After no small amount of metaphorical hemming and hawing, The Pokémon Company International and Niantic Inc. are finally letting us Americans in on what Pokémon GO truly has to offer. The U.S. beta test is now live—and, obviously, my invite got lost or something—but, more importantly, officials details have at last been revealed concerning battle mechanics, the purpose of Gym Prestige, and more.
At launch, we’re promised Pokémon GO will boast more than a hundred different catchable Pokémon. When these ‘Mon are approached “in the wild,” you’ll be alerted on your phone and given an opportunity to toss a Poké Ball via your touchscreen. These Poké Balls can be found at PokéStops, which will reside in “interesting places” in the real world like art installations, historical sites, and monuments. When compared to the traditional capture system, this one is a little rudimentary, but, given the faster pace and AR slant of Pokémon GO, it certainly makes sense.
Also unlike the core games, you are not expected to be a lone trainer. In Pokémon GO, players are encouraged to join one of three Gym teams and battle the other two for glory and, it appears, territory. Captured Pokémon can be assigned to Gym locations—which, like PokéStops, will be tied to real-world locales—where they can battle rival Gym members for control.
These Pokémon-on-Pokémon battles don’t seem to stray too far from series canon. You’ll control your Pokémon’s attacks and even be able to dodge incoming moves by swiping the screen. Defeating rival Pokémon reduces their Gym’s Prestige and, once that Prestige reaches zero, you wrest control of the Gym from the defending team.
Training your Pocket Monsters in a Gym you control with other defenders increases its Prestige. This increases the level of the Gym itself, which, in turn, allows more Pokémon to be assigned to defend it.
Additional information was also provided regarding player avatars, which are customizable and will represent your Trainer on the map as he or she navigates the environment, as well as the Pokémon GO Plus device. This Bluetooth accessory will enable Pokémon GO players to stay on top of events even without their eyes glued to their phones. LED and vibration alerts signal the appearance of Pokémon or other in-game events, and simple actions can be performed by pressing the button on the device.
Pokémon GO will be free to download on both the App Store and Google Play, and, of course, in-app purchases will be available for those of us who want to be the very best in spite of the cost. PokéCoins, the in-game currency, can be acquired via your preferred app marketplace and exchanged for power-ups and extra items.
For more information about the Pokémon GO U.S. field test, see the game’s official site.