Pokemon Scarlet and Violet fans are expressing their disappointment at the revelation that the game’s new approach to the series’ gym challenge doesn’t seem to scale with players’ progress.
The recent Pokemon Presents showcase reaffirmed the fact that there’s no set path by which you need to complete the game’s three storylines. One of those arcs is the iconic gym challenge, within which you’ll need to defeat all eight gym leaders to earn their badges. With Game Freak revealing that you’ll be able to tackle the gyms in whichever order you like as you journey around the Paldea region, some players assumed that those gym leaders might scale alongside you, fielding more powerful teams if you encounter them later in the game than they might in the opening few hours.
Thing is, that’s not just some random whim of the community. Lots of RPGs offer some degree of level-scaling, and Pokemon has actually provided an in-universe solution to this exact problem. In the first episode of the Pokemon Origins miniseries (opens in new tab) – which turns Pokemon Red and Blue into their own anime – protagonist Red arrives at the Pewter City gym to face leader Brock. When Brock learns that Red doesn’t have any badges yet, he agrees to battle him with two specific Pokemon, rather than his entire team. It’s just a brief, throwaway moment, but one that explains a lot about how Pokemon gyms might work outside the context of the games.
It’s also a system that would likely have worked in the new games. Show up with a team of three first-stage ‘mons, and a gym leader would face you down with a smaller, weaker team. Rock up with six fully-evolved beasts, and leaders would respond in kind.
Unfortunately, however, that doesn’t appear to be the case. As pointed out on Reddit (opens in new tab), the games’ official website says that “there is no set path to the Gyms. You can purposefully seek out a stronger Gym Leader, or you can simply stop by a Gym that happens to be located in a town you came across on your journey .” From that, it’s pretty clear that even if the last gym you arrive at is the intended ‘first’ gym, it won’t be putting up much of a challenge.
The responses on Reddit haven’t been particularly positive. User eden_sc2 (opens in new tab) suggests that “no level scaling would make the gym order completely worthless.” Elsewhere, user Kureiton (opens in new tab) points out that proper scaling might make things easier, “because a casual player is far more likely to get lost and accidentally end up at a harder gym without realising.” Elsewhere, one user simply described the decision as a “bummer.”
It’ll be interesting to see how the other two narrative arcs in the game might adopt a more open approach rather than Pokemon’s traditional, linear story, but this does feel like a peculiar stumbling block, particularly in a series that’s been criticized for its refusal to include increased difficulty options for veteran players.
Check out the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet PokeDex for a look at all of the creatures confirmed so far.