I’ve been playing Pokemon GO pretty hardcore now for the past 48 hours or so, at least whenever the servers have decided to work. I have a bunch of 500+ CP Pokemon and have won and lost three gyms at this point. I’ve tried to do some research to improve my game, and what I’ve found are things that I wish I’d known from the start.
Some of these are things you should know right at the start, like before you even start playing, other items will hopefully just shorten the learning curve a bit, because so much about Pokemon GO is frustratingly vague and almost nothing is clearly explained. So, here are ten things I wish I knew when I started Pokemon GO:
#1. You Can Pick Pikachu As Your Starter
Seriously. I thought this was a joke too, a kind of “Mew under the truck” urban legend that had already sprung forth on day one, but it’s actually true. Right at the beginning of the game when you are given the usual Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle choice, pick none of them. As in, physically run away from them. The game will jump them over to try and follow you, but by the fourth time you do this, it gets the message you don’t want any of them, and surprise! There’s Pikachu, joining the party. Now, as anyone knows who has played, your “starter” is ultimately not terribly important (in two days I have all three original starters from eggs/wild captures), but this is a fun little trick you can tell your friends about regardless.
#2. Catching Higher Level Pokemon Requires Some Actual Strategy
At first, Pokemon GO seems like it’s simplified the capture system to the point of stupidity, as you just lob Pokeballs at the faces of wild Pokemon until they relent. But, once you start seeing 100+ CP Pokemon in the wild, they will start breaking out. And ones that are 300+? They will prove mighty difficult to catch unless you understand that there are a few finer points to the system. First, there’s an entire aspect to capturing most people will miss. If you press and hold the Pokeball, a ring around the Pokemon will start shrinking. When it reaches its smallest circumference, that’s when you should throw, as they are the easiest to capture at that point. Also, the color of the circle matters. Green shouldn’t be a problem, yellow will be tougher, red will be very hard. You eventually get treats you can lob at Pokemon to reduce this level, and make capturing easier. Combine these two tactics, and you should have a better shot at capturing stuff, and later you will unlock more secure types of Pokeballs as well. Oh, and one more thing. Turning off AR is probably the best way to help capture Pokemon, because as fun as it is to see them in the real world, turning off the camera will stabilize them in the center of your screen and make them much, much easier to hit. I still do not know exactly what makes Pokemon flee. Sometimes it seems like they get bored after too many breakouts, other times they flee immediately, so it’s not quite clear how this system works.
Update: Alright, further clarification about the rings. Ideally, you want to get it in the ring, no matter which size. I think the smaller the ring is, the higher the chance you’ll catch the Pokemon if your throw lands inside the inner ring. But waiting until the ring is large enough to be a bigger target also seems to help, but not as much. So for instance, hitting inside a big ring might get you a “nice!” while a small ring is an “excellent!” and probably the most likely to catch something high level. But if you hit in between the outer stationary ring and the inner expanding/shrinking ring, that’s when higher level stuff is almost guaranteed to escape. I’ve found going for medium size rings that are still relatively easy to hit is your best bet.
#3. Battling Is Also Slightly More Complicated Than It Looks
The first thing you might realize about battling is that in addition to mashing an opponent’s face, you can also swipe to dodge attacks, though it seems hard to use this tactically. But more importantly, I think a lot of people may not realize that each Pokemon essentially has a “special” meter that builds as you attack, and you can use filled bars to unleash a more powerful attack, that you launch by holding down a finger on your enemy. The system is pretty chaotic despite this, but some of these moves can do some serious damage, and they can singlehandedly win you fights if you actually remember to use them. Battling is still pretty lame, but it’s a tiny bit more complicated than it initially appears.
Update: I thought I should comment on the “immortal boss glitch,” something that seems to happen when you’re trying to win a gym fight, but the clearly dead enemy Pokemon just won’t faint, and the whole battle seems to freeze. This is a server thing that will hopefully get fixed when they’re more stable, but one active way I’ve seen to prevent it is NOT to button-mash, and tap at a more normal rate after each of your strikes land. This way, the server doesn’t have to receive like 50 tap commands, only maybe 10-20, and it helps it not to glitch out. This does not always work, but it seems to help. This is one of the most annoying glitches in the game, however, and I’ve missed out on a maddening amount of gym wins because of it.
#4. You Can’t Cheat Egg-Walking Easily
One of the more “go” aspects of Pokemon GO is the fact that you have to walk around to hatch incubated eggs that will turn into Pokemon that probably are not in your area. The game tracks your movement using GPS, not a pedometer, so walking on a treadmill does nothing to hatch eggs. Similarly, trains or buses or cars do not seem to work either, as there’s some sort of speed limitation that knows just how mobile you are. I’m not sure about biking. Biking slow may work, but quickly, almost certainly not. So prepare to walk around your subdivision or block quite a bit if you want those eggs to hatch. Buy a few incubators to reduce the grind, but those will cost you a couple real-life bucks. Honestly, they’re the best item sold in the store though, in my opinion.
#5. Almost Nothing Tracks When the App Is Closed
This is one aspect of Pokemon GO that really seems to be a problem, and a huge cause of battery woes. The game will not alert you when Pokemon or PokeStops are near unless the app is open. It will not count your steps. It will pretty much not do anything except drain the timer of your consumables (which is BS, and Niantic owes me like $10 for servers destroying my incense parties). So you will literally have to be that guy or girl walking around with your phone in hand, or at least paying really close attention to sounds via headphones or buzzes while you have the app open in your pocket. I really hope this is addressed in the future, at least for the step part. This may be them trying to sell those $35 wristbands that buzz when Pokemon are around.
#6. You Have To Beat A Rival Team Into The Ground Repeatedly To Take Over A Gym
The gym system is a little confusing at first. First I didn’t understand I was fighting other players (I thought I was fighting NPCs like in the original game). Then I didn’t understand why I wasn’t kicking them out once I beat them. As it turns out, you have to lower the “gym rep” all the way to zero in order to make it “neutral” and then you can station one of your Pokemon there. This involves beating a gym two, three or more times, unless you have some team members around to back you up. If you can heal after each fight, this is actually pretty easy to do depending on your CP levels, but the system is not terribly well explained in the game itself.
#7. Holding Gyms Gives You Free Stuff
You may wonder what the point of holding gyms is other than bragging rights, and there is actually a tangible benefit to it. For every gym you either lead (as top CP badass) or support (also note: you can station Pokemon at friendly gyms as “back-up”) you will get a daily package of a pretty significant amount of currency. I think you also get it the first time you take over a gym each day, but otherwise, you have to control a gym for a full 24 hours. Right now, things near me are crazy and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone have a gym for a full day. I lead one gym and supported another yesterday, but I lost both of them in about six hours. Ingress players tell me this happens often, and not to get attached to “your” gym because you will be losing it all time. That’s most of the fun of the competitive aspect of games like this.
#8. Evolve Non-Primary Duplicates For XP
You quickly learn that you will be shoving lots of extra Pokemon into the meat grinder for candy, once you start amassing a lot of low level duplicates. Once you have a max evolution version of a Pokemon, it seems like you’d want to just upgrade that and not look back. But, for some of the most common Pokemon near you, they can be a bonus source of significant XP. Say you evolved your Rattata into a Raticate but you keep finding eight zillion Rattatas. Well, save a few, and use all that candy (and zero stardust) to evolve them for 500 XP a pop. There are probably only a handful of Pokemon that you will find this often, but trust me, this is a great use of extra candy which costs you nothing of significance and will really help with leveling. Bonus trick: Save up a number of these XP evolutions to pair them with a lucky egg which will get you 1000 XP for even a 12 candy Pidgey evolution.
#9. It’s Tough To Know When To Invest In Pokemon, And When To Hold Off
Pokemon GO’s leveling system sort of sucks. You’re encouraged to pump up Pokemon with expensive stardust infusions, but you will quickly learn that you can easily find another Pokemon at a higher level, and you’ve essentially wasted your resources. For example, I pumped up a 60 CP Drowzee from the start to 120, but later found a 140 one, so everything I invested was pointless. Usually, it seems like the smart play to keep your highest level base Pokemon and transfer the others. Either wait until you have the candy to evolve them, or until you find their evolved form in the wild, then once they reach their second or third stage, really begin to invest. For single-stage Pokemon, it’s hard to tell. I tried to pump up what I thought was a decent 250 Jynx, and lo and behold after spending a ton of stardust, I found a 380 one a few hours later. This aspect of the game can be really frustrating.
Update: Here’s another hint about leveling/evolving. If you want to evolve something to stage three, do not evolve it to stage two as soon as you’re able. Save up 125/75 candies instead to do both evolutions at once. In the time it takes you to get all those candies, you will level up and start finding higher stage one Pokemon that in turn can be evolved into higher second and third stage.
For example, you have a 200 Dratini, and finally get 25 candy to make it a ~400 Dragonair that may someday turn into a ~800 Dragonite. But, by the time it takes you to get to 100 candies for a Dragonite, you will probably have found a 400 Dratini, which could be an 800 Dragonair and then a 1600 Dragonite. I have wasted lots of candy learning this the hard way with a number of second stage evolutions.
#10. Tracking Is Super Unreliable Right Now
I think I have most of the game’s systems down right now, but “tracking” is one that still eludes me. I have heard so many conflicting reports about tracking, I don’t know what to believe, and I’ve never done it effectively myself. Right now, the rumors are that if you select a Pokemon from the “nearby” list, it will pulse as you get close. I’ve also heard the footprint symbols are 100 meter intervals, and you have wander around until they shrink from three to two to one, and then Pokemon will be somewhere near you. I have also heard that people have tried all these things and had zero luck doing it. This aspect of the game is so perplexing, yet obviously hugely important, I literally contacted Niantic directly to ask them how exactly this tracking system is supposed to work, but I haven’t heard back yet. For now, don’t drive yourself crazy over those “nearby” silhouettes.