Pokémon Scarlet and Violet may not have level scaling. It’s bad.

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During Wednesday’s Pokémon Presents, developer Game Freak revealed a sprawling open world that players can explore in “Pokémon Scarlet” and “Pokémon Violet.” In future titles, players will cruise the massive Spain-inspired map atop a Legendary Pokemon – Koraidon or Miraidon – that can transform into a jet ski, glider, motorbike and more.

“These titles will be open-world RPGs, a first for the Pokémon series,” the narration states during the live stream. “There is no set path to the gyms,” a post on the games‘ official website confirmed, enticing fans with the idea that really any path through this world is theirs.

Then things come to a screeching halt with the following sentence: “You can deliberately search for a stronger Gym Leader, or you can just stop by a Gym that happens to be located in a city you encountered during your travel. This time you can carve your own path along Victory Road.”

To understand why this seemingly innocuous pair of phrases would give players pause, you must first understand “level scaling”, a game mechanic where enemies do not have set levels but increase at the place in proportion to the level of the player. This is typically used in open-world games to ensure a player has a smooth experience: they won’t encounter overpowered enemies, or feel overwhelmed by incredibly weak enemies, 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 main franchise’s history – are unlikely to have this mechanic, especially for Gyms, which are the version of the series of major boss fights. The point of an open world is to explore at your own pace, following a path of your choosing. However, the removal of level scaling reduces the open world and, by extension, the paths players can reasonably take.

Disgruntled fans have already started to express their distaste for the choice of design, and who can blame them? This represents yet another stumbling block Game Freak and The Pokémon Company created for themselves as they transitioned the Pokémon series, which is built on turn-based battles, random encounters, and preset story progression. towards a fully open experience. If you’re introducing fans to an open world, they’ll want to explore it in whatever order they choose. Why create a difficulty gate by making certain gymnasiums (you have to clear eight of them to reach the end of the game) require a higher level to beat than others? On paper, the choice makes it nearly impossible to Actually progress in the order chosen by the players.

Video games keep getting longer. It’s a matter of time and money.

To be clear, the official Pokemon website never explicitly states that there is no level scaling in “Scarlet” and “Purple”. In theory, every gym could have a set baseline, some higher than others, above which a level ladder system is applied. Either way, the post states that there is a clear progression path from gym to gym, as some gyms are inherently “stronger” than others.

Game Freak, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo did not respond to a request for comment.

Crossing Pokémon regions from gym to gym, catching and upgrading Pokémon on a set path to the final challenge of defeating the Elite Four – it’s a gameplay loop that Game Freak relied on for two decades of mainline games. Therefore, it’s admirable that they’re attempting an open world where, theoretically, players can go wherever they want. However, without level scaling, “Scarlet” and “Violet” essentially risk throwing the player back into the same gameplay loop of the past two decades: a set path, a specific order of Gyms, a route to the Elite Four.

Earlier this year, “Pokémon Legends: Arceus” attempted to create an open-world experience in some areas; it also faced several stumbling blocks in the transition, particularly around graphics and technology. That being said, one major change for the series – its lack of gym leaders – worked hand-in-hand with the open world structure. Players were not directed to a predetermined path.

It seems that “Scarlet” and “Violet” draw heavily from this game; some open-world travel features teased for the two upcoming games, such as flight, look nearly identical in function and animation to their “Arceus” counterpart. It’s still unclear if the capture mechanics of “Scarlet” and “Violet” will be inspired by “Arceus,” which not only included the classic capture mechanics involving turn-based combat, weakening, and throwing of a Poké Ball, but also a “Pokémon Go”-like hybrid that involved sneaking around and throwing a perfectly targeted Poké Ball before the battle even began. The battles and UI of “Scarlet” and ” Violet” were only briefly featured during Pokémon Presents.

Eight generations of Pokémon games with the same formula show Game Freak struggling to let go of the longer-running aspects of the Pokémon series — even those that directly conflict with its new direction and open-world game design principles that players came expecting. But when a Pokémon evolves, it gets stronger. Game Freak should take inspiration from its own IP.

“Scarlet” and “Violet” will be released for Nintendo Switch on November 18, 2022.

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