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Pokemon Go PVP Should Wait for a Battle System Rework

This post was originally published here

Opinion: Battles should be closer to the main series before they expand to being competitive.

Pokemon Go could add battles against other players very soon. According to an interview with Polish publication Gram.pl (as translated by Pokemon Go Hub), Niantic’s EMEA product marketing head Anne Beuttenmuller says Niantic is working on PVP and aims to have it available by the end of this year.

The idea of PVP itself is hardly news for Pokemon Go — after an appearance in Pokemon Go’s original announcement trailer, comments about the mode have shown up in interviews with other Niantic employees and The Pokemon Company’s CEO in the past, and Niantic outright told IGN that PVP is “still on the roadmap” nine months ago.

But the timing here could point to something bigger for battles in Pokemon Go. While PVP has always been an inevitability, the long wait could mean that Niantic is reworking Pokemon Go’s battle system to make the feature more compelling for competitive play. Plus, if Niantic does wait until the end of the year it could allow PVP to align with Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, the upcoming Switch games launching in November that feature Pokemon Go compatibility.

The Let’s Go games feature full turn-based battles and allow you to import Pokemon you’ve caught in Pokemon Go, which could be the perfect opportunity for Go to revamp its battle system.

What’s Missing?

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Currently, Pokemon Go is missing several core features from the main series. Pokemon have only two attacks (a “fast move” and a “charge move”) rather than the four attacks in standard games. Instead of full turn-based fights, battling consists of tapping the screen to use your fast move until a bar at the bottom of the screen fills up, then tapping again to execute your charge move.

Pokemon Go also lacks Abilities (attributes in the main series that give Pokemon a specific strategic advantage), as well as Status Conditions like sleep, poison, confusion, etc. There’s also currently no way to train your Pokemon in order to increase its inherent stats.

Pokemon in Go only have three stats – HP, Attack, and Defense – rather than the six stats in the main series, which still include HP, Attack, and Defense in addition to Speed, Special Attack, and Special Defense.

Most importantly, Pokemon Go currently lets you battle against Pokemon placed in gyms or join up with other players to fight raid bosses, but does not allow for battles directly against other trainers.

Making the Switch

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If Pokemon Go waits until November to add PVP, hopefully Niantic spends that time refining Pokemon Go’s battle system to be more in line with the main Pokemon RPGs.

Giving Pokemon four moves instead of two would make transferring them to Pokemon Let’s Go a much simpler process. At the moment, we know Pokemon imported to Switch from Pokemon Go will have to be re-caught from a special area of the game. Presumably their stats will be re-rolled to adjust to having six attributes instead of three, but it’s currently unknown if they’ll retain their moves from Go along with two random additional attacks, or if their entire moveset will be replaced with four new ones.

If Pokemon Go expands to four moves for each Pokemon, it would allow for a more seamless transition to Let’s Go in addition to providing players with an opportunity to prepare their Pokemon before sending them to Switch. Otherwise, if I’ve spent hours of playtime and multiple TMs making sure my Alakazam has the best moves, why would I risk sending it to Let’s Go where those could be randomized and lost?

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Pokemon Go will also need more robust battles in order to make things more interesting. While tap-and-go gameplay works well enough for raids (especially for players trying to do as many as possible in one day), it’s sure to get repetitive when facing off against other trainers. Learning a simplified set of abilities and status conditions could help to serve as a sort of tutorial for the main series games, allowing mobile players to ease their way into the core games.

Abilities would also reinvent the meta of Pokemon Go. Without their signature abilities from the main series, some Pokemon have been left fairly powerless in Go thanks to not having a strong attack stat. With abilities restored, there could be major, long-lasting changes to the usefulness of certain Pokemon that would help breathe new life into the current battle system, where only a dozen or so Pokemon are truly meta-relevant for taking down gyms and raiding right now.

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Pokemon Go doesn’t have to change everything about battling since surely The Pokemon Company doesn’t want to discourage people from buying main series titles by giving out a full-featured game for free on mobile. But if Go slightly adjusted battles to incorporate main series elements, it would go a long way to revitalizing Go’s player base. It could also potentially mean being included in the competitive circuit, which would drastically increase the need for players to be smart about choosing the right Pokemon.

Niantic’s full plans for PVP remain a mystery for now, but it’s exciting to think about how they could reinvent a game just in time for a lot of new Pokemon fans to jump in. Until that happens, you can catch up on Pokemon Go in our rundown of everything you’ve missed if you haven’t played Pokemon Go since launch.

Andrew is IGN’s executive editor of news and already has his Pokedex ready for Let’s Go. You can find him rambling about Persona and cute animals on Twitter.

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