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Pokemon Legends Arceus: 5 things you need to know about Pokemon's riskiest game yet

Game Freak is due to launch its most experimental Pokemon game in years later this month – but will the risk pay off?

If you’re tired of the age-old Pokemon tradition of grinding Gym Leaders, defeating an evil, villainous team and then besting the Elite Four, you’re in luck – Pokemon Legends: Arceus doesn’t just rewrite the Pokemon rule book… it throws it out the window all together. For its latest open world epic, Game Freak is taking us back in time – back to an era where Sinnoh was known as Hisui – and its making some serious changes to the Pokemon formula we’ve all come to know and love over the last three decades.

The name of the game in Pokemon Legends: Arceus is discovery; as a young researcher, your job is to catalog the Pokemon of the historical region and build the very first Pokedex. To gather all the necessary data, you’ll need to travel far and wide – searching every corner of Hisui in order to document the local flora and fauna with the help of a diverse cast of characters that look suspiciously like some of the big players from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl.

If that all sounds like a departure from the cosy, predictable Pokemon games you’ve been playing for the last 26 years, that’s because it is. The Pokemon Company’s chief operating officer, Takato Utsunomiya, has categorically said that "Pokemon Legends: Arceus represents a new approach for the Pokemon video game series" and the the developer wants to break “new ground” with this title.

But despite promises to “honor past Pokemon games”, does Legends: Arceus have what it takes to reinvent the Poke-Wheel and spark some more interest in the series ahead of its January 28, 2022 release date? We’ve put together a quick rundown of the most important things you need to know about Game Freak’s most ambitious game yet to find out.

There’s no Elite Four, and there are no Pokemon Trainers

It’s hard to get your head around, but Game Freak has explicitly stated that Pokemon Legends: Arceus is "a tale from a long, long time ago" that takes place "before ideas such as being a Pokemon Trainer or having a Pokemon League even existed". In this world, the lives of Pokemon and humans are still very much separate – and that means fewer battles with humans that own Pokemon, and no Elite Four endgame to work towards. That means the whole structure of the game is going to be very, very different – and will likely have more in common with Pokemon Snap than it will with Pokemon Red and Blue. It’s a risky gamble for the Pokemon developers… but one we’re hoping will pay off.

The game is Pokemon’s first foray into open world design… sort of

It’s clear from the footage we’ve seen in trailers that Pokemon Legends: Arceus has taken more than a little inspiration from Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but that doesn’t mean the title is fully open world. Game Freak has confirmed that you’ll operate out of Jubilife Village, which will act as your base as you strike out at the world and undertake research missions. From here, you can explore ‘various areas’ of the wilderness before heading back to Jubilife to log your new data. Rinse, repeat. The game, then, isn’t fully open world, but will likely open up in zones as you become a more adept researcher and scientist – so you’ll have access to the oceans, Mount Coronet and more eventually… but maybe not as soon as you boot up the game.

This is the first mainline Pokemon game to include crafting

We don’t yet know exactly how it’s going to work, but this latest Pokemon game has a big focus on crafting. In the latest trailer for the game, a voiceover notes that “collecting materials and crafting will be pivotal to success” in this new experience. A camera pulls meaningfully onto a crafting bench during the video, too, suggesting that sniffing out items and using your creations to subdue or coax Pokemon will be a large part of the game. Will we be making our own Pokeballs? Chopping bits of Rhydons to craft our own armour, a la Monster Hunter? It remains to be seen, but we’re pleased Pokemon is – finally – embracing some more serious RPG mechanics.

Battles have been overhauled and revamped

This is a big one; though battles might look a little similar to what you’ve played in games from the Game Boy through to the Switch, there are some key differences that’ll make Legends: Arceus stand out from the Poke-pack. When you enter into battle, for example, you will be able to choose between Strong or Agile styles where the former will increase power and decrease speed and the latter will do the opposite. Depending on your stats, you may also move against enemy ‘mon multiple times per turn, too. This all leans towards suggesting more strategy and more involved battles in the game – something certain sectors of the Pokemon community have been clamoring for for a long time.

You’re probably going to come face-to-face with Poke-God

Yep, you read that right. The titular Pokemon, Arcues, is basically God in the Pokemon world: it's the entity credited with shaped and creating everything in the Pokemon world and is called, somewhat imposingly, The Original One. You’d think God would be something a little bit more exciting than Normal-type, right? At least it knows one of the most powerful moves out there, Judgment, though. Will we team up with God in the game? Is it going to try and kill us? Will we have to placate the divine beast and help it shape the future of the world – and, as such, end up impacting the history of every Pokemon game we’ve ever played? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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