Pokemon GO First Impressions
words by DrJohnGalt
I’ll be honest, when I first heard about the idea of Pokemon GO I wasn’t very enthusiastic about playing. After all, how often have these mobile games (with their microtransactions and necessary limitations) actually held my interest for more than a few days?
But I’m a fan of the original Pokemon and the hype leading up to the game got me excited.
And now that I’ve had a chance to put a few days into my hunt for Pokemon, I can admit that I’m having more fun than I expected. The game seems pretty basic on the surface, but there is certainly something addictive about it. But that’s the Pokemon way, isn’t it?
I decided to go with something different and chose Squirtle as a starter (although I later found out there is a way to get a Pikachu as well). Not the one I’d normally take, but my wife got me a plush Squirtle last year and she’s the one that wanted me to grab him to take along on my journey. And really, who wants to argue with the wife?
My goal isn’t to grab all the Gyms or to train the ultimate Pokemon or to join the winning Team, it’s simply to catch ’em all. For me, Pokemon GO is all about collecting.
I’ve been walking around my neighborhood watching for the rustling leaves and maybe the subtle vibrations that indicate a nearby monster, searching for Pokestops, Gyms, and other areas of interest. I’ve met other people walking the trails and adding to their own collections and in the process have made some unlikely new friends. I’ve had people shout at my from passing cars to wish me luck in my search, and I’ve even had a fellow trainer come out of her house to chat me up about the best places to hunt in her neighborhood and different power-leveling methods.
And of course I’ve gotten more than a few strange looks, and one helpful neighbor even asked if I was lost because I kept walking in circles trying to get close enough to initiate a battle with a nearby Poke.
But because I’m only playing to collect, I’m wondering how long the fun will last. Especially since I don’t plan on spending any real-world money for upgrades or gear.
A few observations so far:
There isn’t much in way of instruction. The basics aren’t too hard to figure out, but it’s all the nuances that make the game fun I’ve had to learn either on my own or talking to other trainers or doing research on the internet. I’ve already wasted a lot of time and resources trying to puzzle out how to play. But the learning process is part of the fun, right? Discovering new strategies is frustrating at times, but it’s worth it when something works better than I’d expected.
Connectability. I understand the servers are frequently overloaded, and I’m not complaining so much about that as I am the disconnect between the AR and the GPS and the game. Is it my phone, or is it the app? Or both? I’ve circled around a PokeStop trying to get access (I was literally standing in front of the park sign shown on the screen) and it kept telling me I wasn’t close enough. I had to reset the game (and eventually my phone) to sync everything up. A few of the other trainers I’ve met around the area have also had similar issues.
Catching a Pokemon. It’s not at all like the original games. You simply find a Pokemon and toss balls at it until it’s captured. There is a bit of strategy involved about how and when to throw, but when all is said and done the direction the ball decides to go seems pretty arbitrary. I wasn’t too good at first, but after a bit of practice have it down. It seems a bit easier in terms of judging distance and direction with the AR turned off, but that’s just not as fun, right?
The combat system. Again, it’s not at all like the original games. In fact, there really isn’t a combat system at all except in the Gyms. Not that I’ve seen so far, anyway. Sure, I’m still a low-level trainer, so maybe more options will open up at higher levels. Capturing a wild Pokemon is just a few flicks of your ball; you don’t need to bring out your own to battle and weaken your target. I know (as of this writing) there is no trainer-to-trainer combat; the closest we get (for now) is battling Pokemon left at the gym by other trainers. But what is in place for Gym battles is pretty fun; there’s certainly a level of strategy to it. Having a deeper outdoor combat system or optional PvP play might add a new level of fun, but for now I’m OK without it.
Battery life. For the first few days the app didn’t use too much power. But when I started having to constantly reset the game (and my phone) I noticed it started draining a lot more. I’ve heard that if you turn the AR mode off it saves on power, but it hasn’t been such a big issue that I’ve done it yet. Still, patching things up to suck less juice would be nice. For now here are a few tips.
Pokemon locations. How about some realism? Why do water types appear in the middle of a dry field? Why do nocturnal or cave-dwelling Pokemon appear at noon in the open? I understand the challenge to the developer to putting them in more realistic locations, and sure it’d be harder for players to find and catch them all, but I think making the monsters appear in more realistic locations aligned with their types and habitats would make collecting them seem more rewarding. Don’t make every Pokemon appear everywhere. Make the players work to catch the rare ones! I know it’d be limiting to those trainers without cars or living in the country or whatnot, but that’s what rare means! Not everyone gets one (or should even have the chance to get one).
Microtransactions. Of course, since this is a free-to-play game I expect there to be microtransactions. I understand. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I’m not far enough along that I’ve been forced to make any purchases yet, but I’m sure that day will come. I’m curious if the really rare Pokemon only appear when a player has just a few balls left? That would pretty much force a person to spend real money for more balls or risk losing the Pokemon.
I’ve heard other trainers complaining of the awkwardness of trying to catch some Pokemon. Swinging a phone around nowadays like you’re trying to take pictures is suspicious behavior. And some of the odd places PokeStops have been found — like churches, police stations, and strip clubs — are interesting to say the least. (Just remember, you don’t actually need to go inside these places to activate them).
And the odd stories are starting to come in. How about the girl who found the dead body while hunting Pokemon? Or the criminals luring trainers into target areas to rob them? Businesses are getting in on the action too. And of course, as expected you’ve got the idiots falling and running into things. Being a trainer isn’t for everyone, apparently.
A few things I’d like to see in the future are PvP battles, the ability to trade Pokemon with other players [UPDATE: Niantic CEO John Hanke has confirmed Poke-trades are on the way!], and custom Team creation (instead of the three generic ones we’ve got to pick from). Maybe a less invasive app [UPDATE: this too is being addressed as of 12 July]. And there are other known issues, but it looks like they’re being worked on…
I suppose I’ll end here for now. Give me a few more days (or weeks) to explore and maybe I’ll add to this post. And whether I add to this or not I’ll probably start a running post on my collection progress. There are plenty of guides and tips and tricks and news posts around already, so I doubt I’ll be doing much of that.
Do you have any interesting Poke-moments? Any fun stories? Any great picks or rare finds? Share some of them in the comments!
UPDATE: Since I didn’t post any tips or tricks, here a link to a handy GameSpot tip guide for new trainers; it’s worth a look!