Pokémon Legends: Arceus – Second look review

Despite not finishing the game yet, having spent dozens of hours in Hisui I feel like I’m ready to give an honest and comprehensive review of the game.

A few days ago I wrote a first look impression on Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and while in some aspects I might have been a bit too hasty to give an opinion, my core opinion on the game has not changed. It is a step in the right direction for Pokémon games, but a baby step. Let’s get into it.

Graphics.

I will start with this one, since this was the most talked about aspect of the game, even before release. I still stand by my original opinion, that I appreciate the art direction of the game. Not having high fidelity, realistic graphics for a Pokémon game is something that is expected. In fact, the more I think of it, it would be weird to have it otherwise.

However, despite my aesthetics over graphics stand point, I still have to say that Arceus is underwhelming.

The maps are bleak and colorless, the areas are fairly similar to each other. I really feel like they could have done so much better with some more defined artistic vision. It is not a matter of processing capacity or the hardware. It is purely the matter of laziness and a lack of vision when it comes to the looks of Arceus. We have Genshin Impact and Breath of the wild on the very same platform. In fact the former runs even on a mobile phone. Yet those games are freakin’ eye candy compared to the newest Pokémon instalment.

I am not saying that Arceus does not have nice scenes at all, but it is rare. The main issue with this, is that it is an exploration game, one where you roam the wilderness. One of the charm of such games (Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Skyrim) is the scenery, the sunsets, sunrises, the fog in the woods. Here you barely have any of these, and if you do, it is usually a half baked attempt.

With one of the largest franchises in your hands, I think this is inexcusable, especially because it is a missed opportunity. This game could have been a true contender of the genre, but this way it went all up to smoke.

Audio.

I cannot say much here, as most places it is okay, however I have some bone to pick.

On one hand, in some moments I feel some Breath of the Wild vibes in the audio. The flute, the chimes of notifications, parts of the ambience remind me of BotW. But not enough. It feels like they wanted to get things from both previous Pokémon games with the goofy soundtracks, but also from Zelda with a more atmospheric, mystical tunes. However the game stayed right in the middle, not really committing to either directions. I’m not gonna lie, I LOVE BotW’s audio, and I really wish Arceus would have gone more that way. In my opinion it would really fit the exploration.

On the other hand, I wish it was dubbed. This is just a personal preference, probably for many people it is good as it is, but I have a thing for having Japanese audio over games that look like anime. Also from a full priced game in 2022 I would kind of expect it as well, but again, this is a matter of personal taste.

Gameplay.

Luckily in this department, Game Freak did sort of well. Arceus is fun to play, it makes you sit for hours at a time and you always have things to do.

The thing I like the most about the game is how fluent it is and how much you can achieve in just a few seconds.

In just a matter of seconds you can hop off your mount, harvest some berries, pick up some mushrooms, start a fight with a wild Pokémon and hop back on your mount on land, water or air. It is very dynamic and seamless.

You can choose different approaches when catching Pokémon, you can confront them and throw a ball mid-battle, you can be sneaky utilizing the tall grass, or in some cases you can even lure them with some berries. All this in real time, with no loading screens. This is one aspect that the series really needed and I hope the developers stick to this formula.

The main goal of the game is to fill out your Pokédex by catching, battling or observing Pokémon during different activities. This can be them performing certain attacks, being defeated by certain types of moves, eating berries, etc. By completing these tasks, you fill up your completion meter of a certain Pokédex entry, thus completing your notes.

It can get a bit grindy, for example now I am trying to level up Pokémon that I just picked up so I can evolve them and therefore opening new entries for new Pokémon. But I guess grinding was always at the core of the franchise. Some might like it, some not, but this is nothing new.

The battles are far more fluent than previous entries, and I really like the new mechanic called agile and strong style attacks.

Once a Pokémon levelled up enough, it masters certain moves and can use these two styles. Basically agile moves deal less damage but your next move comes sooner (sometimes right after the previous one) and strong style deals a devastating blow but your next attack will come later. It is not something that you will always use, but in some scenarios it will come handy. Sometimes you want to execute a strong style final blow or make a quick agile jab and heal up or swap Pokémon right after. It definitely gives more depth to the battle.

Besides being the main goal, the game also incentivizes the completion of the Pokédex. You get money for your progress, and also this is how you unlock new equipment, recipes and increase the level cap of your Pokémon.

You get money reward for catching Pokémon and discovering new species.

Another cool feature of the game is crafting, whereas you can refill your potion, revive and pokéball stocks. It is fairly simple, the ingredients are everywhere, however you will need to keep an eye on your inventory space, since Arceus introduced inventory management. At this point it is a meme, but it costs a ton of pokédollars to increase your inventory space. Right now I have 40 slots, and it cost me already around a 100k. Luckily at the base camps within the areas, you can store your items in a chest, and when you are crafting in the camp, you can use materials directly from there. This is not the case if you are crafting in the wilderness.

In conclusion, Arceus is a streamlined and fluent experience, which is a breath of fresh air for me and could be appealing to many players.

Story.

The story is almost non-existent and I don’t even want to waste much time describing it. Basically you wake up in the presence of a mysterious force that orders you to catch’em all, then flings you to Hisui, in the past. No one really cares that you are a time traveler who literally fell from the sky through a rift. You don’t care much, the NPCs don’t care almost at all. I often find myself just pressing A without even reading the story because it is just symbolic anyway.

Who’s that Pokémon?

However there is one thing I find really charming in the story (mainly the side missions) which is how the people of Hisui relate to Pokémon. You see, the residents of Jubilife village are sort of like frontier men, who just arrived in a strange new land, where they meet Pokémon for the first time.

And it is very interesting to see how puzzled they are by these cute, or sometimes fearsome creatures. They are curious but too afraid to investigate them, so they hire you to do research for them. And I like these small stories because they are just every day things.

For example the village’s tailor wants new inspiration for her clothes, so she asks you to bring her 2 different gendered Pokémon of a certain species so she can use the visuals of their patterns in her next collection.

Farmers ask you to bring them a ground and water type Pokémon, which can help them to grow crops faster.

Or sometimes they are just baffled by Pokémon and they ask your help to investigate. Such is the lady who mistakes a Chimchar for a will-o-wisp in the night because of its tail.

In the context of the Poké-verse, it is a credible and sometimes wholesome story where humans try to live together with nature and appreciate it.

Controls.

I’d like to say a few words about the controls of the game as well, as they are pretty well made in my opinion. You have quite a lot of things to manage in the game. Different mounts, ball types, lures, and Pokémon. Yet the controls are intuitive and logical. I still find myself sometimes wasting Pokéballs by throwing them at trees instead of a Pokémon so it can harvest it, but overall I got used to it pretty fast.

What I miss from the game is the ability to jump. Especially because jumping is in the game, but you can only do so by obtaining a mount. Since the game has a lot of verticality, I think the lack of climbing and jumping is a miss.

Exploration.

I might finish this post on a negative note, but I really want to talk about this separately. I was stoked when I saw the first Arceus images, footage. I was super excited for the exploration aspect of the game. Yet I am disappointed.

I will call for Breath of the Wild and Genshin Impact again for comparison, because I feel that Arceus wanted to follow those games in their path to some extent. However, just like with the graphics or soundtrack, they did it half-assed.

Genshin Impact is by no means in the list of my favourite games. Zelda is, but what both games do so much better than Arceus is making you want to explore. Actually I put Fenyx Rising on this list as well.

What I love about these 3 games, is that you always see something in the distance. Something that you want to explore right now, giving the game that “just one more” quality. Just one more ruin, just one more cave, just one more chest. You get the idea. Not to mention that they often have fun little puzzles to solve in order to loot the place.

RIP Budew.

In Arceus, now that I have unlocked the water mount, most of the map is pretty accessible. You cannot swim in the game, so some places can only be reached with this mount. Later I will unlock the aerial mount as well, and I assume some things will be only accessible then.

But I pretty much discovered all the map, however there is nothing interesting on the horizon. No ruins, no lights of a mysterious settlement, no memorable landscapes almost at all. Only Pokémon spread everywhere in predefined spots. You don’t go anywhere to explore, you go to those places to catch more Pokémon.

In the other 3 games you can scale every mountain, every building and find hidden little secrets everywhere.

I really, really wish Game Freak would have put more content in this vast area. Because the size is right, but unfortunately you will do nothing else in this big open space, but grind Pokédex entries.

Conclusion.

So there you have it, this is my comprehensive review of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Again, I did not finish the game yet, but after 30 something hours I think I got the gist of it. Of course if surprisingly there will be something jaw dropping in the game, I will apologize, but for now, I am quite confident to say, that this game is a fun, enjoyable missed opportunity.

With such a huge fanbase and probably a considerate budget, I think they could have done far far more.

If I’d have to guess why they settled for this mediocre game, I would have 2 options.

1: Due to the pandemic it was hard to properly flesh out the game.

2: They knew very well, that no matter what they release, the huge and loyal fan base will buy the game anyway.

I hope it is the first option but I fear it is the latter. But either way, I just hope this is a formula that Nintendo will continue to use, but they listen to player feedback and improve the game either through DLCs or a new instalment.

What about you? Have you played the game? Have it met your expectations? Let me know in a comment, and if you liked this post please follow me for more. I am a new blogger and I try to post several times a week.

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