Pokemon Go launched a few days ago and while I had had plans to post this 24 hours post-launch, the servers were so terribly I really couldn’t give it an honest ‘go’ at that point. Even now, we’re still running into some intermittent server errors, which is making the launch almost as bad as that of Diablo 3. Let’s be clear though, even with the terrible launch, I’m not going to hold that against them in this review. Server issues happen, and I can only imagine the amount of stress they have been dealing with trying to scale the app so quickly – as they probably didn’t anticipate it to catch on as well as it has.
We’ve been dreaming of this day for nearly 2 decades.
And we couldn’t be happier to announce that Pokemon Go is the number 1 most downloaded app in the country right now!
WAIT… WHAT’S POKEMON?
First off, how dare you.
But in the off chance your life consists of dwelling under rocks for shade and don’t know what Pokemon is, it is a game where players go around catching “Pokemon” or Pocket Monsters in order to become Pokemon Trainers. The actual series consists of a trainer using their Pokemon to battle with other Pokemon in order to catch them and to level up their Pokemon. Now Pokemon GO takes a different approach to the original game by combining the video game monsters with AR (Augmented Reality) to bring the game to life.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
It’s unfortunate that a lot of battling aspects have been taken out of the game. The round based battles and weakening Pokemon to capture them were a big part of the excitement. In order to catch Pokemon in game, you just use Pokeballs. When you see a Pokemon on the map, you click on it and it takes you to an AR “battle” where you can swipe a Pokeball at the Pokemon. This can be a huge pain point, as you can miss the toss and waste dozens of Pokeballs until you may get it captured. Battle wise, that’s about it.
Using Augmented Reality makes the battle fairly intriguing despite no ‘fight mechanics’ as you can use your phones camera to look around and see the Pokemon in the real world.
Gym fights are currently the only sort of battling system in place for Pokemon Go. I understand that it’s a free game – and I am unbelievably grateful for this dream to come true. And additionally, a phone may not have hardware comparable to a DS to simply run the output to make battles a reality. But wishful thinking that battles with friends, or random Pokemon may become a thing in the near future, or at least is being considered for future implementation or paid versions of the app. A lot of the charm in Pokemon games was developing a bond with your little pocket monsters through battles and leveling to face off against friends and strangers to see who has the better Pokemon. Unfortunately in Pokemon Go, the only real form of leveling is found in items at this point.
Another thought, in order to guide your character to different areas in order to find Pokemon you actually have to get up and look for them in the real world. I know, it’s totally a scary concept to ‘go outside’ for once – especially while the world still needs more heroes in Overwatch.. But it actually works. I clocked nearly 10 miles of walking yesterday just going out and looking for new Pokemon throughout my town. It’s a concept that actually gets me excited to work out for once. And on top of that, it’s allowing people to get out there and network by meeting other Pokemon Go players in the real world. There have been a lot of awesome stories already surfacing about people meeting up, or bumping into each other while playing and offering cool tips for the different locations. This is a great new way to make friends in your neighborhood.
Another thing worth noting is that the exploration is necessary due to PokeStops and Gyms. PokeStops are landmarks that were integrated from the AR game Ingress, which allow players to gain access to random and free in game items such as more Pokeballs, Potions, etc. Most of the time, it will always be 2-3 free Pokeballs per location, but if you get lucky you may see a few extra items grace the gold pot. The Poke Gyms are locations on the map that players have to go to in order to face off against other players or “Gym Leaders”. Once a player beats the Poke Gym leaders, they can gain control of the gym and leave a Pokemon to guard the gym against other players from claiming it for their team. There are only three teams in the Pokemon Go universe, Team Instinct, Team Mystic and Team Valor, also known as Team Yellow, Team Blue and Team Red respectively. Outside of being able to claim the gym in the name of your team, being part of a team doesn’t really do all that much for you in game (yet).
On a final note, the only complaint I have run into so far is certain players complaining about micro-transactions in game. To me, this isn’t a bad thing. This is a free game that is awesome, and worth being paid for. And as of right now the micro-transactions in place are limited to buying more Pokeballs, Lucky Eggs and Lures – which are all items that you can already get for free from in game PokeStops if you take the time to explore your town a bit. It’s also not hard to get the free in game items either. At this time, I currently have over 100+ Pokeballs, a and a significant amount of lures and potions just from the PokeStops that I have hit on a daily basis. The only 2 things that you can buy from the shop that you can’t seem to gain access to without purchase is a bigger backpack that allows you to carry more stuff and a larger “Database” that allows you to carry more Pokemon with you. Both aren’t honestly necessary especially since you’re allowed to carry to 250 Pokemon with you any time. That seems like more than enough space. And if you really want to buy those items, the game has ways to give the player free “gold” throughout the game. While it is super rare – there still are ways to avoid forking over real life currency for in game gratification. The only issue that I do see with the micro-transactions are the people that might be forced to buy Pokeballs due to living in a rural area or in a town with little to no PokeStops where they can get free stuff.
Overall, Pokemon Go is a must for gamers of all ages. There is room for improvement, which more than likely we will see that in future patches or expansions to the game. But despite the rocky start and only being able to catch the first 150 Pokemon, we can now be the very best, like no one ever was in this AR is a dream come true.