Pokemon Legends: Arceus doesn’t allow players to swim, missing out on the chance to add new exploration mechanics free of Pokémon abilities.
While Pokémon Legends: Arceus has overhauled most gameplay found in previous Pokémon games, these changes do not include the ability to swim in the many bodies of water scattered across the Hisui region. The decision to exclude swimming mechanics in open-world games is not unique to Pokémon Legends: Arceus, with the omission in the original Assassin’s Creed game a notable and humorous issue that was addressed in later titles of the series. However, when missing from exploration-driven games, the inability to swim is both frustrating and limiting for those trying to enjoy the freedoms and adventures in the game.
Unlike Pokémon games of the past, which have relied on linear routes and controlled areas of exploration on maps, Legends: Arceus includes five sprawling, wild locations for players to wander. Each location has a specific biome and layout, with landmasses broken up by rivers, lakes, and coastlines. However, many will quickly discover that water is an early-game enemy, with their character floundering helplessly when they step more than a few feet off solid ground.
In most modern open-world-inspired or true open-world games, the ability to swim is a staple mechanic. For Breath of the Wild‘s exploration, players must pay close attention to a stamina bar while swimming to keep from drowning, while other games don’t limit the swimming mechanic unless the player character dives underwater, where they may have an oxygen meter to limit exploration. This allows players to easily cross rivers and ponds with minimal issue, as well as boosting the environmental immersion that drives open-world gameplay.
How Pokémon Legends: Arceus Could Have Used The Swimming Mechanic
The ability to swim in Pokémon Legends: Arceus could have added a wide variety of exploration mechanics to boost gameplay while roaming the maps of Hisui. Hidden locations could have been included around water-based areas of each map that would be inaccessible while riding Basculegion in Arceus. These locations, like flooded caves or shallow beaches, could be used to spawn rare Pokémon or forage items for crafting. These areas could also be home to rare Alpha Pokémon, or have a higher Shiny Pokémon rate than other locations on the map. This would not only encourage players to keep exploring small areas after traveling most of the map but reward those who don’t rely entirely on Ride Pokémon to get around.
Additionally, the inclusion of a swimming mechanic in Pokémon Legends: Arceus could have presented the opportunity to reintroduce the Dive mechanic originally added in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. The ability, which was tied to the HM Dive, allowed players to explore deep areas of water by diving under the waves. These deep-sea maps held rare items, Pokémon spawns, and hidden caves, giving players plenty of incentive to explore far off the coasts of the Hoenn region. Pokémon Legends: Arceus could utilize the diving feature in similar ways, allowing players to swim the sandy ocean floors for rare treasure or explore dark lake bottoms for rare Pokémon. It could also be the perfect way to introduce more Legendary Pokémon or particularly powerful Alpha Water Pokémon spawn points.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus May Have Excluded Swimming To Cut Time
Because the swimming mechanic would be beneficial for both exploration as well as overarching gameplay additions, many may wonder why Game Freak decided to omit an action that has become a staple of similar gameplay. It is likely the main reason came down to time. While Nintendo and Game Freak haven’t come forward with many explanations for development decisions regarding Pokémon Legends: Arceus, it is likely the developer had to pick and choose what would be included in the final cut of the game, as much of the title was being built from scratch. Unlike other recent Pokémon games like Sun and Moon or Sword and Shield, there was no pre-existing blueprint or assets to use when creating Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and it is possible Game Freak chose to focus on other gameplay elements that were more complex, rather than spend that time on a basic mechanic like swimming.
It is also possible Game Freak didn’t feel the addition of swimming was needed thanks to the Ride Pokémon Basculegion taking the place of the Surf ability from past games, which also didn’t include swimming. The choice to limit player exploration to the back of the large, spooky fish Pokémon ensured that certain areas on the map would remain out of reach until players were at a higher level, as well as creating reasons for players to revisit maps later in the game. This strategy is seen in previous Pokémon games, where players have the ability to travel to past routes, caves, and towns after obtaining new Hidden Moves to access and explore new locations.
While there hasn’t been any formal news from Game Freak or Nintendo regarding potential DLC for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, it is possible additional content could add areas where swimming and diving are possible. Pokémon Sword and Shield, the first games in the series to receive DLC, used new areas added in each of the expansions to introduce new mechanics. This included additional narratives, puzzles, map locations, and Pokémon species. If Pokémon Legends: Arceus were to do something similar, a new location on the map of Hisui could become available, with a storyline or new Hisuian Pokémon that teaches the player to dive or swim. This could also be another use of the ancient ruins found throughout Hisui, with players potentially diving underwater to locate more of the broken pillars and mysterious messages that have already been a driving plot device in the narrative.
It is also possible Game Freak could choose to add swimming and diving to the next game in the Pokémon franchise. While it has been confirmed that Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a main series Pokémon game, it will not be considered the start of Generation 9 Pokémon, but another addition to Generation Eight. Because of this, there is a possibility that many of the features seen in Pokémon Legends: Arceus could be used as a foundation for the next new region and storyline, expanding features that are being tested as players explore the Hisui region. Another game in the series focused on open-world-style exploration and self-guided narrative would likely be a welcome change for fans and continue to revolutionize how players go on their trainer journey.
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