Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be more of a sandbox game, not fully open world

The game will work like Monster Hunter and others, using Jubilife Village as the hub.

Image via The Pokémon Company

Fans have slowly been getting more and more excited for the release of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, a game that will take the Pokémon franchise to places it has never gone before—even in its numerous spin-off titles. However, The Pokémon Company has clarified one popular descriptor of the game.

Images in previously released trailers show that the Legends: Arceus map is segmented and heavily resembles a Monster Hunter game. This led many to start questioning if the new game would be fully open world or take what Sword and Shield did with the Wild Area, and later the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra, to the next level. 

Initially, fans simply thought that The Pokémon Company referring to Jubilife Village as “the base” for a player’s adventure just meant that it would be the location where players would consistently need to return in order to update missions, complete quests, and more. However, in a statement to Kotaku, TPC confirmed that this is not the case. 

Image via The Pokémon Company

“In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Jubilife Village will serve as the base for surveying missions,” TPC said. “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.”

The way this statement is worded, Legends: Arceus seems to be taking inspiration from other games that are still considered “open world,” but find creative ways to make that type of experience possible and flow in unique ways.

Monster Hunter, specifically Monster Hunter Stories, uses the hub locations as a send-off for players to go and explore sprawling locations and then come back once a quest is complete, or when the player is simply done exploring and ready to move on. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 also used this formula, letting players fast travel between multiple “lands” rather than combining everything into one cohesive open world. 

Image via The Pokémon Company

Utilizing this method, TPC and Game Freak can still give fans an open world Pokémon title, since the term can be taken as facilitating greater exploration in a less linear format. This means Legends: Arceus is more of a sandbox title than what is typically considered a true “open world.”

Using a hub area and having players travel to what likely equate to different “Wild Areas,” the developers can more easily balance the freedom of an open world setting while pacing and providing structure to the overall game. As an added bonus, splitting the game into areas will give Game Freak the opportunity to better optimize the game around the Nintendo Switch’s technical limitations. 

We won’t know exactly what style of game Pokémon Legends: Arceus is, nor exactly which ways Game Freak will give players to explore the Hisui region, until it launches on Jan. 28, 2022.