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Pokemon GO - Are we there yet?

Published: 22:16, 18 February 2017
Updated: 18:37, 22 February 2017
Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO had an infamously broken launch. More than 6 months have passed since the bug riddled launch and the game is currently at version 0.53.1 for Android. Halfway there, right?

Turns out most of the improvements are bug fixes and new implementations of functionality that was broken on launch. Some folk haven't looked back after launch, and among them is yours truly. With the addition of 80 Gen-Two critters this week, we decided it is time to have a look at how far Niantic has pushed the project. Version 0.53.1 should mean halfway, right? Well, yes and no.

Niantic Pokemon GO - BFF Pokemon GO - BFF

Pokemon GO was the best worst Pokemon game ever released. Best in the sense that its ARG components finally managed to make the social component, that Nintendo was aiming for since Game Boy link cables - a reality. Players could walk around, meet other trainers and for a while the world of Pokemon seemed to be overlapping with our own.

The bad comes courtesy of the game's uninspired simple mechanics and meta compared to almost any other Pokemon game with the possible exception of Hey You, Pikachu! In essence, when stripped of its social component, Pokemon Go was pretty much Pokemon Snap, with the addition of actual walking and some screen swiping. 

Niantic Pokemon GO - I feel so special! Pokemon GO - I feel so special!

The 80 Gen-Two newcomers are probably not incentive enough to justify re-entry for most players. Many of the former trainer hotspots players would frequent are now somewhat devoid of external battery enthusiasts. In the three full phone charges I decided to sacrifice for the sake of this investigation I haven't encountered nearly as many players as were on the streets during launch. That might be a result of the colder weather as well, but we will know if that is the case on our next scheduled check-up in late July.

Niantic Pokemon GO - Quite a meadow Pokemon GO - Quite a meadow

On the surface, Pokemon Go as it is looks pretty much the same. If you aren't blessed with a newer phone and a good Internet connection - settle in for torturous loading times. More changes and additions come in the form of UI tweaks and daily rewards for visiting PokeStops and catching Pokemon. A Pokemon buddy system is also in place. Choosing one of your companions as primary will add the creature to your displayed avatar and the Pokemon in question will generate evolution and power-up essential candy after traversing a certain distance with the player. 

Niantic Pokemon GO - New faces Pokemon GO - New faces

Player avatar customisation received some improvements as well. New clothing pieces are available for in exchange for in-game currency. The new cosmetics pieces are small in number, but considering the way these tend to multiply when left unattended we are likely to see more with coming updates. Hats anyone?

Niantic Pokemon GO - This one is for you Pidgey! Pokemon GO - This one is for you Pidgey!

Achievements/medals now provide type specific capture bonuses. I presume these decrease the chance a Pokemon will break free of a Pokeball once inside, but the in-game information provided is as vague as it was on launch. Players are supposed to exchange discoveries with trainers they meet on their Poke-walks but I found myself looking into wikis far more often than meeting other people. Capturing is further aided by the addition of new berry types, some of which increase capture chance while others manipulate the target circle in various ways.

Niantic Pokemon GO Pokemon GO

Gyms have barely changed in the past six months. In my area most are still staffed by Dragonite, Exeggutor, Gyarados and Vaporeon in different shapes and sizes. Training your Pokemon at a friendly gym can now be done with a selected team rather than with a single Pokemon. The lack of a more direct confrontation with other trainers is still quite a glaring misstep of the games design, but Niantic have promised additional features.

Niantic Pokemon GO - And the odd Rhydon Pokemon GO - And the odd Rhydon

There are bound to be more improvements and additions somewhere under the hood, but any changes i came across during my revisit were not enough to keep engagement at a level that would keep me playing past the three phone charges I fed into the application. The Pokemon nearby radar now 'works'. The fact that it took the devs so long to get one of the more essential features to work doesn't fill me with confidence for the future of the game.

Niantic Pokemon GO Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO was a global phenomenon and a technically frustrating trip down memory lane when it released last year. Now that the novelty has worn off, very little remains that warrants a revisit. Many Gen-Two fans might disagree, but a set of new Pokemon to hunt for using the same stale old mechanics just doesn't cut it for me. UI improvements and new cosmetic items might be reason for a curious glance every once in a while, but no amount of Holiday events or gimmicks can bring back the hyped up days of July 2016. A lot of people were willing to look past the technical flaws and unfinished state of the game and see glorious potential. Version 0.53.1 is still not quite fulfilling that potential. Pokemon GO, see you again in summer!

Pokemon GO - Just like old times

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A man with an axe running through a forest in SCUM
Pokemon GO
Pokemon GO

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