Pokémon Duel stealth launched on the App Store last week and surprised many Pokémon fans, however, unlike Pokémon Go, Duel isn’t quite getting the same 1,000 degree reception, but why?
The general consensus is that Pokémon Duel is overly complicated, and in some respects it is. Upon loading up the game you’re met with the usual Pokémon-related shenanigans, text-based cut scenes starring some random kid who quickly becomes your pal and mentor. This is when the game gets bizarre as you, the player, are travelling to the Pokémon Duel League, yet according to your first interaction with this random stranger, you’ve never played Pokémon Duel in your life.
Now, that’s some commitment.
Of course, this is hardly a key part of the story instead it’s just a ham-fisted way of getting you into a tutorial which is, at least for a mobile game, pretty lengthy.
If you’re unsure what Pokémon Duel is all about, it’s essentially a weird mix of checkers, attack & defend, Rock Paper Scissors, and a dose of Pokémon all blended into one.
You begin with your deck, a set of Pokémon figures which can be placed on a playing board. Each Pokémon has their own number of moves it can make on the board as well as its own disc which has different segments for attacks and misses. Your main goal in Pokémon Duel is to take down your opponent by entering their end-zone while also defending your own, or making it so the player has no more moves to take.
That brief description seems pretty simple right? But that’s just the bare bones of what Pokémon Duel entails, and that’s the problem. Pokémon Duel could be a simple game of strategy and chance, yet it has so many bells and whistles making the game too convoluted to enjoy. One example is Pokémon’s various different types of abilities, segment colours, attack types, as well as the game’s “Plates” which are cards which can be used during battles to up attack or heal status effects.
It seems The Pokémon Company have overly complicated the simplest game with flair that really isn’t needed. Evolutions play part in the game which really has no effect on gameplay, as far as I’ve seen anyway. Different attack types and segment colours lead to confusion as there’s no real explanation as to what types beat what other than the various loading screen cards or if you go into the “help” section. And the only way to really learn the game is through tutorial or “training” battles which aren’t really tutorials at all.
Then there’s the ability to level up your Pokémon figures by fusing unwanted or duplicate Pokémon or materials earned from loot boxes, however this costs in-game money, a resource that isn’t earned through online missions, instead you can earn it by completing quests.
Quests are basically story-based campaigns where players are tasked with battling to the top of various towers to become the ultimate Pokémon Duel champion. However, the only way to access the Quest Mode is through the tiniest of menus, almost as if it wasn’t a part of the Duel experience at all. The Quest Mode, in my opinion, is the only mode where you can really get down to business and not only practice different strategies, but unlock new Pokémon figures, and earn money to power them up.
In a nutshell, Pokémon Duel is a game of chance. Sure you may have a strategy, but when it comes to battling Pokémon, which really isn’t the main objective here, it comes down to a “roll of the dice” or in this case a spin of the discs. Spinning a white attack which does 30 damage against another white attack that does 40 will cause your Pokémon to be knocked out.
This then becomes increasingly complicated with the addition of colours. Purple attacks, while may not do any damage will always defeat White, however two Purple attacks will decide a win based on the star value of that particular attack. Blue attacks will defeat every colour, however two Blue attacks will result in a draw. Gold attacks will act the same as White attacks when put up against each other, however Gold attacks will always win against Purple.
Then you have the Red attack, also known as a Miss. These are literally the worst and the only way you can narrow the segments down is by levelling up your Pokémon.
Taking this into account and trying to compose a decent deck becomes a sort of art form, less about having Pokémon you like and more about having Pokémon with the best attack segment ratio.
To wrap up, Pokémon Duel has the ingredients to be a pretty enjoyable game, however there are so many factors to take into account during play that it becomes more of a slog than anything enjoyable, but it doesn’t have to be. You can ignore most of these and just bundle some good figures together and dive into the game and leave it all up to chance. But it’s a daunting experience, to say the least.
While simplicity is regarded as the key to mobile gaming, there is certainly room for more complex strategic games on mobile, however Pokémon Duel seems to be too complex in both its user interface, gameplay mechanics, and more to gain any sort of a following Pokémon Go had, which is a shame.