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Pokémon Legends: Arceus Is Clearly Not Going To Be Open-World [Update]

The Pokémon Diamond and Pearl prequel is less Breath of the Wild, more Pocket Monster Hunter

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The hero of Pokémon Legends: Arceus gazes out over a vast green field, a mountain rising in the distance.
You can’t get there from here.
Screenshot: Nintendo

Since the first trailer for Pokémon Legends: Arceus arrived back in February, the game’s vast open areas and rolling green hills have drawn comparison to Breath of the Wild. While the idea of a massive open-world version of the ancient Sinnoh region, filled with Pokémon to play with, sounds like it would be amazing, Arceus looks to have more in common with Monster Hunter Stories than The Legend of Zelda.

Update, 10/8/2021, 6:00 p.m. ET: 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.


Original story follows below:

I know, we’ve been calling the game “open-world” since the original announcement. I even called it open-world back in August, when The Pokémon Company dropped the first gameplay details. In that same article I say, “Though comparisons have been made to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it actually sounds like Arceus might be a bit more like a Monster Hunter game.” Since then, I’ve been thinking of Pokémon Legends: Arceus as Nintendo’s version of Monster Hunter’s turn-based RPG spin-off, Monster Hunter Stories. Perhaps I should have been more vocal about it, as an article posted yesterday by Game Informer suggests there’s still some confusion.


Most of the information pointing towards a Monster Hunter Stories-style adventure comes from the August Pokémon Direct. “The bustling Jubalife village will be the base for your adventures,” the video’s narrator says, as the camera slowly pans about the rustic town. Jubalife is the game’s central hub, from which members of the Galaxy Expedition team strike out in order to study the region and its Pokémon. It’s here you accept missions from NPCs, returning when the job is done.

These missions are called survey outings, and they send you to various areas of the ancient Sinnoh, or Hisui Region. The map in the video shows different areas outlined in green. This suggests that instead of one vast open map, the region is split into a series of large playable areas.

An image of Pokémon Legends: Arceus' map, showing distinct region outlines.
One world, many pieces.
Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

“Your excursions outside the village will begin by preparing at a base camp,” the narrator continues. This is another staple of the Monster Hunter experience. Each segmented area starts with a camp, where Monster Hunter players can gather supplies for their expedition. Though Pokémon Legends: Arceus seems keener on peppering their world with friendly NPC faces than Capcom’s series, the basic idea is the same.

A screenshot of one of Pokémon Legends: Arceus' camps, from which players embark on expeditions.
Nothing makes camping more fun than a couple of grown men hanging around outside your tent.
Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

The Direct’s description of the turn-based combat system in Pokémon Legends: Arceus suggests this is another area in which developer Game Freak borrowed ideas from Monster Hunter Stories. The turn-based Monster Hunter spinoff has you choosing between Power, Speed, and Technical attacks. Arceus has you choose between Strong Style and Agile Style attacks, one more powerful but slow, the other faster but weaker. While not a direct correlation, Arceus’ combat immediately brings Monster Hunter Stories to mind. And certainly not BotW.

A screenshot showing turn-based combat in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
Lucario is long, strong, and down to get the friction on.
Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

All of these signs point to a game that’s not open-world, but rather a series of large connected regions. The camp system suggests that we won’t be able to seamlessly walk between these regions, instead being limited to the area our missions take us to.


There is nothing wrong with this. I am fully down for a Monster Hunter Stories-style adventure, where the monsters are of the pocket variety. So is webmaster Joe Merrick, who jump-started the open-world conversation with a Tweet late last month.


I reached out to The Pokémon Company for clarification on how Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ regions work, and will update this post should I hear back. The game isn’t out until January of next year, so I expect we’ll get a clearer view of its structure as the release date approaches.