Pokémon Legends: Arceus was never specifically described by Nintendo as an open world game. Its official descriptions referred to it as an ‘action RPG’ with elements of exploration, and while its early trailers and sweeping views implied there was a freer world in which to roam, it now appears the dream of a true ‘open world’ Pokémon may be over.
Update: The Pokémon Company has sent Kotaku a statement confirming the Monster Hunter-esque structure of Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Jubilife Village will serve as the base for surveying missions. After receiving an assignment or a request and preparing for their next excursion, players will set out from the village to study one of the various open areas of the Hisui region. After they finish the survey work, players will need to return once more to prepare for their next task. We look forward to sharing more information about exploring the Hisui region soon.
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In a recent tweet, Serebii.net’s Joe Merrick posted an image reportedly depicting the map of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. While it shows off Arceus‘s Hisui region, a highlighted area on the map appears to imply the world will be split into smaller segments. Merrick compared the map to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which featured separated areas in a larger map rather than sweeping plains (as in Breath of the Wild).
Essentially, the map design implies players will be exploring and researching in smaller biomes, rather than being able to wander freely in a wider world. As players advance, more areas of the map will unlock. This was hinted at in the game’s official description, which states players will need to level up before accessing wilder areas.
This makes sense for a lot of reasons, with the primary one being character progression. Pokémon games have always relied on your characters advancing at a steady pace as your Pokémon grow and you discover more about the world.
Levelling is an essential part of every game (even spin-offs) and having trainers romping through the world only to encounter an impossible Lv. 100 Arceus battle might be a bit of a bummer. Given the difficulties Pokémon Sword & Shield had in rendering its Wild Area, a more constrained world might be easier for the game’s overall performance and speed.
The idea of a true open world Pokémon game is an exciting one — but for now, it doesn’t appear Arceus is that game. Still, it looks like an absolute blast and every area of the game we’ve seen so far is a real joy. Open world or not, there’ll be plenty to see and do as you once again conquer the world of Pokémon.
As we get closer to release, it’s likely we’ll hear more about the game’s world and how it functions. For now, it doesn’t appear to be as simple as Pokémon fans assumed, but we can all look forward to seeing and learning more in future.