To say that I’ve been rather critical of Pokemon Go’s PvP system and the Go Battle League isn’t entirely accurate. Originally, when PvP battles between friends and Team Rocket Grunts came out, I enjoyed it. In fact, fighting Grunts is probably one of my favourite things in Pokemon Go. But there is an awful lot of hit and miss with PvP and battling in general.
Today, I think we should discuss some of these hits and misses about battling in general, ignoring the Go Battle League and its myriad of problems.
Pro: For a mobile battle system, it’s deceptively deep.
At first glance, battling in Pokemon Go seems mindlessly simple. You tap on the screen then you use your charge attack. You have two shields which will block two charge attacks. And at the surface, it really IS that simple. With just some basic knowledge about Pokemon types and charge attacks, you can fight grunts and play pretty casually.
But as you play against stronger players and NPCs, you realize that it’s all a little bit more complicated. It turns out the best options aren’t straight damage and simply countering types. You have to juggle shields and learn the ability to bait. But you also have to learn about attack windows, energy gain per attack and attack animations. For example, while a Mewtwo with Confusion sounds good on paper, his energy gain to get a charge attack ends up being really slow.
And then there’s the really weird stuff, like break points, and damage not being whole numbers. The most famous example is the difference between 14 attack and 15 attack on a Dialga. Because numbers are rounded in weird ways, what should be a tiny difference in damage ends up being huge.
Pro: The battle system is also pretty good for a walking mobile game.
Going back at how simple the battling system is, it’s actually pretty good considering you’re normally supposed to be walking around. You simply tap madly at the screen until you get a charge attack. The battling is pretty quick and to the point. Well, against NPCs. In Master League however, fights seem to take forever simply because everyone uses strong, tanky Pokemon.
Sure, a turn-based system would theoretically be easier to play while walking. That does require a bit more reading though, and frankly the screen tapping is far more accessible for everyone, regardless of what sort of smart phone or tablet you have, since you only need 3 areas of input. Tapping for fast attacks, tapping and swiping for charge attacks and tapping once whether to use a shield or not.
Pro? Pokemon Go’s battling is mostly rather balanced.
Okay, sure, you see the same 10 or so Pokemon in Master League all the time. But Great League and Ultra League do have some good variation. For example, Venusaur is great as a grass type, but you can happily use Sceptile or Meganium, who have their own moves and niches. There’s lots of Pokemon you can use in the lower leagues, from expensive options to cheap budget options, and there’s no one guaranteed best Pokemon. Except for Dialga.
This balance though seems very precarious, like a wobbly tower of balance that may fall over with the slightest change. And really, the biggest issues are in Master League, where it’s a free for all.
Con: Battling can be expensive.
While you are always free to try again with your battling, the process of powering Pokemon up can be very taxing. Second moves are almost a necessity on a lot of Pokemon, yet they are VERY expensive. Only starter Pokemon, baby Pokemon and the 400-candy folks have reasonable prices. 50,000-75,000 stardust is a LOT of stardust to spend, and it’s the same for most Pokemon, which really limits the ability to test things out and experiment. And if the investment doesn’t turn out well, then you’ve lost all that stardust and those candies for nothing.
Con: The Lag. Both input lag and connection lag.
Frankly, the biggest issue by far is the lag. There seems to be various amounts of lag, and Niantic’s PvP servers really, really seem to struggle. Even with basic grunts and friendly PvP battles, I’ve experienced some sort of lag. While it’s unfair to expect a perfectly smooth game every time, lag really seems to be the norm. It’s not even consistent lag either. Lag can come at any moment, even if you’re sitting right underneath a 4G tower. I think anyone who has played PvP for more than a little while can tell you a story where they lost instead of winning, through no fault of their own.
Like in all competitive games, lag drives people mad. And it’s the main thing that drags an otherwise pretty good battling system down.