Game Freak’s first stab at a semi-open world Pokémon game is quite good. In some ways it’s shockingly so. How do I know this? In part because I and a bunch of other players got immediately hooked on Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ first area and wasted hour after hour there doing tons of stuff without even a thought as to what lay beyond it. It’s like Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Hinterlands, except it doesn’t suck.
I thought it was just me who had spent my first 10 hours in Pokémon Legends: Arceus schlepping back and forth across the massive Obsidian Fieldlands exploring, battling, capturing, and running away from terrifyingly overpowered Alpha Pokémon. Not so! My editor confirmed she spent even more time there. And we are not alone either. Social media is filled with people who have been taking their time and squeezing every last drop out of Arceus as they go.
“I was there for 25 hours and my Dex level was 4 or 5,” one player, who goes by DigiAtlas, told Kotaku. They’ve played over 60 hours total at this point and still haven’t progressed past Arceus’ third area. “This has basically been my entire play style for the whole game. I get to an area (on my own or through story progression) and comb through it looking for rare Pokémon, pushing my galaxy team level, etc.”
“I take my time,” another player, who goes by thebrokenbirdy, said. “I’m still in the first map, exploring the world. It’s so refreshing to experience a world where pokemon feel like true living creatures you have to respect instead of annoying spawns you slaughter to gain levels.”
One of the big selling points for Arceus has been the fact that you can walk around an open field and bump into wild Pokémon just like players of the decades-old series have always dreamed of doing. A less discussed aspect of the game, but one that’s no less important, is how it turns that simple experience into an incredibly satisfying grind. One that has kept players busy without burning them out.
“25 hours and I only have 63 registered pokemon in the Obsidian Field lands!” wrote user fakeDABOMB101 on the Pokémon subreddit. “I am still in the Obsidian fields lol, I feel like I am going about this very slowly compared to everyone else..in the end tho this approach has been fun bc I spent quality time with almost all of the pokemon I have captured so far for the dex.”
Unlike in previous Pokémon games where you’re working off of a pre-programmed Pokédex, in Arceus you’re filling out the very first Dex from scratch, meaning you have to engage with the same Pokémon dozens of times before you can max out its individual entry. This means you’re not just one-and-done collecting, or grinding purely for XP. These data collection efforts earn you money and also increase your Galaxy Team ranks, which in turn unlocks recipes for new items to aid you in your research. The net result is a satisfying progression loop that’s still ultimately in the service of Arceus’ main attraction: helping you discover, capture, and learn about new Pokémon. Mr. Mime has been in the series from the beginning, but players have never seen him like this before.
That’s one of my theories at least for why players aren’t feeling the need to rush through the game’s main story the way they’ve tended to do in past Pokémon games. It also helps that the Obsidian Fieldlands is itself so big and varied, with a surprisingly diverse array of rare and beloved Pokémon to chase. There are over 60 different types that spawn, ranging from Bidoof to Togekiss. There are small Pokémon and big Pokémon, Alpha versions and Shiny ones. Some that spawn during the day and others that only come out at night. And then there are the Distortion fields which change things up even more.
It’s the opposite of the open-world filler some games have made us so used to. No wonder it’s keeping players busy.