With Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Game Freak dipped its toes into what an open world Pokemon game could be. While Pokemon Legends: Arceus was not a fully open-world game, it did feature wide-open zones for players to explore, laying the groundwork for what would follow with Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s massive, open-world Paldea region. But where Pokemon Legends: Arceus felt like a breath of fresh air for the long-running franchise, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet represent a sizable misstep.
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Pokemon Scarlet and Violet do away with the established main series Pokemon formula of linear progression in favor of embracing a completely open world. Following some tutorial quests at the start, players are let loose in the Paldea region to pursue the three main story quests. One quest is the typical Pokemon journey of defeating gym leaders and challenging the Elite Four, another is about taking on super-sized Titan Pokemon, and the third has players fighting the antagonistic Team Star group.
Longtime Pokemon players will realize that these storylines are recycled from previous games in the series, though the difference here is that players can tackle them in any order they wish. While Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have an optimal route that can be followed, players could technically fight the gym leaders completely out of order or outright ignore the Team Star conflict if they so desire. The lack of level scaling makes this implementation a bit clumsy, but the freedom is still appreciated.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s three quest lines may be familiar to Pokemon fans from a structural standpoint, but they are definitely more engaging thanks to some heartfelt writing and likable characters. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s writing isn’t going to win awards any time soon, but Game Freak clearly made an effort to make the plot more interesting than it has been in most Pokemon games, so fans will likely appreciate that as well.