxy Team Survey Corp and you main task is to catalogue each and every Pokémon of the region in your Pokédex. This way people of the Hisui region can get to know these critters better.
As simple this sounds, actually it brings some cute, wholesome moments. The people of Hisui really barely know anything about Pokémon. With your help they can for example differentiate different genres of the same species based on their markings.
These small innuendos give some sense to the otherwise horribly basic premise.
Gotta catch’em all.
Yes, the main incentive of the game os catching and battling as many Pokémon as possible, and as many times as possible.
I will have to see what the story and the landscape offers, but if this remains the single objective, it will get boring fast.
I know… why do I play Pokémon games if I am not a fan of grinding? Grinding can be okay. But only if you can take breaks from it. In Pokémon Sword, while it was a lot of grind, you could suspend it for farming Watts, breeding, PvP, arenas, etc.
I yet have to see how this instalment keeps me involved between battling my 500th and 501st Bidoof.
The good parts.
The best part of the game is definitely its dynamic fighting and “hunting” method. You throw Pokéballs and berries in real time, you can sneak on Pokémon and stun them if you attack from behind.
I really enjoy this aspect, especially luring Pokémon with berries, just to hunt them down a moment later.
I like that the camera can be moved during fights, you can make some cool shots.
Also they use the motion sensor of the Nintendo Switch to aim with the ball, which makes hunting a bit more immersive. Although on my Switch lite I had to enable this feature separately.
For sure it is more seamless than SWSH, less loading screens, transitions, battles feel more real.
The Obsidian wasteland.
Despite my criticism, I do enjoy the game. It has a nice vibe, in some points the music and visuals give me Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild undertones. And I am absolutely sure that once I escape from the hellish tutorial, I will find things to do. Nintendo doesn’t usually let you down in this regard.
However I have two more serious issues with the game.
The first being is the pacing. I couldn’t wait to be released on this new wilderness, explore, fight, discover. Yet for over 2 hours now, it is tutorial after tutorial, and a lack of immersion. Everyone just accepts that you fell from the sky and now you live here. Even you.
You are a 15 years old kid with zero issues whatsoever being warped from your ordinary life, into feudal Japan. Honestly, it all feels like you just continued SWSH. Despite the world is new, everything is just convenient and familiar.
My other issue is the emptiness which I hope will disappear later. The area is indeed big, but echoes from emptiness.
I meet the same 7-8 types of Pokémon, I have not see any memorable landscape, nothing piques my interest in the distance, except for a few berry trees or an ore vein.
In BotW, Genshin Impact or even Fenyx Rising, you always saw something interesting, something curious in the distance. That’s why those games suck you in. A sense if exploration and excitement, that until now did not unfold in Arceus.
What comes next?
I keep grinding and exploring and hopefully I come back with great news. I see a potential in the crafting system as until now it was actually useful, and I hope maybe once I unlock the mounts, the world will open up a bit.
It is a fun game, I enjoyed myself playing it so far, but I am cautious. I’ve burnt myself way too many time with open world games, just finding a big empty map with nothing to do in it.
Have you played the game? Did you like it so far? Let me know in a comment below.