Pokémon Go Review

Thursday, July 21, 2016 02:54 PM

Pokémon Go Review
Pokémon Go Review/Guide (Pre-Trainer Level 5)

The new game, Pokémon Go, seems to have taken the mobile app market by storm. Out of curiousity, I had to download and try the game out for myself. For reference, I started my character two days into the US release (July 8th).

Technical Trouble


The first few days (a week or so) of playing were somewhat rough. The servers were almost constantly down, and if it wasn't the servers acting up, the game would freeze up on its own in the middle of an action (ex: catching a monster with AR enabled), or it'd log me out of my account and wouldn't let me log back in. Thankfully, most of these issues (namely the server outages and log-in issues) have resolved themselves, though I do run into the eternal loading screen and arbitrary freezing (which forces me to close and reopen/reload the app in hopes that'll it fixes itself on the first try) from time to time.

Pokémon Go basics

The objectives of the game are fairly simple. You wander around 'in real life' (IRL) with your mobile device catching the creatures you run into (or hatching them from eggs), evolving them, powering them up, and eventually fighting other people's monsters at Gyms. The mechanics are also fairly simple as well. When you first start the game, the NPC Professor Willow provides you with about 50 Pokéballs (which you fling across the screen at the target white 'capture' circle). You have the choice of three starters: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. There is also allegedly a way to get (the ever-famous) Pikachu as a starter. I chose Charmander as my starter. Starters aside, Pokémon Go differs from the original games in that you don't need to weaken a creature to catch it, you just have to throw a Pokéball at it and hope it gets caught. After this tutorial where you catch your first creature, the game becomes much more open-ended. From here, you can travel just about anywhere and catch a variety of monsters whenever and wherever they spawn (that is, until you run out of Pokéballs; we'll go over that later). Some are extremely (almost frustratingly so) common, such as Pidgey, Rattata, Zubat, and Weedle, while others are harder to find. There are places where rarer creatures are concentrated and there is a greater chance of encountering (and catching them) at these places; there are unofficial online sources that seek to document and map out where these spots are. Yet other monsters can only be obtained from Eggs.


Other important mechanics of the game include Pokéstops and Gyms. Pokéstops are important places that allow you to stock up on various, randomly chosen items. These Pokéstops are pretty important, especially if you don't want to spend money on in-app item purchases using 'Pokécoins'. They are the primary places to stock up on Pokéballs, to keep from running out (or restock if you're completely out of Pokéballs). Pokéstops are typically some sort of geotagged landmark, such as civic structures, public art installations, or located within certain businesses. In-game, they are marked by a floating light blue cube, and when you approach them, they turn into a circle you can click and spin for your items. I've found that the range of Pokéstops are very small; some you have to stand essentially right on top of the geotagged location for it to work, so attempting 'drive-by' item pickups at Pokéstops are a no-go (and if you're playing Pokémon Go while driving, shame on you). Pokémon Gyms (also placed at geotagged points of interest) are the other, more elaborate icons that'll show up on your screen. They typically appear as a platform with a monster floating on top of it, and is colored with one of three colors: Red, Blue or Yellow. Unfortunately, if you're just first starting out, you cannot access them until your trainer reaches Level 5, which restricts you to catching, powering up, and evolving Pokémon until you reach the required level.

In-App Store

For players who are willing to spend some real life money on Pokémon Go, there is an in-app store where you can buy set amounts of 'Pokécoins', which can then be traded for other items. You can purchase items such as extra Pokéballs, Incense, Lure Modules, Egg Incubators, Lucky Eggs, and storage upgrades for your bag and Pokémon. Besides the Pokéballs, I'll discuss the other items later.

Acquiring, Powering Up, and Evolving Pokémon

The most obvious way to get the creatures is to catch them with Pokéballs when you see them, of course. Each capture earns you Stardust and a certain species' candy. You will run across repeats (especially Pidgey and Rattata). You can catch them; after you do so, you can swipe to the bottom of the screen where there should be a button that says 'Transfer'. You can transfer your repeat catches to the Professor, who then returns to you one sort of candy corresponding to the captured monster. However, keep track of the CP (Combat Power) numbers of your catches. Transfer the repeat monsters with the lower CP number to the Professor. The candy you receive from the Professsor is used to increase a certain species' CP (used with Stardust), and eventually, to evolve it when you've finally amassed enough of their candies. Some people have suggested that it is better to power up a monster as much as possible before evolving it.


The other way to directly acquire some monsters is to hatch them from Eggs. Your trainer automatically comes with one infinite use egg Incubator, and one egg to start with. Eggs can be one of the random item drops at a Pokéstop. When you have an egg, you can put it inside an Incubator. Then, you have to walk a certain distance to activate and hatch the egg. There are eggs that require walking totals of 2.0 km and 5.0 km to hatch; there may be other Eggs that require more distance walked before being hatched. The rarity of the creature received from the egg is dependent on the walking distance required to hatch it. For example, I got a common Weedle from an egg that required 2.0 km walking distance, and a much rarer Growlithe from an egg that required 5.0 km walking distance.


Items

There are many different kinds of items available in the game. The following is a short list of items you can get from leveling up, picking them up at Pokéstops, or buying them from the in-app store.
  • Lucky Egg: Bought in the in-app store, it doubles experience points earned from completing actions in-game for a set amount of time. For example, evolving one of your creatures grants 500 XP, but when a Lucky Egg is active, you'll get twice the amount (in this case, 1000 XP).
  • Incense: You are provided two of these items to start with. This one-time use item helps to lure monsters towards your location (regardless if you're moving around or not) for thirty minutes. Incense effects only work for yourself. You can earn them at certain intervals from leveling up your trainer, or rarely, by picking them up as an item at a Pokéstop.
  • Lure Modules: Bought in the in-app store, this item can be put inside a Pokéstop module. Like Incense, it lures monsters to a (set Pokéstop) location for 30 minutes. However, this effect is applied to any and all players near the Pokéstop where the lure is placed.
  • Potion: Restores 20 HP on a creature damaged from battle. This item can sometimes be picked up at Pokéstops. Depending on your trainer level, you can acquire different (and more effective) tiers of potions (Super, Hyper, and Max) that restore different set amounts of HP.
  • Revive: Revives a fainted monster and restores half its HP. This item can also be a random drop from Pokéstops. There is also a higher tier of this item (Max Revive), though that seems to be harder to acquire.
  • Razz Berry: Makes it easier to capture a targeted monster (available from reaching trainer level 8 and onward).
Thoughts Thus Far

Currently, my trainer is level 7, with the XP bar halfway filled towards level 8. So far, I'm really enjoying the game. Even though Pokémon Gyms are introduced to players at trainer level 5, it's not worth bothering with Gyms until you're at a much higher trainer level. Despite the game's tendency to freeze (usually when trying to catch something) and sometimes refusing to load if you close and restart the app, it's a pretty fun game. I've tried a handful of practice battles with the local allied* Gym across the street from where I live, and for what it's worth, one would be better off capturing creatures, raising their power and/or evolving them and raising their trainer level to at least double digits before bothering with the game's Gyms mechanic. Through the game, I've actually, deliberately wandered out and around outside of my neighborhood (if only to find where Pokéstops are at, so I can stock up on Pokéballs because my aim is awful and I run out of Pokéballs a lot). Clicking on the trainer's avatar brings up an achievement log (which tracks earned medals and other statistics). According to the 'Jogger' achievement category, I've logged 17.68 km by foot thus far - that's much more exercise than I would've ever done without this game as an incentive to go outside in chase of virtual creatures.

With great workouts (in the name of collecting all the monsters!) comes great responsibilities though. I cannot stress this enough, safety first. Use some common sense and keep your wits about you. If you live in a hot area like I do, don't forget to use sunscreen and hydrate (I've got a bright-red sunburn to show for my one foray across town in search of Pokéspots several days ago). If it's cold, layer your clothes and stay warm. Don't go wandering out alone in the dead of night, don't trespass on private property (respect others' boundaries), etc.

*An allied Gym is one that is owned by the same team you choose when you reach trainer level 5. More on Pokémon Gyms and teams to come.

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