The open-world exploration makes this role-playing chapter feel like the most expansive one yet in the franchise, and its focus on relationships really stands out. Pokémon Scarlet/Violet's inclusion of multiple path plotlines provides the most flexibility in the series to date. Paldea is a very large territory, and it's great to have the option to move from collecting a gym badge or two to hunting down a massive beast hiding out in the wilderness before wrapping up a region by defeating a Team Star member at their base. But there's much more than simply moving from one objective point to the next, fighting everything in your path. Thanks to the Legendary Pokémon you acquire, you gain access to a method of transportation that lets you quickly move through the hills, deserts, and other biomes of Paldea. Over time, this creature will gain additional abilities, opening up new areas for you to explore, which is vital when it comes to fully completing all of the paths. Even better is the option to send out a Pokémon to auto-battle nearby enemies, especially if you want them to gain levels without grinding through every single battle. It's not perfect: Sometimes your Pokémon will stand still or run circles around you rather than attack a nearby creature. But when it works, it's a great way to clear out monsters from an area, especially during "outbreaks" when larger numbers of monsters appear and you want to save time, or want to collect items to craft new TM discs for your monsters so that they can learn new skills.
Far greater than the exploratory features are the relationships in the game. Pokémon titles have always set up some kind of rivalry between characters, whether it's the gym leaders or the protagonist's friend/frenemy that always pops up for a fight. In Scarlet/Violet, Nemona is more like a friend than a foil to your character, partially because she's already a champion, so she doesn't really have anything to prove. As a result, her challenges to you are more positive and encouraging than aggressive or offensive. She's not the only one with this encouraging sense about her. Characters overall seem much more supportive of each other and of their Pokémon. Whether it's trying to help other creatures or protecting others from unfair circumstances, there's a genuine interest in supporting characters. Even the "villains" are acting for reasons that will be rather surprising and, overall, positive -- although in a somewhat misguided manner. While the characters and their interactions are very encouraging, what's dismaying are the technical issues, which are the largest problem here. Apart from the questionable auto-battling AI mentioned earlier, it's hard not to observe lots of technical flaws, which makes it seem like the game's visuals are struggling to keep up with the on-screen action. In towns, you'll notice stuttering, jerky animations of characters walking the streets, or textures that will suddenly disappear and pop in with poor, often pixelated visuals. Camera angles will frequently get stuck into objects or be placed into the ground, making it hard to see what you're attacking or being attacked by in rounds. There are even bugs that will prevent you from accomplishing some quests or picking up items scattered in the environment. While the tech flaws don't completely ruin the overall experience, it does make it harder to completely enjoy the adventure when they frequently happen. That said, if you can look past the technical problems, you'll find the open-world area of Pokémon Scarlet/Violet to be an engaging place to explore.