As of the writing of this, we are one week from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the release of Pokèmon Go. Personally, I hope to hang out at a HUGE meet-up in Nashua, NH while celebrating a friend’s birthday (provided I get the time off).
And just in time for the festivities, Niantic Labs and Nintendo have made some major changes to the game that – in my eyes, at any rate – are much needed and long overdue.
There are three major changes to this year-one update we need to concern ourselves with; the revamped gym battle system, the new raid battle system and some new items to improve gameplay.
The Pokèmon Gyms have been completely rebalanced to encourage a more competitive atmosphere and the changes are simple enough to follow. They are as follows:
- Gyms, in addition to their original functions, now also act as special Pokèstops that give additional bonuses if spun by someone of the same team controlling the gym.
- The max number of Pokèmon allowed at a gym has been reduced from ten to six.
- Pokèmon will defend the gym they are assigned to in the order they have been placed, not by order of CP Level.
- No gym may have more than one of the same kind of Pokèmon.
- Instead of training to level up a gym to assign more Pokèmon and battling to lower gym levels and remove Pokèmon, a motivation system has been introduced.
- Frequent defeat will cause a Pokèmon to lose morale – temporarily lowering its CP level until it’s motivation reaches zero and it returns to the owner.
- Motivation can be restored by feeding any berry to a Pokèmon, thus returning its CP up to its original point and allowing it to defend longer.
- When a Pokèmon is removed from a gym, it returns to its owner with a number of Pokècoins to be used in the shop based on the amount of time spent defending.
These changes make the gym battles so much more enjoyable. There’s more of a challenge and incentive to try to defend and maintain gyms, you can’t cheese people with a wall of Snorlaxes or Blisseys, fresh faces are more likely to appear in gyms, and gym defense rewards are applied automatically.
Gyms also serve as the site for the other new addition to the game; raid battles. What is a raid battle? Well, you remember that scene in the trailer where everyone in a major city gathers in the middle of the square to ROFL-stomp Mewtwo? Yeah, it’s like that.
Raid battles are group efforts of up to 20 players to take down a RIDICULOUSLY overpowered Pokèmon – up to and including legendaries – using the same battle mechanics as the gym battles. Should the group be successful, everyone involved is granted a number of Premier Balls (you know, those white Pokèballs you get in the other games for buying other balls in bulk) based on their individual performances. You then get the opportunity to use those Premier Balls to capture the raid boss (note that I said OPPORTUNITY; you can still fail to catch it as with any wild Pokèmon). I sadly didn’t get to join a group, but I did solo a lower level Croconaw that I was fortunate enough to catch with my second ball.
Finally, these raids can also net you new items. They include Golden Razz Berries (a more powerful version of the normal Razz Berry that also fully restores motivation), Rare Candy (used to level up ANY Pokèmon) and Fast and Charged TMs (used to change the fast and charged attacks of your Pokèmon).
So, what do I think of the changes? Well, like I said, these are all changes that the game desperately needed to add challenge and renewed interest in the game. It won’t result in the server-destroying frenzy we saw when the game first dropped, but it has clearly brought some players back to the fold and is catching some fresh eyes.
If I had to complain about anything, it’s that the shop still doesn’t have options to buy stronger Pokèballs beyond the standard model. That would have been the first thing on my list. All you would need to do is give an appropriate price hike for the boost in quality.
Still, you can believe that I’m playing harder than ever before now that this update dropped. I hope to see you out in the field on the anniversary.