Pokémon Scarlet and Violet's open world is exactly what the series needs
A natural evolution.
The Pokémon series has always been about the spirit of adventure, sending players out on world-roaming adventures to catch and befriend hundreds of creatures. For decades, players have dreamed of a true open-world Pokémon experience. At the same time, the fandom has always been resistant to any wide sweeping change.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet will bring some huge changes to the franchise, including letting players approach gyms and towns in any order they want instead of in a linear fashion. Not only is this a brilliant change for Pokémon, but the natural progression of the series.
Even though Pokémon has always featured a linear story, there’s been a big focus on exploration within those bounds. The different routes and areas trainers explore are crammed with optional pathways, hidden items, and extra trainers to battle. Exploration and freedom has always been a central idea of the series, with a young adult heading out on an adventure across the world.
The franchise has dabbled with more open environments for years, with the Wild Area of Pokémon Sword and Shield, then the open zones of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It’s clear Game Freak has wanted to shift this direction for years, and finally pushing to full open-world can help push the game design of Pokémon forward.
The freedom to approach the game in any manner gives the player a ton of agency, especially in a game that features hundreds of Pokémon to capture. Because the Pokémon you capture vary by region, this means that one playthrough might have a wildly different party from another, instead of the usual Pidgeys and Rattatas that make up early parties.
At the moment, it’s not entirely clear if gyms will have level scaling, but that’s not really a problem either way. Pokémon has always let you build multiple parties and catch dozens upon dozens of creatures. Even without level scaling, you’ll be able to capture Pokémon in the nearby region and approach the gyms with the same level Pokémon. That option will always be there, but not having level scaling could let Scarlet and Violet present a tremendous challenge for players that want it. Letting players tackle later gyms early on brings a whole new level of difficulty to Pokémon, and one that could be an absolute blast.
The final aspect of all this is how the open-world formula could reinvigorate Pokémon’s storytelling. Normally the overarching narrative of a Pokémon game is tied to progress in gym badges, and you won’t encounter legendaries or final conflicts with a team until near the end. That’s not going to be true with Scarlet and Violet. What’s more, the latest Pokémon Presents video says that “three grand stories are waiting for you.” We know the first of these is your trainer tackling the gyms, but the other two remain a mystery.
The next installment of Pokémon takes liberal inspiration from Breath of the Wild, and that could make the storytelling far more dynamic. Now you won’t have to wait dozens of hours to see a story play out, but can pursue whatever story threads you want at any time you want. Scarlet and Violet could easily feature the most engrossing story of the series, especially as Game Freak isn’t forced into making the narrative play out across each city and town.
Scarlet and Violet are starting to feel like Pokémon’s Breath of the Wild moment, delivering on the exploration dream that fans have had since the very first game. It’s clear this is the direction Game Freak has wanted to move for years, and it’s absolutely necessary to facilitate more involved multiplayer options. For a franchise starting to feel a bit of fatigue as well, it’s just the change it needs.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet comes to Nintendo Switch on November 18.