Pokemon Sword and Shield: The first attempt at open world spaces
In our exploration of Pokemon’s transition towards a more open world format, we of course have to start with this transition’s origin, namely with the introduction of Sword and Shield, followed by the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra expansions. The base game itself introduced the concept of the “wild area”, which was the first true open space for players of the franchise to explore. it was limited in it’s scope despite spanning through the center of the Galar region, and didn’t really provide a strong level of diversity in terms of environments. Very few of the biomes were particularly unique, which made exploring feel like you were encountering much of the same as you went along.
Despite this, the game introduced the idea of over-world spawns in these spaces, which was a much anticipated addition to the games. Having over-world spawns made the environment feel like it was teeming with life, which is an important element to have in any open world game, and especially important in one that focuses so closely on its fauna.
Diversity in terms of biome did improve with both the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra DLCs, which saw the player gain access to new areas that offered somewhat of a shift from the base game in the sense that the open, explorable areas were a bit more creative in their makeup. The Isle of Armor also added an interactive element to the environment with the gathering of max mushrooms, a first step towards resource gathering which we’ve seen expanded on since.
The game also introduced a very rudimentary “camping” system that allowed for the player to set up camp in the wild area, play with one’s Pokemon and cook dishes of curry to feed to your Pokemon partners. The camping system was a good step in terms of immersion considering players were traveling in the “wild area”when they partook in the activity, but the limited interactive nature didn’t help in terms of making the activity part of the environment, so while it was indeed a step in the right direction, there was still a lot missing in this feature, and throughout the game as a whole, in terms of it’s open world features.