Pokemon Gen 9 Needs To Increase Game Difficulty Through Improved Trainer and Pokemon AI
There’s a lot to love about Pokemon, but one aspect that’s caught some negative attention is how easy the games have been after Gen V. Gen V offered a selection between easy, normal, and hard, which should have been an improvement upon earlier generations. Unfortunately, easy and hard mode were only version-exclusive, post-game unlockable. Ignoring the ridiculous design that you must beat the game on normal mode before you could play on easy, the unlocks were also tied to your save. Basically, this meant that resetting the game would reset the unlocks as well, so the only way to start the game on easy or hard was to use the key swap communication feature with someone who had already unlocked these modes.
In short, it was a complete disaster and Game Freak scrapped it. There was real opportunity to improve upon this for the next-gen, but I guess they thought it was a better idea to stick with what was working before. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the continuation of extremely easy games. For example, in Pokemon X & Y, the 8th gym leader only had three Pokemon. To make matters worse, the gym was ice-type, the worst defensive type of Pokemon.
While it’s obvious that the games need to be made more difficult, what likely isn’t going to be appreciated by fans is just making the game artificially more difficult by raising the stats. I suppose doing this could be an improvement of sorts, but the game isn’t going to be more fun just because you’re getting attacked by the same Pokemon in the same area using the same attacks — even if they’re harder to take down. In fact, this could easily backfire, because it seems like a great path to extra grinding, which almost no one would appreciate.
So, what would be a better way for Pokemon to improve its difficulty options? There are still some technical things that need to be done. For example, why am I fighting against experienced Pokemon gym leaders who don’t even have a full set of Pokemon? Perhaps they could get away with having one, overly conceited gym leader who has extremely tough Pokemon and thus only uses three. But for the rest? Completely unrealistic.
More importantly, though, the battles against Pokemon trainers need to better resemble battles against other players. Obviously, this cannot be exactly replicated, but drastic improvements need to be made to the AI. There are a whole host of ways in which the AI that we’re battling against could be improved upon. For example, perhaps a decently strong Pokemon stops using Leer three times in a row. Perhaps the opponents are programmed to have their Pokemon consistently use super-effective attacks when it’s obvious to do so. This would mimic the experience of battling PvP.
Furthermore, trainers should be switching out their Pokemon when it’s appropriate to do so, not just leaving them in there to get slaughtered. Even the weakest trainers are supposed to have some idea of what they’re doing, so why do they battle worse than my six-year-old cousin does? It would also be great if they could make different trainers (or gym leaders) have a higher level of intelligence depending on their experience. Maybe lower-level trainers have a lower probability of switching out Pokemon or using items at the right times compared to experienced gym leaders.
It’s not even just the trainers that should be improved, though. While it would make sense to have Pokemon in the wild less proficient in terms of determining appropriate attacks, when to flee, etc., they still shouldn’t just be randomly dishing out moves. Maybe that’s what happens at first, but if it’s clear whatever attack they used had no effect, perhaps they’re programmed not to use that attack again, or at least not for a few turns. Animals aren’t completely clueless, so I don’t see why Pokemon should be.
In short, simply adding difficulty settings and adjusting the stats of Pokemon isn’t going to be enough to make the next game more fun and engaging. If Game Freak were to utilize any of these ideas, I’m willing to bet their fanbase would grow from the already massive group that it is now.
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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.
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