Pokémon Go has finally been released in the UK and I'll admit I've been playing it a LOT. I posted my doubts a week or so ago, and since then I've had a bit of time to play and form some more opinions.
Now, I will admit that contrary to my previous doubts I actually really enjoy the game. I've been catching and training my Pokémon so I can take on the gym that is conveniently right outside my flat. Nevertheless, I do have some more concerns:
- Pokécoins: I realise that Pokécoins are the main method of Niantic making money in Pokémon Go, but for me they are far too difficult to earn without paying for them with real money. Gyms are great, but realistically at this point it is exceptionally hard to own more than one gym for any decent period of time. I imagine the idea is that eventually players could run 8 or 9 gyms and get 80-90 Pokécoins each day. But presently, people are increasing the CP of their pokémon so quickly that gyms seem to change hands a number of times each day. Without any decent way to earn Pokécoins on a regular basis its exceptionally difficult to get some items and ultimately, in my opinion, is detrimental to the games playability.
- Stardust: The fact that Pokémon Go allows you to buy XP boosts (or gain them through Pokéstops) but not stardust boosts is rather odd. Stardust is one of the vital currencies in the game alongside candies and Pokécoins, and the cost of powering up Pokémon only increases as your they become stronger, yet the amount of stardust you can earn remains troublingly small. Eggs present the best way to farm stardust but...
- Eggs: Eggs are jsut too damn hard to hatch. Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't walk around to hatch them, or that the distance is too far, but moreso the mechanic that hatches them. For me it feels like the developers have simply tried to monetise every single aspect of Pokémon Go. In the original games you didn't need an "incubator" to hatch an egg, you just needed to walk. Incubators should definitely be available but should be used to speed up the hatching speed of eggs, not be required to hatch them. I've visited over 200 Pokéstops and I can only recall getting a single incubator. The second issue I have with egg hatching is the requirement for the game to be open to hatch it. Alternatively, all purchased incubators should be infinite use to allow those who wish to pay the privilege of hatching more eggs at once. Moreover, it's well known that Pokémon Go causes rapid battery drain, and requiring the app to be open to hatch eggs is incredibly inconvenient. Instead, especially on iOS, why not use the pedometer? Considering the number of eggs I get from Pokéstops its odd that they're so hard to hatch. Perhaps nerf the eggs themselves, perhaps hatching lower CP Pokémon as a trade off.
- Pokéstops: The range on Pokéstops needs to be increased. Given the amount of "jumping around the map" my character does even when I have full 4G signal it's incredibly annoying to be within range of where a Pokéstop should be only to be told you're out of range. What's more, once you unlock greatballs and ultraballs, Pokéstops should stop giving you the standard Pokéballs. In the original games, once you could afford the better Pokéballs you never used the lower tiers.
- Levelling: The way Pokémon Go is setup - in that you need to catch and trade in duplicate Pokémon for candy to train up your main Pokémon ends up in a terrible situation where catching the same Pokémon 50 times is actually desired. Instead of making you want to "catch 'em all" Pokémon Go makes you want to "catch like 5 pokémon a lot". With no other way to level up your Pokémon you really don't have any other choice. Even if gym battles were buffed to also level up your Pokémon when you won a battle against your own gym team (similar to how the gym prestige system works) that would be better than the current situation.
- Gym Battles: Gym battling in its current state is a mess - a mess that greatly favours the attacker. You can put have two or three 1000+ CP Pokémon in a gym, yet lose to a player with sub 600 CP Pokémon purely through the broken mechanics of tha game. The game currently operates on a gym prestige system (think XP but for gyms) where greater prestige allows you to place more Pokémon there. But when it comes to battling the gym as an attacker, you need to lower the prestige of the gym to 0 (thus kicking out all gym Pokémon) to take it over. This is fine as a mechanic, but the execution of the gym de-levelling system is terrible. Currently, beating at least 1 defender reduces the gym's prestige, with a player only needing to defeat a single Pokémon each time to lower the prestige of the entire gym. The attacker can do this with a team of up to 6 Pokémon - meaning it is always effectively a 6 vs 1 fight - favouring the attacker hugely. In the original games you didn't get to beat the elite four by bringing your 6 Pokémon and defeating the opponent's Pokémon 1 at a time - to win the battle you needed to beat ALL of their Pokémon. Gyms in Pokémon Go should work the same - you only get to lower the gym prestige if you beat all the Pokémon in the gym, and you should be able to take as many Pokémon into the gym battle as there are Pokémon currently there, as to prevent it being 12 defenders vs 6 attackers with a 6 attacker hard cap.
- Variety: Levelling and gym battling brings me onto my final point - variety. The region and envionment based Pokémon spawning is a neat mechanic - for about 15 minutes. It's great to see water Pokémon spawning by water, but it quickly becomes old when you see the same Drowsee/Psyduck/Rattata combination everwhere you go. And the requirement to "travel to different places to catch different kinds of Pokémon" effectively turns Pokémon Go into a competition between who is willing to spend the most money on travelling. As a casual player I can see the game becoming very boring very quickly.