Niantic Labs is set to launch Pokémon GO (a mobile game that lets you capture and battle Pokémon in the real world with augmented reality) sometime this year, and they’ve begun field tests. As such, tantalizing details are regularly trickling in, and thanks to a recent update, that trickle just became a tidal wave. Pokémon Gyms have just been enabled in the beta version of the game, revealing tons of information about the game’s features. Let’s dig in.
As previously reported, players will be able to join Team Blue, Team Red, or Team Yellow and claim and defend gyms by leaving Pokémon behind. You’ll also be able to train at friendly gyms. Select the Pokémon you wish to train, and you’ll battle against a computer-controlled Pokémon which (according to some reports) is picked from your party. You’ll have 120 seconds to defeat the Pokémon you’re training against. “Winning” a training session gives your Pokémon 50 exp and your gym 50 prestige points. Gyms level up as they gain a higher prestige score, becoming level 2 at 500 points, level 3 at 1,000 points, and level 4 at 2,000 points. You’ll be able to leave three Pokémon to defend at gym at first, but that number increases as your gym levels up.
A gym’s prestige score will drop each time it is beaten, and if it reaches zero, that gym reverts to being neutral. When battling against enemy gyms, much like in training, you’ll have 120 seconds to defeat the Pokémon you’re battling against. If your first Pokémon faints, you’ll move on to the next one in your party. Your Pokémon will not automatically heal after battling a gym, but the defending gym leader’s Pokémon will.
The most exciting news from the latest update is that combat (during training and when battling opponents) is not turn-based like most Pokémon games. Instead, you’ll battle opponents in real-time. Tapping a move executes it quickly, while holding it down charges the attack. You can also swipe the screen to dodge enemy attacks, and you’ll be able to see where they’re aiming thanks to red crosshairs. In addition to an HP counter, there’s a second bar (which some are referring to as a stamina bar) that depletes as you use attacks. Charged attacks deplete the bar faster than regular attacks (using up half of the bar at once), and you’ll recover stamina faster if you take damage. Otherwise, the bar refills at around 20% per second.
There are reports that moves that hit multiple targets at once (such as Earthquake) apparently never miss, even if you successfully execute a dodge. However, there are also reports that defending Pokémon in training sessions have been seen jumping over attacks, even though that’s apparently not an option for players at this time. Type advantages and disadvantages are present just as in the main series games, and you’ll be notified if a move is super effective or not very effective.
Wild encounters are said to look “better than ever,” and the game’s Poké Ball physics are apparently great, making it “legitimately a game of skill” to catch Pokémon. A shrinking, colored circle will indicate how easy or difficult it is to catch a wild Pokémon, with the circle starting red and turning green as the catch becomes easier. You can increase your catch rate by feeding berries to wild Pokémon or by using a better Poké Ball.