Team Rocket has invaded Pokemon Go and I’ll likely be paying for it

This week has been a bit of a milestone for me in Pokemon Go.

After two and a bit months I finally completed the 530 raids I needed to get both gold medals for beating 1000 legendary and 1000 non-legendary raid bosses in the game.

In order to do this I purchased £200 of Pokecoins at a discounted price using my friend’s Samsung phone and bought them during the Samsung sale saving myself about £50.

I then used those Pokecoins to buy 400 raid passes which were added to the 217 I already had so I had enough to meet this goal with a few left over for events such as the legendary beast raids.

As a childless 31 year old I like to spend my hard earned cash completing trivial goals

If you’ve got to this paragraph by now you may have realised I’m one of those ‘whales’ that freemium game developers love to talk about.

Team Rocket blasting off again

I live streamed my first Team Rocket encounter

A week ago Niantic released a new feature — Team Rocket has invaded Pokemon Go and is hacking all the Pokestops and in order to fend them off you need to beat them in a PvP (well PvE really) battle.

Once you beat them in the PvP battle, in which they use overpowered ‘shadow’ forms of Pokemon you then get a chance to catch the shadow Pokemon and if you so wish to you can then ‘purify’ that Pokemon to unlock cheaper power up and evolution opportunities.

As someone who competes in The Silph Road’s PvP tournaments I’m no stranger to PvP so I’m really excited about these battles with Team Rocket but unfortunately this new functionality has a sting in it’s tail.

Prepare for trouble

Unlike regular PvP battles where each player’s team of 3 Pokemon is healed automatically after the match the damage dealt to Pokemon and the Pokemon knocked out in the Team Rocket battles are not automatically healed and the battles do not reward you with items for reviving and healing your Pokemon, they only reward 1/4 of the stardust needed to purify the shadow Pokemon.

Essentially the Team Rocket battles are a resource sink.

In contrast raiding rewards the player with a number of items such as potions (of different strengths), revives, rare candy and stardust and these allow you to heal your team to then do more raids so when doing multiple raids in a day the only real resource to worry about is raid passes of which you get one free raid pass a day.

The issue with the lack of healing items rewarded to the player after defeating Team Rocket is compounded by the fact that some of the Team Rocket battles can take multiple attempts until you find the correct counters for the Pokemon they fight with.

Make it double

If you combine this lack of healing items with my ‘whale’ like qualities and the Team Rocket battles can’t help feel like a bit of a cash grab from Niantic.

I’m also concerned that as the Team Rocket battles serve as an introduction to PvP for most players that Niantic will decide all PvP requires healing and thus tournaments become harder to compete in if you can’t heal your team up fully between rounds.

Avoiding massive Pokecenter bills

In my focus on raiding I completely forgot how to farm healing items as I just used the ones I was rewarded after raids to heal up and never bothered with battling gyms anymore having gotten gold gym badges on every gym in Leeds city centre long ago.

For those struggling here’s a few things you can do to build up your healing resources:

  • Spin gyms (especially if you’ve got a gold badge and your team has control)
  • Open gifts from other players
  • Optimise the level of potions you use (I tended to chuck anything lower than Hyper Potion)

And most importantly — create a well rounded team of counters for the different Team Rocket teams that’ll take minimum damage and thus require less healing.

As it’s still early days with the Team Rocket battle feature we may see changes to the line up but currently in Leeds I see mostly Poison and Normal type teams used by Team Rocket so I have the following team:

  • Mewtwo — to deal with non-flying poison types
  • Tyranitar —to deal with flying poison types and fire types
  • Machamp — to deal with normal types

I then change the order of the starting Pokemon based on the type of Pokemon being used (the phrase the grunt says before you choose your team gives hints towards the types).

The type and phrase pairings for the Team Rocket battles (at time of writing)

The bigger picture

Top quality banter from the Team Rocket grunts

While I can moan about the fact that Niantic haven’t provided an adequate game loop that allows me to safely grind away at the medal I can’t help but get excited about the bigger picture the Team Rocket battles open up.

If we’re able to battle Team Rocket now what’s to say in the future we couldn’t be battling other criminal teams from the main series games or gym leaders.

We could also see events like Pokemon Go Fest offer extra experiences where players progress through a bunch of different battles such as battling gym leaders from the main games in order to then take on the elite four.

There’s also the possibility that it won’t just be Pokestops that the PvP battles are tied to but also Gyms that could offer a group based PvP set up.

Either way I look forward to seeing how Niantic introduce new experiences and hopefully I won’t end up spending all my money in the process.

Written by

Technical Lead at BJSS. Interested in Automated Testing, Dev practises, Metal, Chiptune. All views my own.

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