Ah, Niantic. Bless your little cotton socks. You’ve released something that people have wanted for years and it’s a little bit hit and miss, as always. PvP gameplay is finally here in Pokemon Go and it’s a bit of a bumpy ride right now.
The good news? PvP is easy to access and completely optional. You an enjoy fighting NPCs if you don’t ever want to fight against real people and you can happily decline any and all challenges if you want to be a pacifist. It might not be working amazingly right now, but that doesn’t matter because you can ignore it. The other good news is that you’re not limited by geographical location. If you’re Ultra Friends or Best Friends with someone in another country, you can challenge them to a battle whenever you want. Assuming they’re online to accept the challenge.
The other good news? When PvP does work, it’s pretty short and sweet, from what I’ve seen, and it can give you some nice rewards. I’ve mostly gotten 500 stardust (the equivalent of catching 5 Pokemon) but I also got a Sinnoh Stone. I assume you’ll be able to get other rewards at some point as well.
The gameplay is somewhat different from Raids and Gym Battles. In those, you just frantically tap on your screen and use your charged attack at any opportunity. You can dodge but there’s often no point as the time and damage dealt from face-tanking an enemy charge attack is more valuable than the time saved from dodging. Plus dodging doesn’t always work. In PvP, you have to charge up your charge attack by using fast attacks as normal, but you THEN have to power up your charge attack by tapping frantically on your screen. And your opponent knows when you are going to do a charge attack because dodging is gone and is instead replaced with a two-use shield that will block an attack completely. You actually get a notification when you can block.
This means that PvP is more mind games than anything else. You are predicting what Pokemon your opponent will use and you have to weight up whether to use your charge attack and your shield. It quickly became obvious to me that fast 2-bar or 3-bar attacks are the way to go since your opponent has to swallow more attacks since you only ever get 2 shields per battle. It’s also a bit of a mind game as to when to use your attacks. Do you use them early on to get your opponent to hurt them now or do you start off with a weaker attack to get your opponent to waste a shield before charging up a stronger attack on another Pokemon?
The only thing that can screw you up is typing. You can’t switch Pokemon very often (maybe once or twice per battle if you’re lucky) and since you can’t see what Pokemon your opponent is using, it’s possible that you just end up picking something that is ineffective against your opponent’s Pokemon. I’m pretty certain that this will end up causing a very strict meta of Pokemon with as wide a range of effectiveness as possible.
Luckily, if you’re not sure what to do right now or you just want to practice, you can always challenge Blanche, Candela and Spark, the leaders of Team Mystic, Valor and Instinct. Blanche has the most interesting Pokemon, using things like Alolan Ninetails, Lapras and Glalie, but Candela has a few interesting choices as well, such as Alolan Marowak. Spark got the short end of the stick since most Electric types are ONLY Electric types and they have really common weaknesses in the form of Ground types. Sure, Alolan Raichu is Electric/Psychic, but still. Buff Spark please.
You can also get a second charge attack on your Pokemon, but these are preeeeetty expensive. Or nigh impossible on Legendary Pokemon. For Starter Pokemon and Pokemon that require walking 1km to get candy, it costs 10k stardust plus 25 candies. For 3km it costs 50 candies and 25k stardust. For 5k, it costs 75 candies and 50k stardust. For Legendaries (who need to walk 20km for one candy), it costs ONE HUNDRED CANDIES and 100k stardust! I assume that’s basically to nerf Legendary Pokemon a little bit, since some of them are pretty easy to get.
The downside currently is that PvP is very hit and miss whether it works or not. I’ve done a total of about 10 battles and only the 3 battles against the team leaders actually worked. Five battles were against my brother and they were all one-sided as his Pokemon never loaded in properly and couldn’t attack, meaning I could just beat the crap out of them. One of those, I intentionally waited until his Pokemon DID load in and he only managed to kill one Pokemon before we ran out of time. The last two battles were against my sister bit we couldn’t get the battle sequence to even start, it would just kick me back to the normal world screen.
A quick note here: Make sure your phone is using Automatic Time and Date. If you’re NOT using that, you may be running a few seconds too fast or too slow, meaning your attacks will never land!
A lot of these problems though are probably just server problems and launch day problems. That’s Niantic’s thing, to have launch day issues and server hangups and stuff like that. So it’s probably worth giving it a few days, letting things settle down, before you start digging too deep into things.
Still, it’s a good little system. I look forward to the crazy things people will come up with.