There’s something very special about Pokémon. It’s one of the few games that appeals to people of different ages and skill levels. I know a number of people who have only bought a Switch so they can play Pokémon. Part of the series’ appeal is that it provides a simplified creature-collecting RPG that also has a lot of depth to it. Players can skim the surface of the adventure and still have fun, or they can dive into the more complex reaches with EV training, competitive battling, shiny hunting, or breeding.
In many ways, Pokémon is like an entry-level RPG, but there has still been one element that some players find offputting: grinding to gain experience points. Thankfully, the upcoming Scarlet and Violet are introducing a new mechanic called Auto Battles that will make leveling up far less monotonous. Meaning, the games will be more approachable to players.
A tedious and outdated affair for some
I’ve been playing the core Pokémon games since Red and Blue released on Game Boy in 1996. My younger brothers were the ones that first introduced me to the creature-collecting adventure. However, over the years, my siblings stopped playing Pokémon while I kept with it.
It happened that one of my brothers was staying with me around the time that Sword and Shield released in 2019. Excited to show him how far the series had come since the Game Boy days, I suggested he check out the latest Pokémon games on Switch and let him borrow my system.
He expressed excitement at first, talking about the fun of catching Pokémon and the nostalgia that came with it. But soon he remembered that he had never liked the grinding aspect required for leveling up your Pokémon. He attempted to bypass grinding wild Pokémon, but then found he couldn’t beat the first gym and was therefore stuck. That’s when he stopped playing. Even so, he told me that he kept feeling this pull to keep going, but he couldn’t bring himself to face the tediousness of battling over and over for experience’s sake.
Similarly, last year I introduced Pokémon to my seven-year-old nephew via trading cards. He immediately took to them and expressed an interest in playing the games. I gave him that opportunity, confident that he would dive into the games with gusto. But just like my brother, he was turned off by the repetitive grinding that was necessary to succeed.
It was at this point that I peeled away the nostalgia from my memories and remembered how bored I would get as a child battling Pokémon over and over just to make my team stronger. At this point in my life, I have conditioned myself to find joy in the process, but that doesn’t mean it is inherently approachable to most people or even something I should expect others to get used to. In some ways, grinding is an outdated mechanic compared to what’s usual these days. That’s especially true for open-world games, which Scarlet and Violet are.
So when I saw that Scarlet and Violet are implementing a brand new mechanic called Auto Battles, I got excited. This will make the game far more approachable for people like my brother and nephew who don’t like grinding.
Auto Battles make grinding optional
As you wander around this open-world game, one of your Pokémon can follow around behind you. You can tell it to run off and collect items in the distance or can have it fight on its own without needing you to tell it what to do. In fact, you can even wander off and collect items or do your own thing while your Pokémon fights and gains experience points. All the while, your Pokémon’s health gauge shows up in the bottom left corner so you can keep tabs on how it’s doing. And yes, traditional battles are still an option.
At the moment, we don’t really know what all of the limitations for Auto Battles are. Perhaps we’ll need to get to a certain point in the game before Auto Battles become available. Additionally, it could be that you need to stay within a certain distance or your Pokémon will stop fighting. Hopefully, players will be able to call their Pokémon away from battle if they’ve taken on an opponent that’s too strong.
I’m also curious to know if the player’s avatar will faint if their last available Pokémon faints too, cause that could be frustrating if you’re in the middle of something when it happens. Depending on how Game Freak implements this new feature, this could completely revolutionize the games.
Really, the only thing that could add to this approachability even more, is if the players can catch Pokémon in the overworld without battling as was first introduced in Legends: Arceus. Instead, players could finally employ methods like sneaking up on unsuspecting Pokémon and throwing items to make Pokémon more catchable using a targeting system. However, The Pokémon Company has not yet disclosed how the catching mechanic works in Scarlet and Violet. Though really, combining Auto Battles with overworld catching would go a long way toward making this a true open-world adventure.
A more approachable Pokémon world
Pokémon has always appealed to me since I played my very first games in elementary school. However, while the games have been some of the most approachable RPGs for years, they’ve maintained the grinding mechanic that so many people dislike. Now that optional Auto Battles are a thing in Scarlet and Violet the series will attract an even greater audience than before.
At this point in gaming history, grinding is kind of an old mechanic. Especially with Gen 9 being the first open-world Pokémon game in the series, allowing for Auto Battles feels right and more in line with modern gaming. We’ll have to see just how it’s implemented when the games release on Nov. 18.