I can't believe we're getting so much freedom in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet look like a true evolutionary step forward for the series. Not only will the upcoming Switch games transport us to an open-world setting in the newly revealed region of Paldea, but they will let us shape our own adventure within it by moving away from the linear format past games have traditionally followed.

Instead of making our way through towns to reach gyms in a particular order, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will instead take us through "three grand stories" that shape the campaign. While one looks set to pay homage to the traditional tale of going up against gym leaders, there will be no set path dictating our journey. For the first time, it looks like we'll be able to decide how our own adventure will play out in the world of Pokemon. And as someone who grew up playing the series religiously, the prospect of stepping into a new region where I can choose my path is beyond exciting.

Charting your own course

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Over the years, I've gotten so used to the classic Pokemon formula that it's become a little predictable. After departing from your childhood home, you set out into the world on a quest to become the very best by taking on a series of gym leaders, earning yourself badges in the various towns of the region as you go. In recent installments, we've steadily started to see the series tread new ground, with Pokemon Sword and Shield introducing more open wild areas with Pokemon roaming out in the grass, as well as new Gigantamax forms. 

And with the arrival of Pokemon Legends: Arceus in January 2022, we got the chance to see even more open locations – with a greater emphasis on exploration, and the ability to catch Pokemon roaming in the wild. In a sense, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet feels like a natural progression from the most recent entries then, with the new games set to take everything up a level as the first proper open-world RPG. 

I appreciate the way Scarlet and Violet looks set to bring in familiar features that will speak to long-time fans, such as a story that revolves around the traditional gym battles. But it's refreshing to see the long-running series really strive to offer something new by letting trainers decide how they want to progress through it. By making a departure away from a strict, set path, I already have hopes that the adventure will really make me feel like I'm in charge of my own journey as a trainer for the first time. And to top it all off, Scarlet and Violet will also feature two additional story arcs that will further twist the traditional formula. Said to be full of surprises and discoveries, we don't yet know how involved these stories will be, but just knowing we're going to experience something entirely new makes Pokemon Scarlet and Violet even all the more appealing. 

Depending on the version, you'll be enrolled in either the Naranja (Scarlet) or Uva (Violet) academy, where you take on an independent study project known as the Treasure Hunt. With the task of finding treasure in the Palea region, I'm reminded of the role you take on in Survey Corps in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. By completing research tasks to complete the first Pokedex, Arcues offered a new goal that brought a new dimension to the experience. Instead of trying to be the best trainer, you're instead trying to help the people of Hisui better understand the Pokemon they share the world with. Not too much was revealed about the Treasure Hunt aspect of the new games, but it'll be interesting to see how it fleshes out the experience outside of the main stories and what it will bring to the adventure. 

A world to explore

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Of course, the icing on all of this freedom cake is the fact that we'll have a new region to explore at our leisure – without the story pulling us in any set direction. As the first truly open-world entries, the Paldea region is said to be a land made up "of vast open spaces dotted with lakes, towering peaks, wastelands, and perilous mountain ranges". These spaces will be worth exploring too, with varying Pokemon types residing throughout the various biomes – Pokedex completionists can't stalk patches of grass, instead they'll need to keep their eyes on the horizon for prize catches. 

That's because we'll once again get to see the critters roaming out in the wild, which is one feature I'm happy to see make a return after Arcues and Sword and Shield. Nothing quite adds to the sense of immersion and adventure like seeing Pokemon running wild and free across the landscape, and I hope it will make the first open-world setting feel truly alive. 

Happily, we won't be having to make our way across the sprawling new region on foot. As a recent gameplay reveal showed, the new Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Legendaries will become our mounts on the ground, in the sky, on water, and even up mountainous terrain. One of my favorite features in Arceus were the various mounts you'd progressively unlock, which made exploration a breeze. 

With the freedom to shape our own adventure and explore at will, seeing what is essentially a motorbike Pokemon that can also become a makeshift paraglider is more than welcome. Given the more freeform nature to badge collecting, and the wider open world to explore, the ability to freely move around these spaces shows that developer Game Freak has really committed to this broader concept of freedom. 

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet trainers gather to take a selfie

(Image credit: Pokemon Company)

And that freedom we're afforded also even extends to being able to pull our real life friends into the adventure. In what is perhaps one of the most exciting new features, the region is home to union circles that will enable co-op with up to three other players. So not only can you discover a whole open-world region, you can do so with pals. While you can pop into the wild area in Sword and Shield with friends, Scarlet and Violet take it further by letting you roam the entire region together. As someone who grew up playing each entry alongside my sibling, this is a dream come true. For the first time, trainers can shape their own adventures together. 

The latest look at Pokemon Scarlet and Violet certainly didn't disappoint. In fact, it's made me even more convinced that they could very well be the most exciting Pokemon entries yet. With a host of characters and adorable new Pokemon to meet (looking at you Fidough), along with co-op support, and new stories to discover, there's so much to get excited about. But nothing has sold me on the games quite as much as the freedom it promises to offer to shape our own journeys. I can't wait to be the very best, like no ever was, and decide just how I'll do that. 

Check out our Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Pokedex to see all of the Pokemon confirmed so far.

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.