Level Up! | Game Review: Pokémon Legends: Arceus is absorbing my life

Level Up! Is a biweekly blog about all types of games, from Dungeons and Dragons to Mario Party.

By Sinéad McDevitt, Digital Manager

In my last blog, I talked about how my first Pokémon game was “Pokémon Platinum.” Platinum and the games released with it, “Diamond” and “Pearl,” take place in the Sinnoh region, and last year, Game Freak, the company that owns the Pokémon series, announced another game set in the distant past of the Sinnoh region, “Pokémon Legends: Arceus.”

This was a new direction for the series, moving away from turn-based combat and linear progression, to open-world exploration and Pokémon actually physically attacking the player. The main goal of the game is to complete the Pokédex, a record of all the Pokémon in the game and, unlike previous entries in the series, the Pokédex doesn’t update automatically. The player has to catch and observe multiple specimens to get a complete entry, all while some Pokémon attack you.

Game Freak were very secretive about the game, keeping most new Pokémon, characters and what the average gameplay loop — what you spend most of your time doing in a given game —  looked like. People didn’t know how much of this game would be catching or battling or anything about the plot of the game. All in all it wasn’t a surprise when the game leaked and people jumped at the chance to know more about this enigmatic game.

I’m of two minds about spoilers. On one hand, I think the obsession with avoiding spoilers to the extent that actors get their scripts taken from them by men in trench coats is absurd. On the other hand, half the fun of a Pokémon game is discovering the world for yourself, and I feel like a lot of moments I enjoyed would have been ruined if I’d known about them ahead of time.

I do wish Game Freak had given more details about the start of the story, if only so that people didn’t spend months wondering why your character has a cell phone if they’re supposed to be a villager living in what is analogous to the Hokkaido era in Japan. As it turned out, your character is actually sent from the past, alongside their phone, which makes so much more sense.

All this is to say that I was very curious about “Legends: Arceus,” and as soon as I got my hands on a copy Friday, I was absorbed into the game.

Something I’ve never liked about RPGs like Pokémon is when they require grinding — spending time to level up your characters to beat an enemy, usually a boss. I find it really repetitive and it gets boring fast.

Recent games have made this easier with ways to level up more Pokémon at once and in more ways, though I think “Legends: Arceus” takes this a step further. For one thing, the main focus of the game isn’t battling, so you don’t have to worry about your Pokémon being at an appropriate level. 

Instead, you spend much more time sneaking around trying to catch Pokémon for research, which requires more care and focus than just mashing a button. The removal of random encounters means you don’t have to go through the trouble of running around an area to hopefully run into the Pokémon you want, you can just see them.

You get money and items while you’re out looking for Pokémon, so even if you can’t find the one you’re looking for, you’re still making some sort of progress. This really contributes to the game never feeling boring, in my opinion.

Here’s an example. One of my favorite Pokémon is Eevee and I spent a lot of time looking for one yesterday. While I was searching, I completed “research tasks” with Pokémon in my party by seeing them use certain moves, I caught and fed other wild Pokémon to improve my score when I went to report my findings and I got items for quests. I didn’t find an Eevee, but I still felt satisfied by the end.

The game really encourages you to do a bunch of different tasks. You have to complete the Pokédex entry for every Pokémon, and the easiest way to do that is by catching a bunch of them. Then, even once your Pokédex entry was complete, by completing all the extra tasks, you get a bonus chance of finding a shiny version of that Pokémon. “Shiny” is the term for rare Pokémon with special colorings, which normally have bad odds of showing up outside of certain conditions, about 1 in 8,192 in earlier games and 1 in 4,096 in later ones.

Shiny Pokémon aren’t better than their regular counterparts stat-wise, but catching one is a badge of pride for most players and I was so excited when I stumbled on one while playing.

“Legends: Arceus” rewards you for doing a variety of tasks making it easy to get sucked into. Friday night I kept thinking “I’ll just do one more thing,” and ended up playing until 3:30 the next morning. 

This game is great and quickly becoming one of my favorite games in the series, and I hate when I have to tear myself away from it to do things like homework or eating. It’s that engaging.

Sinéad McDevitt is the digital manager at The Pitt News and enjoys writing about musicals, games and stories.