Pokemon Go Review

Pokemon Go Trailer

The Effect of Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is a social phenomenon, but it could be so much better! While addictive, there are so many problems that prevent it from becoming the new standard in mobile gaming. It’s impossible for you not to have noticed the effect of Pokemon Go, even if you know nothing about it: parks being suddenly populated by tens, if not hundreds of people; people staring at their phones, walking back and forth and swiping up every so often (is it the swipe that separates Pokemon Go players from other phone zombies, or the walking back and forth?); bodies being found in the middle of nowhere; and people driving into trees. The effect that this one game has is staggering — it’s literally affecting people’s safety!

Elsewhere, businesses are using the game to attract potential customers while others just want those damn kids off their lawn. Pokemon Go has truly made it when it elicits reactions like that. Also, reactions like this:

The Power of a Vaporeon


What Makes Pokemon Go So Addictive?

Let’s not kid ourselves, one of the reasons — if not the main reason — that this game has got so many of us playing is cause of the hype. Everyone , including your friends, coworkers, and strangers everywhere you look are playing it, so why not give it a try?

Powered by nostalgia, Pokemon Go allows so many of us to dive back into our childhood and into the Pokemon world. Everyone I knew were apathetic towards Pokemon — it was something they’d outgrown, but the hype surrounding the game convinced them to try it, and all of a sudden, Magikarps, Gyrados, and Charizards were back in style.

My favourite thing about this game is that it gives people a reason, an incentive to do things like go outside, bike, and even explore places, restaurants, or parts of the city you’ve never been to. Of course, in reality, people just flock to well-known hot spots, like the downtown core — playing anywhere else is seen as an inefficient waste of time.

Embed from Getty Images

Pokemon Go Players Gathered at a Hot Spot

Problems With Pokemon Go

Sadly, I grew tired of the game after about a week (lvl 12). I feel incredibly let down because their original trailer promised combat, trading, and public events, and instead, we got a beta with none of those features. Okay, fine, we get combat at a gym, but it’s about as satisfying as breathing in intervals, especially when combat is so watered down.

To capture Pokemon, you’ll spend the majority of your time just swiping upwards to throw a Pokeball at a Pokemon and hope for the best — no skill required, just luck. If the Pokemon jumps out, you just rinse and repeat and hope it doesn’t run away. It’s like playing the game Paper Toss (Android, IOS), but without any of the skill and increasing difficulty. For actual gameplay, see below:

Pokemon Go Gameplay

Which is not to say that the game doesn’t get any harder. It does, but artificially so. As you level up, they make it harder for you to catch Pokemon, even if they’re incredibly weak, say with CP10. Difficulty scales with your own personal level. I can catch that CP10 Pidgey easier than someone at level 20. Also, once you hit level 20, on top of the increasing difficulty that’s not reliant on skill, they make it exponentially harder for you to level up — apparently you need to play the game every day for a year to get from level 29 to 30. Ain’t nobody got time for that! For hard numbers, refer to this Reddit thread, and for a math thread calculating how it’s impossible to get to the higher levels (clearly beyond my understanding), check here.

It’s a fool’s errand — the more time you put into the game, the more it punishes you, and the game will start feeling like this:

Forget Honeybadgers, Dragonite DGAF via Giphy

I wouldn’t even mind the grind, as grinding is a natural part of games, and I love me some Diablo, but the grinding needs to be somewhat fun, and that fun comes from the social aspect, not from the actual game. What saves Pokemon Go: the Pokemon brand itself, the social aspect, and hype/popularity. The game itself is punishing and reminds me of The Division (review here).

The only way to make grinding fun is to add combat to the game, which was shown in the original trailer! To get it, you’ll either have to visit a gym, but even fighting at a gym is just a spam-fest where you occasionally dodge. A deeper combat experience would be to just copy the turn-based combat that all past Pokemon games have been about. Take a look at a 2 year old Pokemon game on the 3DS:

Pokemon Gameplay on the 3DS

I don’t understand why Niantic, the developers, went with a real-time Pokemon game when turn-based would be less data intensive and be truer to the previous Pokemon gameplay, but the benefit is that players can group up and fight gyms together and in the future, hundreds, if not thousands of people can group up in a public event for Mewtwo, like in the original Pokemon Go trailer.

What makes this game incredibly frustrating to play is Niantic’s (the developer of Pokemon Go) lack of communication. Bugs that have plagued the game since launch are still there, like the Pokemon tracker. The Pokemon tracker is supposed to show you how close you are to a specific Pokemon, with 1 paw-print being close, and 3 being the furthest away. It has never worked properly, and every Pokemon shows 3 paw-prints. Does Niantic say anything about it? No. Did it get fixed in the most recent patch? No. So a specific fan creates a site called Pokevision that shows where Pokemon are, as a band-aid for the bugged Pokemon tracker, and guess what, Niantic shuts it down while removing the paw-prints/Pokemon tracker entirely.

(edit: Niantic has stated the reason they shutdown Pokevision is to reduce the load on their servers so they can bring the game to the rest of the world, but to remove core features such as tracking to do so is ridiculous. On the bright side, the tracking/nearby feature will return in an improved form, but in the meantime, it would’ve been nice to use Pokevision.)

Combat Gameplay at a Gym via Giphy

Instead of feeling like a Pokemon trainer like in Pokemon games of the past, Pokemon Go forces you to be a poacher. You can’t level up your starter Pokemon or any Pokemon, cause there’s no fighting outside of gyms. You can power up your Pokemon, but it’s much more efficient to find higher CP Pokemon than to waste your resources on a weaker one. Your starter Pokemon, the only Pokemon that you get to choose, is useless after 5 minutes of playing. The stater Pokemon is just an emotional link to other Pokemon games, but is practically useless.

To evolve Pokemon, you need to delete or “transfer” enough of the Pokemon that you want to evolve in order to get enough candy. So if you want a Gyrados, you’ll need to have 300 Magikarp candies to evolve a Margikarp into a Gyrados. If you thought your Magikarp could grow with you, you’d be wrong. You no longer have the option of choosing which Pokemon you like to train or evolve; you’re largely reliant on whatever spawns around you. If you get thousands of Drowzees like I do, well, I hope you like Drowzees or Hypnos.

Combat From the Trailer via Giphy

The game is lacking in features (shown in their own trailer) and any real depth. They showed us trading, PvP (player vs player), group fights, legitimate augmented reality, and public events. What we have is a beta where 90% of our “gameplay” is one without combat. It’s been suggested that the game doesn’t quite have the depth of the Pokemon games for the 3DS because they don’t want to eat into those sales, but the amount of people who own a 3DS and buy Pokemon games pale in comparison to people who owns a smartphone.

The game is currently enjoying an unprecedented position surrounded by hype and popularity, but once that fades, and like all games, it will, it will have to rely on solid features and gameplay to keep players invested. As is, I see the game waning in popularity due to its punishing grind. Pokemon Go is great at being a social app, but as a gaming one? Not so much.

Pokemon Go can be the best mobile game ever, all they need to do is to bring their original vision/trailer to life. Given enough time and patches, they’ll get there, but will the fans be there? Pokemon Go has captured worldwide attention, a larger audience than the actual Pokemon games will ever get, but in their need to differentiate and simplify itself for a wider audience, they’ve shed the depth needed for longevity.


Published by


I want to believe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s