Friday, 17 January 2020

Redesigning the Galar Region of Pokémon Sword and Shield

 The Galar region showed a lot of promise when it was first unveiled, taking a lot of elements from the UK and mixing them into what is the most diverse region we have seen in a main game. It did deliver on that, but it also felt incredibly linear and unconnected, with certain sections of the map being cut off from access except by train. It made the whole region feel smaller than it should have been, not really helped by the Wild Area restricting design for half of the map.

So what would be the best way to set about making the Galar region a better place to be? Well, top priority is getting a better way to connect everything together, and that’s where the Wild Area comes in with its new name of Route 1. You think I’m kidding, don’t you? But I’m not. Taking inspiration from the A1, the Galar Route 1 would wind its way across the region from Wedgehurst to Wyndon, providing the connecting line for everything to be built around.

Now, a few rules before continuing. I’m only using exactly what was given within the game itself. No changing the number of towns or routes (though I am allowed one extra on account of Route 1 being the new Wild Area). The structure of the region will also be remaining the same, as by giving representation for all of the UK, it makes little sense to compact it down to something akin to Kanto. And just as with all maps I create, this is not to scale but serves as a guide for the explanation. With those rules out of the way, let’s take a look at that map.

 As you can see, everything’s colour coded and easy enough to understand. There’s some obvious changes been made to the placement of a few of the towns in relation to each other, so I’ll start with that first. And the obvious one is the starting area. Postwick is to the west of Wedgehurst instead of being south, and there is no Route to connect them. Instead, the Slumbering Weald has a path on the outside of it that connects the two, with the gate to go deeper into the forest being over the river. The pesky Wooloo will still be attacking this gate, and the beginning of the story progresses the same as the game.

You’ll still be heading into the Wild Area – or Route 1, with this map – as while Route 2 is connected to Motostoke here, there’s still the lake which is impossible to cross at the beginning of the game. You can see Hulbury has moved from a north-east position from Motostoke to being near enough directly east. The idea behind it was breaking the obvious loop that the three towns of Motostoke, Turffield, and Hulbury made. There’re also more connections added, but we’ll get to those later.

Stow-on-Side has been moved down to be directly west of Hammerlocke, even if it’s not a simple straight line to get to it. That also moves the position of Ballonlea, though here it isn’t placed directly north. Spikemuth and Circhester get shifted to be north of Hammerlocke, which removes that obvious loop from the map. This area is the most changed of the lot, with plenty of connections between locations that previously weren’t available.

Then there’s Wyndon, which is now connected to Route 1 instead of having a Route 10 to the south of it that itself is only connected by train. The train connections still exist, but are now purely optional instead of being forced in two particular cases. And speaking of optional, there’s choice in how you get around the middle section of the map instead of being restricted to following one path.

Sure, the journey as it exists in the game is still a thing, with Turffield, Hulbury, Motostoke, Stow-on-Side, Ballonlea, Circhester, Spikemuth, and Hammerlocke being followed for the Gym challenge in that order, but there’s choice in how you get between them. The obvious way is to follow the Route numbering, but that doesn’t mean you have to if you don’t want to.

Take travel between Turffield and Hulbury, for example. You could head along Route 4 to get onto Route 1 and into Galar Mine 2 to get to Route 5, but there’s also the option of heading back along Route 3 (which will now be fully open, since it had to be closed to force you into Galar Mine 1 before the badge) and into Motostoke. From there you can choose to go onto Route 5, or out to Route 1 and approach that way. Even in the late game, you can head directly into Circhester, or head for Route 9 and transition to Route 10.

As for the Routes, Route 2 is still the same green hill as before. Route 3’s east side keeps the look it has in the game, with the west side taking on the appearance of the game’s Route 4. This version of Route 4 adapts the game’s Route 5, or that section that isn’t just bridge. Route 5 in this version has a bridge, though not as long, then slopes downward to the sea in a winding path. Route 6, once you get over the river, is desert and rocky terrain, as is the short bit of Route 7 that leads into Stow-on-Side.

The larger changes come with these next Routes, with the rest of Route 7 being a mountain path down to a forest that leads to Hammerlocke. This forest is also represented by Route 8, though the forest isn’t as colourful as the Glimwood Tangle. Route 9 (from the Route 1 access) would have some fields visible with the river, which would turn into a thick lining of trees upon approaching Route 10. Those trees would continue as the Route heads south, with the west side having some steeper hills on it. As the Route heads east again, there’d be rolling hills all the way down to the sea.

Route 10 would be mostly similar to how Route 8 appears in the game, with ruins and sandy terrain. Since there is no water around this area, Route 11 – which connects Hammerlocke to Hulbury – has been added to provide a water Route for the game. The land nearest Hulbury will be a construction zone, with a bit of world building saying that another small town is being built. The land nearest Hammerlocke will be a beach with a sloping path leading up to the city and the Route 9 Tunnel.

The largest change is Route 1, what with it now filling the Wild Area’s purpose. It will still feel the same, with varied terrain on offer throughout, with the very north of it being an icy mountain just as Route 10 is within the game. All the areas represented in the Wild Area are within Route 1, with that small island within the southern part being representative of the Lake of Outrage.

As stated, the idea behind the creation of this map was to bring more connectivity to the region and have it feel less linear in design. Do you think I have achieved that here, or do you think I’ve gone overboard with the idea? Let me know down below.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Pokémon Direct - 9/January-2020

The Pokémon Direct has finished and given us the news. Home was barely featured within it, with the meat of the presentation diving into the Sword and Shield Expansion Pass. Just at the beginning, though, we got news that the original Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is being remade for the Switch as Rescue Team DX – and there’s a demo already available to try it out.

The first Mystery Dungeon game was one I played a lot when it first came out, with it offering a blend of turn-based battling and a full range of movement that couldn’t be found anywhere else at the time in the series. The story was fun to experience, with it being involving as you worked toward becoming the best rescue team in the world. Gaining experience and getting to tackle more difficult missions was all part of the fun, and felt your team really was growing.

I never really played any of the later games even though I did finish Red Rescue Team, as I didn’t feel there was anything else the series could offer me. I tried Gates to Infinity but felt it lacking in the charm of the original. Getting to experience the original with new features and opportunities should be a great experience, and I will certainly enjoy digging into that demo later on. The full game releases 6/March, which is a bit close to Animal Crossing, but that should really offer much of a problem.

When I first set foot in the Wild Area of Shield, I felt it one of the best things to happen to the main series in a long while, which gets me very excited for the expansion pass of the game. Two new areas are set to be included with the expansion pass, and both are full Wild Area type experiences. The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra will offer new places to visit, with new characters to get to know, and new story chapters related to that area. With new Legendries being a part of that, I’m hoping for something good.

From what we’ve seen, the new areas look great, with the concept art showing in greater depth the sort of things we’ll be able to find within these new locations. Returning Pokémon that weren’t included in the base game will be found in these new areas, including the Legendries of past generations. Along with them come new clothing options and other new features that are still to be revealed. The Isle of Armor is set to come first in June, so we can probably expect to see another Pokémon Direct before E3 giving a deeper look at what’s coming. The Crown Tundra will follow in the Autumn.

An update to Sword and Shield is coming later today to get ready for this new expansion into the world. We’ll meet one of the trainers from the expansion, as well as one of the new Pokémon we’ll encounter. With this expansion pass replacing the need for the director’s cut (or third version) of the game, there should be plenty to experience and gain from this pass, and for half the price of a new game.

There’s also more set to come, with Home being announced for a release next month with more information being released on it soon, and if I’m not jumping to conclusions, the saying of “continue to bring new things in 2020” means there’s more yet to come. Just what new things are coming is anyone’s guess, but with no new main series game for the year (you would expect), it should allow for the spin-offs to come out of hiding once more.

And with that lovely surprise of Pokémon news, I hope that the next general Direct can surprise and excite me just as much with even just one of the announcements it brings.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Wild Ideas Caught! What Could Happen in the Pokémon Direct?

Yesterday a Pokémon Direct was announced, and tomorrow at 14:30 GMT is when it will air. The obvious choice for such an announcement is about Home and what things that will give us (aside from storage capacity and the importing of ‘mon from previous generations, of course). However, stating the obvious is no fun. It’s time for some wild predictions.

The main series goes open world, but not in the way you think. Diamond and Pearl are announced as the remakes to come this year, with a trailer showing off the beautiful work done in recreating the world in a fully 3D environment. The map layout is still the same with the routes designed the same as in the original games, though with things being more realistic in scale. Then we get a second trailer showing a battle, and much the same as in Sword and Shield the transition once it ends is quick and pretty seamless.

Once in the overworld though, it seems the remake has gone a bit too copy and paste, with a camera high up giving a top-down view of the field that never changes. However, it seems a fine price to pay for no transitions between sections of the map. Even when going indoors, there’s no transition, with the rest of the world blacking out to give a view of just the interior. HM usage has now been reworked into a system similar to Sun and Moon, except instead of calling on a Pokémon to help, you assign a helper for that situation within the box or your team.

The side series gets a new game, but not one following on from the Gamecube games. Instead, it leans into what Galar gave us with the sporting theme, but this time it’s not just a Gym Challenge. Expanding on what the Pokéathlon from Heart Gold and Soul Silver gave us, this is a whole game where we train critters to become the best trainer of sporting heroes we can. The five Performance Stats return with an added sixth in Stability, with new events to take part in. Unlike the Pokéathlon, you aren’t controlling the actions of the ‘mon being used, and only one is on the field at a time. Instead, you’re acting as a crew chief role, giving encouragement and telling them when to push themselves and when to take it easy.

There’s a whole region to explore, where catching new Pokémon for your team involves smaller events within the wild based off those sports you’ll take part in with the tournaments. The Performance Stats act like the regular stats within the main series, with experience being gained upon completion of an event, with the stats being boosted upon a level up. There are items you can give a Pokémon to hold to restrict the boosts it will gain to just one stat, and since there is a total cap, this is necessary to build a specialised team member capable of excelling in certain events.

As for a spin-off game, Battle Bingo returns from Gale of Darkness, fully expanded into a full game. The idea behind Battle Bingo was that you had just one Pokémon to start with, with a grid of 4x4. The aim was to clear this board, but the Pokémon only has two entry points. You had two Master Balls to quickly claim other ‘mon to gain more entry points and new members for your team, with more entry points being gained upon completion of a line. The game was designed around the type chart, so restricted Pokémon to just one type and one move. There were easy cards such as the starter triangle of fire, water, and grass, as well as harder cards that gave a range of types to combat and specialised cards such as the one that gave you a Magikarp with Splash to start with.

The announcement starts with the introduction of the mechanics as seen from Gale of Darkness using a 4x4 card, with a maximum of four Pokémon within the team. With that quick look over, it then gives a little nod to Gale of Darkness in recreating the scene as it would have been when launching into a game of Battle Bingo, with the receptionist saying that the player had unlocked new cards. It then launches into showing off the new modes. A quick mode with a 3x3 card and only two Pokémon in a team. The super challenge mode giving you 6x6 cards that allow you to have a full team of six. It shows more specialised cards such as those that restrict you to just the starting team member. The Pokémon seen comes from across the eight generations we have, and at the end is the tease of a new Pokémon yet to be seen.

As I say, it’s very unlikely that any of this is happening. Especially within this Direct. But these ideas are just some wild ones from me that I guess aren’t too wild when you think about it. They are grounded in things that have been done before, and that first one would actually be a pretty cool way to handle a remake. Either way, they’re ideas for what could be done wrapped in the guise of predictions, and I want to know what you think of them! Get talking down below.