When launched in 2016 for Android and iOS, Pokémon GO had the earmarks of a great mobile game. It was nowhere close to what the original Pokémon games were like, but it was Pokémon as we knew and loved. The first few weeks of the game had players running all over the place catching, evolving, battling in gyms and generally trying to be the very best.
Following the geo ban that took place for a couple of months after the game was launched, Pokémon GO was officially available in Sri Lanka. Players once more rejoiced and began or continued their journey. Regular updates brought a bunch of features such as avatar customization, buddy Pokémon, egg hatches, a reworked gym battle system, in-game events, and bonuses along with new Pokémon.
It also meant that the community that was once active was struggling to get back on their feet. Some had already resorted to illegal measures such as spoofing and botting. Others simply couldn’t be bothered to play the game again. Despite this though, there were still people who were loyal to the game and continued playing it the way it was meant to be played.
Niantic then released Mewtwo as an exclusive raid only obtainable via an EX raid pass. This saw players gathering in throngs at selected gyms in order to trigger an EX raid and get a pass. Some efforts worked, some didn’t. Those lucky enough to get an EX Raid pass were able to battle Mewtwo, and later Deoxys, as a raid boss and catch it, adding these powerful Pokémon to their collection.
Research tasks were also added to the game. Up to three tasks could be kept at any given point for a player. Completing a task each day gave players a stamp. Collect 7 consecutive stamps and you would be given a research reward. The rewards included encounters with powerful legendary Pokémon, rare items and XP as well.
Mythical quests were also added to the game where players had to complete a certain number of tasks. Completing all tasks in a quest gave players the chance to encounter rare or mythical Pokémon such as Mew, Celebi, Spiritomb and at present Meltan.
A feature that was a staple part of the original games, trading became available in Pokemon Go towards June this year, Niantic announced that trading would finally be available in-game. This came with its own pros and cons.
Friendships were added to the game so that you can keep track of who you trade with and raid with. Build the friendship to a high enough level and you would receive attack bonuses and even reduced stardust costs when trading. This was an extremely vital part as the stardust cost to trade some Pokémon was a lot higher than others. Having a higher level of friendship meant that this cost was reduced.
To make trading more interesting, the stats of Pokémon could either increase or decrease after a trade. It was a gamble that if worked out would result in you getting a stronger Pokémon. If you were really lucky, you could also end up with a lucky Pokémon.
Lucky Pokémon apart from having higher odds of good stats after being traded, also required almost half the total stardust to be powered up. So, if you played your cards correctly, you could have a deck of lucky Pokémon and save your stardust as well.
Once again playing catch up to the actual games, Niantic finally debuted a PvP (Player vs Player) mode in Pokémon Go. Finally, you could challenge your friends to battle and see who the superior player was. We all went in expecting it to be reminiscent of how we would link up via a console and battle. We were grossly mistaken.
In reality, PvP in Pokémon Go is nothing more than a juiced-up button mashing experience. Similar to how you pick a deck of Pokémon to take part in a raid battle, a player selects 3 Pokémon for three categories.
They are the Great League, Ultra League, and Master League. While the first two leagues have a Combat Point or CP limit of 1500 and 2500 respectively, the Master league has no limitation. This means you can go all out and bring your best Pokémon to battle.
Speaking of battle, the PvP itself as I said, was akin to a raid battle. Each player picks their first Pokémon and then sends it out to battle. “Goddamn button mashing”, that’s what Pokémon trainer Krissendra has to say about trainer battles. And he’s not wrong.
Tapping the screen repeatedly will make the Pokémon use their fast moves. Deal enough damage to your opponent and you can fill up your charge move as well. Once you tap the charge move, there’s more tapping involved to power up the charge move. The final output damage of the charge move depends on how fast you tap the button.
You can also deploy a shield right before your opponent uses their charge move. The shield will absorb all of the damage leaving your Pokémon unharmed. You can only use the shield twice during the entire battle, so you will need to keep your wits about you. Be the first to defeat three of your opponent’s Pokémon and you win the battle.
Winners are awarded various items, the most valuable being a Sinnoh stone that can be used to evolve certain Gen 4 Pokémon that Niantic introduced a while ago. The loser of the match gets 500 stardust as compensation.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the work that Niantic has put into bringing Pokemon Go to where it is now. But in terms trainer battles and PvP, there’s so much more to be desired. Take a game like Jurassic World Alive, for example. This is a really good example of listening to the community.
The game had a turn-based PvP straight from the get-go. It was buggy at first with players being disconnected from battles but it’s still a lot more competitive. In fact, it feels a lot more like battling in the original Pokémon games, albeit being replaced with dinosaurs.
Each dinosaur has different attacks and abilities. One attack can be used each turn. Some attacks even have cooldowns, so you have to time your abilities and attacks and strategize when to use the more powerful attacks. Now compare that with trainer battles in Pokémon Go and you see the vast difference.
JWA also includes a leaderboard so players are constantly battling it out in PvP to claim their spot or to move up in ranks. If you want to try out new strategies, you can also carry out friendly battles. Not to be outdone, Pokémon Go has this as well. Rather than battle your friends, you can challenge your team leader (Blanche, Candela or Spark) to a battle. Each team leader has the standard Pokémon for each league, so battles tend to get repetitive after the first rounds of each league.
This is what happens when you don’t pay enough attention to what your users are saying. Rather than releasing new Pokémon and having events, they could have used that time and effort to listen to suggestions by the community and change the overall mechanics of PvP. In an attempt to make battles more interesting, Niantic did allow Pokémon to learn an additional charge move. This, however, came at a cost.
Not only did you have to spend a significant amount of stardust on a Pokémon to learn a charge move, but you also had to spend a certain amount of candy as well. This proves a tricky situation for rare and legendary Pokémon. Do you spend the stardust to power them up, or do you spend it on making them learn an additional move? If you don’t have access to rare candy or have no one to raid with, the problem increases. Personally, I chose to spend the candy leveling up my Pokemon rather than spend it on a move that I might not even use.
Despite all this though, according to the WSJ, Niantic is worth almost $4 billion. This is following a $200 million venture round that Niantic raised. The game is not as popular as it was when it was launched, but it does find itself in the top 200 downloaded apps in the US. So it’s like Niantic had this beautiful opportunity to finally pit trainers against each other, but the end result was a beautiful disaster.
On the other hand, there are also players who say that the new trainer battles are the dawn of a new era. And they’re not wrong either. Because of the introduction of trainer battles, the game has also undergone a number of changes in terms of a CP (combat point) rework and a rework of how effective attacks are. This is especially true for attacks that are super effective against other Pokémon.
For people like myself, who were a fan of how battles took place in the original games, the trainer battles in Pokémon Go are a far cry from what we want it to be. But, Kudos to Niantic for their effort and hard work. With a bit of tweaking, pretty much anyone can begin their journey to be the very best.
Are you a fan of the way Niantic implemented trainer battles? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
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