Pokémon PVP has always required players to grind in order to make a team, so the series should take inspiration from how Dark Souls PVP builds work.
At a surface level, the Pokémon and Dark Souls franchises couldn’t be more different from each other. Nintendo’s runaway RPG is as whimsical and family-friendly as it is easy, while Dark Souls wears its oppressive morbidity and challenge on its sleeve. However, both titles are primarily single-player games that feature completely unique multiplayer modes which require players to create builds for online play. Pokémon was inarguably the first of the two to do this, but Dark Souls PVP is ironically less alienating for players to jump in.
Although both of these game series are single-player experiences that feature competitive multiplayer, they both function very differently. In Pokémon, multiplayer is typically a one-on-one battle between two opponents in which the standard rules of the story apply, except both players are no longer allowed to use items or switch Pokémon after scoring a KO. In Dark Souls PVP, players can randomly invade others online and attempt to defeat them. The common theme in both games is that players will use the unique builds they mastered using during the campaign in competitive multiplayer.
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However, competitive Pokémon is hilariously more complicated than that of Dark Souls and its invasions. Each Pokémon comes with its own unique IVs and natures which have a substantial impact on its stats. Every stat gets its own IV, or individual value, and they determine a Pokémon’s potential stats. These cannot be changed, and the likelihood of finding a perfect IV Pokémon in the wild during a regular playthrough is abysmal. If players catch a Pokémon with bad IVs, it will forever be objectively worse than it should be. Similar to IVs, natures will raise one stat and lower another, and are assigned once the Pokémon is caught. These can be changed, but the process involves lots of grinding in the battle tower. Finally, Pokémon also have EVs, which are stat amplifiers that can be controlled by defeating certain types of Pokémon to obtain boosts in specific stats.
Dark Souls PVP Is The Answer To Pokémon’s Competitive Scene
The main reason Dark Souls is more inviting in its multiplayer is because most setups in the game can be effective in both PVP and in the main story, which is not true of Pokémon. If Pokémon players attempted to use a standard team from their campaign in PVP, they would get destroyed by players using optimal Pokémon setups with perfect IVs, natures, and passive abilities. Pro players will spend hours breeding their Pokémon to make sure those stats are as clean as possible, but the reason this is so isolating isn’t just because it’s time-consuming, but rather because it involves running around in circles and waiting for the eggs to hatch instead of actually playing the game.
When players make new PVP builds in Dark Souls, they typically end up playing through most of the game just to get their character ready for PVP. However, playing through Dark Souls with a brand-new build is always a great time, and the character is almost always finished as soon as the final boss is defeated. Pokémon games are equally fun to play through with brand-new teams, but it’s not possible to do this without deleting one’s save file. Even if this was possible, players would still need to focus on breeding Pokémon while running around in circles for hours, which understandably turns some fans away from even trying the competitive scene.
While IVs and natures are clearly supposed to represent the genetics and personality of these creatures, competitive Pokémon would be more fun if these traits were able to be controlled. IVs serve little purpose from a gameplay perspective, other than making players use sub-par Pokémon without their knowledge, and should be removed from the next game. EVs add lots of customization and depth to the competitive game and should stick around, but they could also be made even simpler to use in newer games.
The next mainline Pokémon titles could allow players to train new Pokémon through either repeat playthroughs or engaging gauntlets of trainers, and then offer ways to more easily adjust natures and EVs. Sword and Shield made altering EVs and natures easier, but if the option was even simpler, it could help new players get into the competitive scene. If the Pokémon titles took a note from Dark Souls’ multiplayer and allowed its fans to create new builds by actually playing the game instead of sliding a coin underneath their 3DS circle pads for three hours, the competitive scene for Pokémon would be far more accessible.
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