Review: Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a bold step forward with inventive, open-world gameplay

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This past week, the latest and arguably most defining chapter of the Pokémon franchise was released with Legends: Arceus. Taking a bold new direction for the series, the latest installment arrives with an open-world focus, loads of unique mechanics, and an entire new region to explore. If you’re still deciding whether Pokémon Legends: Arceus is worth adding to your collection, check out our insights from a weekend spent exploring the world of Hisui.

What to expect from Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Pokémon Legends: Arceus’s near-open world is a completely new take on the popular RPG. The game throws you through time and space to explore the Hisui region and changes up staples from past releases along the way – Survey corps ranks have replaced gym badges, and outposts in the wild take the place of Pokémon Centers, for example.

Whether you like this prequel title that, lore-wise, comes before all the other Pokémon games is going to come down to three things: Do you like the new mechanics? Are trainer battles a big draw for you? Do story-heavy games excite you?

Hisui is all about the new mechanics.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus’s new mechanics define the play-through experience. The open-world format brings with it a parade of new features and ways to interact with Pokémon in your party or via wild encounters.

One of the biggest selling points of the game is getting to build out the in-game universe’s very first Pokédex. Unlike previous games that just required catching one of every Pokémon, Pokémon Legends: Arceus requires you to complete various research tasks, ranging from capturing as many of one type of Pokémon as you can to using specific moves. These tasks guide you to try out new parties, battle foes that you may have already faced off against in the past, and explore every inch of the game’s open world.

Speaking of battling, this classic element of Pokémon titles of old isn’t as prominent in the newest release. With so many quests to accomplish, the actual battling aspect of Pokémon has taken a back seat in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. That’s not to say that you won’t be able to square up against other trainers, but the world isn’t full of random encounters like you may be used to. This shift of focus takes the series on a new course and will likely be one of the things you either love or hate.

As for other new mechanics, there’s really too much to write about. And honestly, finding them yourself for the first time is most of the fun! Though I will say that my favorite aspect has to be the new capturing system, which has you actually throwing Poké Balls at your targets. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities, like being able to catch your foes off guard with sneak attacks.

There’s also a new crafting system, which is yet another way that Pokémon Legends: Arceus encourages you to explore the world. Various ingredients can be combined to make everything from Poké Balls to potions with elements you find out in the wild. The feature isn’t as fleshed out as you’ll find in Breath of the Wild for instance, but it’s a nice addition to the franchise.

Pokémon finally gets a fulfilling story mode.

Now let’s talk about story. Alongside the updated gameplay, the lore of Pokémon Legends: Arceus is also taking the spotlight. It’s a prequel in the truest sense – You’ll uncover the origins of the Hisui region. I won’t spoil too many of the actual details, but I will say that the story’s a nice change of pace and helps carry the experience.

How Pokémon Legends: Arceus all comes together

Pokémon Legends: Arceus’s new additions stack up to deliver a game that is nothing short of the next step forward for the franchise. This game not only breaks the mold but rewards you for trying new things and, in the process, delivers the most unique Pokemon experience yet.

Even with all of Pokémon Legends: Arceus’s changes, it remains a Pokémon game at its core. Tedium has been the name of the game since the beginning, and those classic RPG elements shine in an entirely new light this time around. Everything is far more varied and designed to push your exploration of the world of Hisui. It’s far more interesting to check off new research tasks in the Pokédex than just run around in circles in the same patch of tall grass to level up.

I’ve been enjoying the game for just over 11 hours now, and I barely feel like I’ve scratched the surface of what to expect. I keep stumbling on new mechanisms or getting sucked into side quests, which is where Pokémon Legends: Arceus really shines for me. As neat as the new take on the story is, it’s all of the new experiences brought on by the open world that have me coming back for more.

9to5Toys’ Take 

If you’ve made it this far and haven’t come to a decision whether or not Pokémon Legends: Arceus is worth adding to your Switch library, hopefully these parting words will help. Even if the game doesn’t feel like it’s a true next-generation step for the franchise, it’s still full of new takes on catching Pokémon that make it as exciting as any other Pokémon game has ever been.

This isn’t a game that’s going to make all previous Pokémon titles feel outdated like Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey did to their counterparts. But it is a fresh take on what the franchise can offer. The execution may not be flawless, but the game’s the most fun I’ve had in years of playing Pokémon.

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