Pokémon Legends: Arceus shakes up the classic monster-catching formula in exciting new ways. We’ve highlighted seven reasons why Arceus is one of our favorite Pokémon games in years.

Old World Setting

Every main Pokémon game has been set in an alternate modern day where Pokémon exist alongside people, in all facets of their lives. But in Arceus, we’re transported to the distant past. Pokémon are more mysterious and exciting to the people of the Hisui region. The land is wild and untamed. Even the Pokéballs looks far older. There’s an element of wonder and discovery that’s often missing from most Pokémon games.

Semi-Open World 

Arceus isn’t a true open world game, but it’s pretty darn close. The Hisui region is divided into different areas. But each area features plenty of room to roam around and explore, not unlike Monster Hunter’s zones. This is the expanded Wild Area from Pokémon Sword and Shield that fans have been clamoring for. Exploring hills, rivers, forests, swamps, and fields while finding resources and running into a large variety of Pokémon is a heck of a lot more interesting than running through patches of grass between towns and cities.

Throwing Pokéballs — and Pokémon

One of Arceus’s smartest features is letting us throw Pokéballs directly at Pokémon without having to fight them — unless we miss or are spotted first! Sneaking up to a Pokémon, waiting for the right moment, and hurling a Pokéball feels so satisfying, even when they run away or turn and fight. Likewise being able to throw our own Pokémon in the field to initiate a battle, or to gather resources from trees and rocks, adds to the immersion of being a real Pokémon trainer.

Expanded Pokédex

The huge improvement of throwing Pokéballs (and thus capturing wild Pokémon) leads to a much more expanded Pokédex. No longer satisfied with catching ’em all, now we have to complete a checklist of activities for each Pokémon — including catching them dozens of times, battling them with certain moves, or evolving them. Thankfully we don’t have to do every single thing to finish the game, but completing entries nets progress stars to use higher level Pokémon, as well as earning that sweet, sweet cash.

Side Quests

Previous Pokémon games featured the occasional task, such as trading one Pokémon for another. Not until Arceus do we finally see proper RPG-like side quests, such as finding rare Pokémon, crafting certain items, or engaging in mini-games such as popping balloons or riding Pokémon. Some of the side quests are necessary to complete Pokédex entries, and can feature some nice rewards. It’s always nice to get more goals when setting off for an expedition into the wild.

Alpha Pokémon

Alpha Pokémon are red-eyed, higher-level, aggressive Pokémon found in specific areas. They posses one extra move and beefy stats, and represent a significant challenge to take them out when you first see them. Alphas are typically 10 or 20 levels higher than your party and are downright scary in their aggressiveness, chasing after you if you get too close! Battling is an intense mini-boss battle, while capturing them is hugely rewarding.

Space-time Distortions

Speaking of challenges, space-time distortions begin spawning after about 10 hours into the game. These zones appear randomly in different areas. Inside is pure chaos, as different, often unique and powerful Pokémon spawn in droves. It’s an exciting time to catch rare and evolved Pokémon. It’s also a test of endurance for your party, as often you’ll be facing two or even three at a time in battle, with little to no break in between. Exciting, dangerous, and unlike anything Pokémon has thrown at us before.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus isn’t a perfect game, but it’s an exciting step forward for the veteran series.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.