As it turned out, I was entirely justified in my concerns. As far as how the open world was implemented, while it was technically mostly “open,” there was no level scaling. That means that, despite the fact that you can go just about anywhere, you will either find yourself insanely outleveled, or extremely overleveled if you don’t follow the “recommended” path. While facing down wild Pokémon, Trainers, and Bosses that are much higher leveled that you can present a challenge, there is a difference between a winnable, but difficult, challenge, and an impossible scenario. Furthermore, if you do win, then you end up being extremely overleveled or overprepared for other areas.
Ultimately though, I do think it would have been beneficial to implement some sort of level scaling mechanism, and it would have certainly helped open the world for more thorough and personalized exploration. It certainly would not be the first time that it was either implied or outright stated that Gym Leaders use different teams depending on the number of badges that a challenger has, even if we the players are forced to take on the Gym Leaders in a more-or-less fixed order. Indeed, it is explicitly stated in these very games that the Gym Leaders are holding back when they battle against students or other challengers.
The routes themselves are also fairly bland. While they are littered with items and wild Pokémon symbol encounters, the nonlinear nature makes it difficult to explore the entire route. I used to be a “no experience or item left behind” kind of player, who would go through dungeons trying to find all of the items and battle all of the trainers. In a world where everything is so spread out and multidirectional, it’s a lot easier to miss a trainer or an item. In the post-game, I’d often be cruising down a route to get to a Tera Raid crystal, and run into a trainer that I had never battled before with laughably low leveled Pokémon. That said, this particular problem was partially resolved by actually needing to talk to the trainers before they will battle you, so, in a situation like the above, you’re not pulled out of what you're doing into a mandatory battle with some low leveled punk.
I will grant that Area Zero was certainly more visually interesting than anywhere else in Paldea. It’s just a shame that it was only accessible starting in the fourth act of the game. It evoked memories of the Pokémon Mansion from the Kanto games. As a kid, walking through the burned out husk of a building, encountering shady Burglars and Scientists, and finding and reading the cryptic journal entries was a very positive experience and really contributed to worldbuilding and giving each dungeon at least a little personality, even if the graphics were reused in other locations. I had similar worldbuilding and mystery solving vibes when going through Area Zero for the first time. Finding the abandoned research stations and reading the discarded journals. Descending further, and seeing the final station completely engulfed by crystals, and the last two cryptic journal entries really helped build the world in a positive way. But all of that was story based worldbuilding, and could have easily been done in a non-open world environment.
Being somewhat fair, I do feel like Pokémon Sword and Shield suffered from a lot of similar problems, and while they might have dipped their toe into the idea with the Wild Area, those games were not open worlds. So, overall, I think that this is more of an issue of Scarlet and Violet having limited development time than a specific symptom of trying to build an open world system. What I suspect the open world contributed directly to were the unique problems that plagued Scarlet and Violet upon their release, namely the myriad of graphical glitches, bugs, performance issues, and random game crashes. To a certain extent, there are still many technical issues with the games that have failed to be addressed, but that, of course, is another story for another article.