Is Pokémon Go the worst Pokémon game ever?

Pokémon has always been one of greatest hits in the RPG world, and Pokémon Go has no doubt gained massive popularity among both gamers and casual gamers. But hacks, software errors and network instability aside, is the game a good one to be honest?

Stripping down the fancy GPS and AR features, what’s left are very basic mechanics of catching randomly spawned Pokémon around crowded areas. Battling and conquering gyms with high-levelled players who have both time and money, not strategy. Neither can we call it a social app without a basic friend list.

To general RPG players, or even long-time Pokémon players, here’re a few missing features/mechanics that are killing the game at its core:

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1. Minimal character customisation

Right from the start, Pokémon Go has shown that it is indeed a rushed game. Character customisation are only limited to colour and clothing changes. No way for us to change even the hairstyle of the character. I mean, for an avatar that we will be staring at throughout the game, there should be some form of personalisation, and not having every gym look like they have the exact same trainers right at the top. Here’s where Niantic could borrow ideas from Nintendo’s Mii system.

2. Pokémon don’t level up through experience

They become more powerful if you feed them candies which you get by catching more of the same Pokémon. This mechanic seems to be designed for you to play harder, not smarter. See point #5.

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3. What about types?

Pokémon players used to worship the types chart. Many memorise it so that they can battle trainers with stronger Pokémon. That’s what made the games fun. Heck, we couldn’t even get through some gyms if we don’t make the right team. But all that has been dropped in Pokémon Go, since the game only uses one thing to determine power of a Pokémon – CP. Just grind or pay, seriously. See point #5.

4. No breeding

We have evolution but what about breeding? Breeding has always been a big part of Pokémon games. Some players even make themselves breeding masters, an expert in producing stronger and rarer Pokémon through breeding process. See the next point. (UPDATE: breeding is coming and let’s hope it doesn’t disapppoint)

5. Pokémon Go isn’t rewarding

Because the game doesn’t need any strategy, it isn’t intrinsically rewarding, compared to many RPGs we enjoyed playing. Achieving a high level isn’t through strategy and familiarisation with game mechanics, but only through putting in time and money. I know, some of you may say that that’s the same for many RPGs that require grinding. But heck, at least there was for a story for you to role-play.

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6. Where’s the social aspect?

At this stage, the game still lacks a basic friend list. There’s no way to find out that your friends are playing nearby, to join them. No way to trade Pokémon or items. (UPDATE: Trading has been announced, btw) No way to battle each other. Even single-player RPGs allow us to form parties!

7. No incentive to travel cross-border

Sure, the game does encourage you to visit parks, museums and shopping streets in your country. But when the common Pokémon you can catch are the same weak ones whichever countries you go to, there’s little incentive to really explore the world. If we could at least purchase unique apparels for our avatars when travelling please?

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In the end, Pokémon Go is not a sequel to the main franchise, but a spin-off, just like Pokémon Shuffle or even Pokkén Tournament. So we can’t say it’s the worst, it’s just different. But while Pokémon Go has brought the franchise to mainstream limelight, it will forever paint a picture in the new players what Pokémon is about. How they are missing out.