Ok, I’m a big fan of RPG’s. I really enjoyed Octopath Traveler, as seen in my review. Additionally, I am a fan of Pokemon, and still play it to this day. I couldn’t help but notice that Octopath Traveler has some traits that set it apart from Pokemon, and in many ways, is an improvement feature wise. I would like to discuss what Octopath gets right, and what Pokemon could stand to imitate in the long run. Many of these suggestions are things I would like to see in the upcoming (currently untitled, and due in 2019) Pokemon Switch game.
A quick thing to note: I am not demanding that Pokemon completely imitates Octopath Traveler. It would be best if both games are at least somewhat unique from each other. Octopath’s action boosting and guard-breaking game mechanics won’t work well with Pokemon, and would be best left to games that are designed around such game play rules. I am here to point out things that Octopath Traveler currently does better than Pokemon, and which of these features would translate into enhancements for the main series Pokemon games.
So there are a few categories I will cover in this article:
- Story and level progression
- User interface
- Other needs
The other needs category are changes that Octopath wouldn’t inspire but would still be appreciated in the Pokemon games. I figure it is worth it to point them out in an article on improving a preexisting game. So, let’s get started!
- Story and level progression:
Pokemon is a linear game in terms of story progression. In most of the Pokemon games, you can’t move to one area before completing the previous area. Octopath Traveler isn’t as linear as Pokemon. In Octopath, you can start with any of the eight characters, recruit the rest in any order, and travel anywhere on the map, even if it is dangerous to do so. Each character’s individual objectives still need to be completed in order in Octopath, but you can still choose which character complete’s their objective next. You could finish a character’s chapter four before another character finishes chapter two, or chapter three, as an example.
Exploration seems to be a popular thing in video games recently. The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and now Octopath Traveler all encourage fairly free form exploration. Pokemon could be the next game with that sort of makeover. If done right, it would help Pokemon become more popular in the video game department. Imagine exploring an optional area, finding a rare Pokemon, catching that Pokemon, then finding out your friends easily missed that area. Better yet, you wouldn’t have to progress to a certain point to get there, if you so choose. This sort of discovery would feel right at home in the Pokemon series.
So, how does Octopath manage to do something like this? First, the starting area is near the center of the map. While Pokemon doesn’t need eight or even two playable characters, this sort of central starting area means you can most easily move in multiple directions at the beginning of the game. So the player doesn’t quite get lost, the Pokemon game could highlight the current available objectives in a similar fashion to Octopath. I’d say give the player two objectives they could handle in any order after the introductory area. After completing one, the map should update with at least one more objective (ideally two or three new ones) based on which one was completed. The player will have the choice to either finish the new ones first, or go back and try the old one next. This cycle could repeat until all the objectives are finished. It isn’t clear how many objectives there should be, but based on the Pokemon series’ history, I’d say at least eight major objectives would satisfy most players.
On a related note, Octopath Traveler also gets more difficult as more objectives are cleared. If Pokemon decides for free exploration, if would be important to have a similar difficulty curve. In Octopath, every area becomes at least somewhat more difficult as objectives are cleared. This game even shows a danger level, which give the player an idea of how tough you need to be to get through it. Similar warnings would be helpful in a Pokemon game that does this. There could even be an adjustment in terms of what Pokemon appear in which area as this happens. The developers have to be careful not to make any Pokemon become unavailable for progressing too far, but they can certainly add more variety to old areas. Similar to Octopath, the hardest areas would likely be furthest away from the starting area, in this case, the edge of the game world.
Finally, some in-game roadblocks may be needed to keep this simple. Not having a Pokemon that can swim should limit travel across water. Similarly, a flying Pokemon could enable a means of fast travel, a must in any Pokemon game. Some means of clearing obstacles to reach new objectives may be acquired as rewards for finishing current objectives. Of course, HM’s from older games or alternately ride Pokemon from the Sun and Moon games are the best candidates for this option.
- User interface:
Octopath does some nice things with the user interface. Octopath shows you almost everything you need to know in the middle of a battle. Things like turn order, side effects from actions, and the enemy’s guard meter are shown. The duration of these effects are also shown. Pokemon has done this to an extent recently, but isn’t done quite as cleanly. In Pokemon Sun and Moon, the bottom screen shows if a Pokemon has at least one effect placed on it. If you touch the Pokemon’s icon on the bottom screen, you will see what effects it has on it. Some effects will show the duration, unless it is randomized. The game offers a description of the effect if you touch the info icon, which is one thing Octopath doesn’t do. The game shows how many stat bonuses or penalties the Pokemon has too, but doesn’t explain how these stats change, which is something that some other RPG’s do. If Pokemon at least adjusts how easily it shows battle effects and their descriptions, the Pokemon games will be more accessible to newer players. Such an adjustment is a must. Of note, the game will become single screen when it transitions to the Nintendo Switch, which may complicate how they show this information.
Now, turn order is a special case in Pokemon. If turn order is simply shown right off the bat, then players that customized a Pokemon to be faster than average will lack the element of surprise. It may be hard to implement this sort of feature due to some actions going first, regardless of actual speed. I feel it would be okay to leave this feature from Octopath out, so player’s can hide some of this sort of info from their opponents. If it absolutely needs to be in a Pokemon game, then it should show the turn order of the previous turn, with maybe an icon that shows if a move that goes out of order was used to determine that turn’s order. A quick press of a button should show what information you need to see in between turns, either for turn order, or battle effects.
Also, brief tutorials should be in a Pokemon game, with the option to look at them later if you forget what they were. Octopath shows these in one screen with visual examples, as they become relevant. Pokemon shows you these in a slow mock battle, and you can’t see them again later. Most of the time, Pokemon does this for teaching how to catch new Pokemon, with no option to skip it. Other tutorials in Pokemon are nearly non-existent, or are for a new battle mechanic introduced in that game. In some cases, a random person in-game will give you a tip, but could be easily missed by other players.
- Other needs:
The last few things I will mention are needs that Octopath Traveler doesn’t offer as an example for Pokemon. Pokemon’s stat system is very obtuse especially for new players. There are actually three factors that determine a Pokemon’s stats: natures, individual strengths (called IV’s by the fan base), and how a Pokemon is trained (called EV’s by the fan base). A Pokemon’s nature cannot be changed, but does enhance one stat while dropping another. The IV’s are randomly determined when you encounter the Pokemon, but can be changed to their maximum value if the Pokemon is at level 100 (hopefully, this remains in some fashion in Pokemon Switch). The EV’s are stats the Pokemon gets through training in a few different ways. The player has 510 EV’s to play with, and only 252 can go into one stat. This means that you can max out 2 stats, or spread them more evenly between the six stats. Additionally, every 4 EV’s equals a 1 point stat increase for that stat, at level 100, so be careful how they are used…if that sounds like a lot, well it is. At the very least these numbers should be more visible in the future games. At most, they should be explained in clear terms to the players who want to seek them out. Other solutions might include, changing the system in some way to simplify it, or to allow one of a kind Pokemon to change their natures.
Another area to improve on is the online connectivity. There isn’t too much to add here, but Pokemon should alert players to live events in their area (such as tournaments). Also, the championship rules should resemble how live tournaments work, particularly in regards to the in-game timer. At live events, you have 50 minutes to play a best 2 of 3 games each round, and each game has a separate timer for team preview, a “your time” timer (if that runs out, you lose), and a time limit for picking your moves each turn. The current game only allows for a best of 1 game, and has no timer for the entire match. The tournament judges currently have to keep track of the 50 minutes themselves, and have to set up tie-breaking rules manually if time is up! Hopefully, such considerations will be accounted for in this new game.
Additionally, game updates may need to be reworked. Updates currently exist only for bug fixes. It might be nice to have the occasional balance patch, or even a bigger update for compatibility with newer games. In Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, there were some new Pokemon and moves introduced that couldn’t be used when connecting to Sun and Moon. At the very least, they should make such changes compatible, especially if such a new game is considered in the same generation of Pokemon games. This could even allow players to compete with some older games in tournaments after a new game is available.
The last thing the upcoming Pokemon game needs is a new battle mechanic. This one is going to be tough to figure out though. The X and Y versions were fresh due to introducing mega evolution. Then, Sun and Moon introduced Z-moves to do pretty much the same thing. There needs to be something new in the Switch game, or Pokemon games would run the risk of becoming stale. In fact, most of the game mechanics available in turn based RPG’s are represented in the Pokemon franchise in some way. I don’t know what they need, or what could be left to add, but it is a necessity.
So, do I think the Pokemon Switch game will do all this? I don’t personally know what Game Freak is working on, so I can’t say for sure. I suspect that they will have some of these changes, but not all of them. It is more likely they will fine tune what they already have in the series, which they have done in each and every game. They may take some of these sort of ideas into consideration, but may not implement them in the exact way they are described here. This game may end up being good if they are using the Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee games to buy themselves more time for the 2019 game’s release. Since there has been no word about this game yet, no one but the developers can attest to its quality or features. Let us hope the extra time makes the game worthwhile.
So those are some changes that could benefit the 2019 Pokemon Switch game. I considered what Octopath Traveler did right when writing this article. What do you think of these suggestions? What game features from other games do you think Pokemon should include that isn’t listed here? Would the lack of any feature prevent you from buying a new Pokemon game? Tell me all this and why in the comments below!