Review: Pokemon Duel

I suppose “Pokemon Cash-grab dumpster fire” wasn’t very marketable as a title.

This is that game, but as an app, loaded Randomness, rife with microtransactional spitefulness and broken to ever-smoldering hell.

screenshot_20170129-145919screenshot_20170129-153137  And I don’t just mean broken as imbalanced. As of writing this I’ve crashed 12 times, 8 of which were prior to even getting to the tutorial. And after the 9th crash, the game forgot I’d done the tutorial and made me do it again. And then the game became non-responsive and had to be force closed. 4 crashes were looping crashes, giving the same error message repeatedly until I force closed the app. 2 crashes occurred during name selection. These are occurring on a Samsung Galaxy S7, as opposed to something low power/antiquated. After completing the tutorial a second time it had me do the shop tutorial. Then crashed and forgot I completed that. Then after doing the shop tutorial a second time, it let me start playing the game.

The load times are long for a phone game and the game needs to connect and load for every single action.

The inputs also become unresponsive fairly frequently. During the tutorial and the 10ish games I’ve played I had to tap the screen multiple times in order for it to register my selections or moves.

-So let’s talk about the tutorial.-

screenshot_20170129-150532 The gameplay is fairly simplistic. There is a board with a goal point on both sides that you and your opponent are protecting. If one of your pocket monsters gets to the enemy goal, they lose, and vice versa. Each of your figures have specific stats tied to the individual figure, so some will have stronger attacks, status effects, more move points etc. This is where the pay to win aspect of the game comes in hard. It is clear from the tutorial alone that some of the figures/cards will be outright superior to others.

Plastic entombed pocket monsters that get knocked out get put into the ‘pokemon center’, when more than 2 have been beaten one gets added back to your bench for usage. Pocket monsters can’t cross past one another, and must battle. If you surround an enemy they get instant-killed, so pokemon with crappy moves and high movement may still have some use for ambushing purposes.

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But that said, attacks are determined by the spin of a dial. You have no real control over whether your attacks will hit at any time. Levelling your figures requires you to sacrifice materials or other poke-totems to the one you want to power up. And what does levelling up do? Allows you to change the size of your attack zones on the dial, by either increasing an attack, or making your miss areas smaller. And with pokemon that have attacks like Beedrill’s Twin-needle, which is 40 attack power, and then spins again and adds the attack power of the second result to it, it can be devastating.

screenshot_20170129-151213There are other mechanics like, evolving and plates which seem to be cards that give boosts, but I’m not going to bother going into them.

-Because the game is microtransactional garbage.-

True to form for a good old fashion cash grab is “Some figures are better than others”. Case in point, one match I played the opponent had two Latios figures, which have a movement of 3, and an attack with 120 power. In two turns he’d killed my only blocking pokemon and won the game. There was literally nothing I could do about it. “Oh well, better go buy some more figures to get gud”. NOPE.

You can get ‘free’ boosters. But they have timers on them. You cannot open a booster until the time limit runs out, unless you pay gems to instantly open it. Gems are coughed up on daily login bonuses, as well as being the ‘premium currency’ you can buy.

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Likewise, booster packs themselves can be bought, but the ones you pay for open instantly. Devious, right?

12 gems costs $.99 USD. A booster costs 50 gems, which will contain 1 figure and 1 material, so about $4 a figure. A 6 booster set which “guarantees one ‘ex-rare’” cost 300 gems, So $20, still $4 a figure, no discount at the booster level. If you buy the 12 gems, you’re paying about 8 cents per gem, but if you buy their largest pack of gems 1960 gems, for $80, that’s about 2~3 cents per gem, which come out to around $2 a pop. That is, provided you want to invest Eighty bucks into a phone game… let alone a not very good game that is poorly implemented.

Another level of Nope is the free booster system. I’ve mentioned that free boosters have timers. You also only have 3 available slots to hold free boosters. No slot for a booster? No boosters drop until you free one up. Or! You pay $5 to get 84 gems and ‘rent’ an extra slot for 30 days.

-Let’s talk about the RNG.-

Attacks are RNG based. The only way to mitigate this is to 1) flank an opponent’s figure with two of yours, or 2) level up your figure. Levelling as I mentioned required the sacrifice of other figures, be them other pokemon or the non-combat ‘materials’. Materials also take up your inventory space, so you can’t get a figure if you are saving up too many, forcing you to use them… So you can’t save materials or crap pokemon figures until you get something you actually want to invest them in.

Booster contents are again, RNG. There are specific critters that can appear based on the color of the free booster, but even that is random.

Graphically, the game let’s you look at some decently modelled pokemon figures when you are in either the gallery view or sitting on the main menu. In battle you see them from a top down angle at a distance. The table set up and the room you play in are well rendered, for the few seconds you see them before focusing on the board. It almost feels like they spent more time rendering the room and table/chairs than they spent developing the gameplay.

Final thoughts: The game isn’t worth the time or frustration, and most assuredly not worth investing real money in. If I could, I’d ask them to refund my time.

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