Pokémon Scarlet/Violet: The Teal Mask review: diminishing returns | Digital Trends

    Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Mask
    MSRP $35.00

    “The Teal Mask contains your average monste- catching fun, but it doesn’t do enough to address Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s biggest problems.”


    Endearing story

    Lots of returning monsters

    Catching is as enjoyable as at all times


    Dull quests

    Uninspired new world

    Continued technical points

    While there have been a plethora of Pokémon video games over the previous decade, every of which twists the RPG components in its personal means, it’s a single DLC that sticks with me most. Pokémon Sword and Shield’s Isle of Armor is a robust growth that will set the stage for Scarlet and Violet’s full open-world pivot. An intricately designed island full of side-activities and enjoyable scavenger hunts would persuade me that developer Game Freak was headed in the correct path.
    Three years later, it seems like I’m again at Area Zero with The Teal Mask. The first growth for final 12 months’s Scarlet and Violet is just like Isle of Armor on paper; gamers are tossed right into a bite-sized open world full of new monsters to catch and a self-contained story to finish. It’s a confirmed components for Game Freak at this level – and that may be the issue. What was as soon as recent for an getting old sequence is already beginning to really feel previous as I spend hours retreading acquainted landscapes. We’ve traded one components for an additional.
    The Teal Mask reveals diminishing returns for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s messy groundwork. The base video games’ technical points really feel worse than ever right here, regardless of coping with a much less formidable world. While there’s nonetheless enjoyable available catching acquainted monsters, I’m left hoping {that a} bounce to a extra succesful console would be the spark the sequence must correctly ship on its open-world pivot.
    Cultural schooling
    The Teal Mask is the primary half of a bigger DLC story titled The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero, which is able to conclude with The Indigo Disk. As a setup for a grand story, Teal Mask isn’t a lot of an element one. The four-hour story barely hints on the bigger story Game Freak is weaving right here, as an alternative specializing in what seems like a reasonably self-contained journey. Fortunately, that story is charming. The DLC is ready up like an unbiased research, as gamers are whisked away to a brand new space referred to as Kitakami and paired up with college students from the native Blueberry Academy.
    It’s a honest technique to speak about youngsters’ feelings by way of colourful monsters.

    The self-guided course has gamers wandering a small open world, studying native customs, and uncovering a folktale in regards to the legendary Ogerpon. That central story doubles down on Scarlet and Violet’s storytelling strengths by telling an endearing story that’s custom-built for younger gamers. It facilities round a shy, misunderstood Pokémon that’s been handled as an outcast for all its life, forcing it to cover behind a masks. That connects to a extra human story, as one of many younger Blueberry Academy college students goes by way of the identical journey. It’s a honest technique to speak about youngsters’ feelings by way of colourful monsters.
    The precise quest surrounding that story isn’t fairly as thrilling. The fast journey principally has me discovering signposts on the planet that designate the folktale and battling the identical two trainers a number of instances. There’s not less than a splash of selection in a superbly effective berry-collecting minigame, a memorable closing boss battle, and a late-game pictures sidequest. Plus, it does convey an entire batch of returning monsters to the sport alongside some enjoyable new designs, just like the Matcha ghost whistleblower. Still, nothing I do ever has me as engaged as I used to be whereas enjoying Isle of Armor, with its collectible Digletts, dojo upgrading, and tower battles.
    It doesn’t assist that Kitakami is certainly one of Game Freak’s least thrilling Pokémon worlds thus far. The pretty bland open world principally seems like Paldea, with some grassy fields surrounding a central mountain. There are tiny splashes of additional element, like an apple orchard or a crystal lake, nevertheless it principally seems like I’m acquainted belongings rearranged. It’s one other unusual step again from Isle of Armor’s glorious world, which seamlessly weaved collectively seashores, grassy wetlands, and deserts. For a narrative about cultural schooling, it doesn’t really feel like there’s a lot to be taught.
    More efficiency points
    With a much less partaking journey to latch onto, Teal Mask lays Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s shortcomings naked. I didn’t understand how a lot I valued the choice-driven construction of these video games (wherein I might full three questlines in any order) till I used to be locked into a reasonably linear, uneventful quest. Without that alternative, the open-world construction of the bottom sport feels a lot much less releasing.
    I’m nonetheless enjoying a sport that feels prefer it’s going to shatter at any second …

    With my thoughts much less occupied by a wealth of issues to do and see, technical points caught out to me much more than they did in Paldea. Assets flashing out and in of existence, body charge slowdowns, muddy textures throughout — each ugly problem that bugged me in Scarlet and Violet feels much more prevalent right here. I had hoped that almost a 12 months of time between the bottom sport’s launch and the arrival of the DLC would give Game Freak a while to optimize the expertise, however that isn’t the case. I’m nonetheless enjoying a sport that feels prefer it’s going to shatter at any second, one thing that appears particularly puzzling after the technically spectacular The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
    Contrary to what some cynics might say, the Nintendo Switch is a succesful platform. We’ve seen it excel with video games like Fire Emblem Engage and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Whether it’s a shaky basis or rushed improvement timelines, it’s been clear since Sword and Shield that one thing wants to alter at Game Freak. Hopefully Nintendo’s subsequent console, which can be proper across the nook, will help.
    Though these technical deficiencies solely get extra disappointing with every launch, it’s a testomony to the facility of Pokémon that I nonetheless breezed by way of Teal Mask’s essential story in a single sitting. There’s an inherent pleasure in accumulating new monsters and watching my Pokédex refill. Even within the franchise’s weakest moments, that loop I cherished as a child nonetheless retains its energy right here. I nonetheless get a bit of thrill anytime I see a brand new good friend out on the planet, rigorously knock its HP down, and toss my Pokéball. That nonetheless holds up right here and can most likely get me to obtain The Indigo Disk later this 12 months (which is able to not less than convey among the high-level challenges which might be missing right here).
    Game Freak is on the verge of a very good factor with its present era. It’s cracked find out how to inform good youngsters’s tales within the Pokémon universe, all whereas breaking apart the standard “road to Elite Four” construction that had gotten stale. However, I really feel the identical frustration right here as I do once I can’t fairly catch a Pokémon. Whenever my ball shakes twice earlier than the monster breaks free, I get cussed. Instead of whittling down its well being or attempting to inflict a standing impact, I simply hold throwing extra balls till one works. Sometimes I get fortunate with my subsequent throw; different instances, I’m downgraded to 1 shake. Teal Mask feels just like the latter.
    Pokémon Scarlet — The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero: The Teal Mask was examined on a Nintendo Switch OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Series R635 when docked.

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