PKMBuy - Is "Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" possible nix level scaling?
During Wednesday's Pokémon Presents, we learned from developer Game Freak that "Pokémon Scarlet" and "Pokémon Violet" are an open world. In the upcoming game, players will roam a huge Spanish-style map on a legendary Pokémon (Koraidon or Miraidon) that can transform into a jet ski, glider, motorcycle, and more. Sea, land and air triphibian mounts, you deserve it!
The games will be open-world role-playing games, a first for the Pokémon franchise, a narrator in the live stream said. "The road to the gym doesn't have a set path," a post on the game's official website confirms, leading fans to believe that any path in this world is truly something they have to explore on their own.
The next few sentences bring things to a screeching halt: "You can purposefully seek out a stronger gym leader, or you can simply stop at a gym that happens to be located in a town you encounter on your travels. Come down. This time, you can chart your own path along the road to victory."
To understand why this pair of seemingly innocuous sentences will stop the player, you first need to understand "level scaling", a game mechanic where enemies are not set at a level, but scale proportionally to the player's own level Increase level. This is often used in open-world games to ensure players have a smooth experience: no matter how they choose to explore the environment, they won't encounter powerful enemies or be overwhelmed by extremely weak enemies.
As such, the next generation of Pokémon games -- the first open-world game in the history of the mainline series -- likely won't have this mechanic, especially for Gym, which is the series' main boss battle version. The point of an open world is to explore at your own pace and on the path you choose. However, removing level scaling reduces the scope of the open world and thus narrows the paths that players can reasonably pursue.
Disgruntled fans have begun expressing their distaste for the design choices, and who can blame them? It represents yet another stumbling block Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have created for themselves in transitioning the Pokémon franchise, based on turn-based combat, random encounters, and preset story progression, to a fully open-world experience. If you show your fans an open world, they'll want to explore it in any order they choose. Why create difficulty gates by having some gyms require higher levels than others? You'll need to clear eight to get to the end game, and on paper, this choice makes it nearly impossible to actually progress in any order the player chooses.
Video games are getting longer. It's all about time and money.
In fact, the official Pokémon website never explicitly states that there is no level scaling in "Scarlet" and "Violet.". In theory, it's possible that every gym has a fixed base level, some higher than others, on which a level scaling system is applied. Regardless, this article shows that there is a clear development path from the gym to gym, as some gyms are inherently "stronger" than others.
Without level scaling, Scarlet and Violet essentially risk sending players back to the same game loop from the past two decades: a set of paths, a specific gym order, and a route to an elite foursome.
"Scarlet" and "Violet" appear to have drawn heavily from that game in Pokémon Legends: Arceus; some of the open-world travel features teased for the upcoming two games, such as flying, are functionally and animatedly similar to their "Arceus" Zeus' counterpart is almost identical. It's unclear if Scarlet and Violet's capture mechanics will take inspiration from Legends: Arceus, which includes not only classic turn-based combat, weakening, and Pokeball-throwing capture mechanics, but also Pokémon Go -- like a hybrid Like the power car, dive in and throw a perfectly aimed Pokeball before the fight begins. The combat and UI of Scarlet and Violet are only briefly shown during the Pokémon Gift. Looking forward to the release on November 18th!
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