This week we got our hands on the biggest update in Pokemon Go since the release of Gen 2, a hint at things to come, but can it be the saving grace the game so desperately needs? Interest has waned dramatically over the twelve months since initial release despite regular changes and improvements, extra features and events, and often the execution of the so-called improvements has been the cause for concern, lacking foresight, too hastily rushed out, or just not well received by some faction or division of the player base.
Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s new:
If you live in an area with a high concentration of stops you might have noticed a few extra gyms pop up locally, and if you’ve been paying attention you may have also noticed that they occasionally have an egg hovering above them with a countdown.
When you join a raid you’ll have a short wait before joining the fight a rare Pokemon of insanely high CP, one you’ll want plenty of friends to take on. Once the giant in residence has been toppled everyone gets a few unique items, including a bundle of Premier Balls that give you a chance at catching a significantly reduced version of the Pokemon you just took down. Getting a Raid Pass allows you to do this once a day, but a Premier Pass lets you raid all day if you’ve got the time for it.
It’s been a struggle trying to conceive how legendary Pokemon might have been executed under the game’s previous methodology, somehow the idea of stumbling across Articuno in the wild seemed too random and too anticlimactic. Raids give that sense of grandeur and a certain degree of community to legendary fights, but for now it’s just a tough combat against a Pokemon you’ve likely already got, for some extra cool items, experience and a guaranteed Pokemon with damn good stats.
The New Gyms
There seems to be a bit of a mixed bag here. Some seem outraged by the high-maintenance of keeping your best fighters in the Gyms, especially if they’re a high CP, but for those of us who live in areas where the more obsessive players keep gyms locked down there are some real advantages.
In each gym are six slots, a Pokemon left in these slots has a motivation metre, marked as a heart floating next to its head. Motivation degrades over time or after defeat in combat until the metre empties, at which point your champion returns home with coin proportionate to how long it had kept its station. If you want to extend it, you can give it berries, and to the other Pokemon in your team’s gyms to help them stay put for longer.
This has several advantages for irregular players that takes power out of the hands of the diehards who have rather consumed the gym game to themselves, it makes it harder to hold gyms which means that fights between factions are more rampant which makes the game a lot more engaging for everyone.
Oh and they count as stops now! And you get bonus items if you grab from your own team’s gym. Awesome!
Sounds Good, Right?
By and large, yes, it’s more interesting. I wasn’t wholly keen on the idea of having to spend in-game money better put towards egg incubators in order to spend a day raiding, and then I left a Rhydon on a gym which came back with about half the amount I needed. Suddenly this is less of an issue.
Biggest problem? Myself and a trustworthy Instinct ally took it upon ourselves to try and take down a gym belonging to one of those shifty and untrustworthy “other teams” (yeah, I’m throwing down, what are you going to do?) before the raid on it began, and of course we managed it after a few quick stabs. The problem is we only managed to squeeze it in with a fraction of a second to spare, and then we could not load the gym again once we were done.
Making the gyms inaccessible during a raid leaves an entire hour in which you cannot maintain, add to, or attack a local gym. I would like that option, at the time it was about as infuriating as it could possibly be, because we’d done the work and then could not reap the rewards. Besides a few other early execution glitches that will be ironed out over time, that must be the worst of it. I know that there’s now a new way to enjoy this game that is getting me out of the house and meeting new people, but I don’t know if this is going to help the game long term. I suppose we’ll find out when the legends start appearing…