Raids are now here! These highly anticipated in-game Pokemon Go events have finally hit our phones, the hype has begun to die down. What are we left with? Are they fun or even worth our time? I went raiding this week to find out and see if people are actually getting out in the world for battles.
I took on two different raids to see how they measured up. The first was a battle solo vs. a Muk. The menu for the battle is generally simplistic. In the top you will see your group code, items, and a quit icon. Items seemed like an odd fit for the screen till I realized that it allowed a player to not leave the lobby while they healed their Pokémon from the previous battle. This is great to use to add multiple attempts at a raid boss. Quit seems like such a basic option, but it becomes a must for such a finicky system. Load up the battle screen and others are not in your group? Just quit out and try again. This is essential for the menu. Finally is the code system. I was with a group and we tried this several times and never were able to get it to work. We used different phones, codes, joining the battle. Nothing worked except linking up by just clicking battle.
As I prepared for Muk, I noticed a huge wait time for me. The system forced me to wait 180 seconds before jumping in the battle. It seemed pointless not to have an option to just start the battle. If the whole team is there why wait, just have a go button! If you want to go solo then why wait too? It just did not make sense not to have a launch option to cut the wait time down.
The first thing I noticed in the battle screen was the size of the opponent. Muk was larger than normal. The ginormous Pokémon had the anticipated raised stats. It reminded me of battling an obnoxious Blissey. I hate how little damage those round punching bags take. At level 30, my Pokémon were not strong enough to take down the Muk solo. I got it 3/4ths down so another level or upgrading more Pokémon and it should be possible. Overall, the actual battle mechanics are unchanged. I was surprised that the bosses did not do more damage, but instead just took punches better.
For a second test I got a friend and we went out to find a good raid. The goal was to get a Pokémon we did not have. With him at level 25, I was thinking a Muk again would be good. Driving around for 15 minutes we could only find Magikarp, Cyndaquil, and other Gen 2 starters. Then we saw a Lapras pop.
We went straight for it. Jumping out of the car we ran over to the front of a small bakery. Standing outside in the sun we set up our teams for attack. It was clear our feeble was doomed for failure but we had to test it. Looking around there was no help to be found. So, we launched our low level Pokémon to the slaughter.
We linked up in the menus, only to find my timer was 80 seconds behind my friend. He began the fight and I was still in the lobby. I wondered if it was because of my higher level that caused lag. By the time I joined we had made a small dent. The battle tapped rapidly on, and we got the Lapras roughly 1/6th the way down. Hopeless indeed.
The only hope now was to have strangers help. No one was on their phone. After healing up our Pokémon we were debating whether or not to pack it in (I had work shortly). Just then woman emerged from the coffee shop and asked us if we were going after the Lapras too. The team had begun. Then a couple of runners stopped and joined. Soon our team of eight was standing in the parking lot carefully choosing Pokémon for the showdown.
The countdown was short. That is for everyone but me. Again, I was waiting 80 seconds longer than everyone else to fight. One person commented that they had lag before when doing battles. This is a frustrating and difficult problem for a timed battle.
I was able to enter as we were roughly 60% through Lapras’ CP. It was right then that Lapras unleashed all its special moves. One by one my teammates noted they had all died. My Venusaur powered through and unloaded attack after attack. We whittled the CP down more and more. As the seconds ticked off the clock the team frantically tried to get back into the fight. I assumed that the team had to only use their 6 chosen Pokémon. Apparently, players can heal up and jump back in.
With 20 seconds left, I lost another Pokémon and my brand new Dragonite entered the battle. I thought this was going to be a bad move as Lapras can counter them pretty well in gym battles. I was surprised to have Dragonite last and make a good dent.
The 10 second countdown began. Lapras was down to a sliver. We pounded our phone screens in desperation. Hoping that we, 8 strangers, pull of the defeat. I held the screen for one last hyper beam. Then I heard a joyous shout as we downed the Lapras with 1 second remaining. And on my screen I got to pummel the Lapras with Dragonite for 80 more seconds thanks to my lag.
We took our spoils and attempted to capture Lapras. Sadly, I was unable to do so. Yet, my friend a full five levels below me scored a brand spanking new Lapras. I got dibs on that as soon as Niantic puts in trading!
The system has added a great new level of fun. As we walked away from the raid, my friend and I both noted how it is great to finally be able to do something with the Pokémon that you capture. This was sorely needed. In our big battle, it worked as designed to bring many players together in the real world to work together. Simply put, it was fun.
The system is far from perfect though. Its lag is a killer for teams. The biggest disappointment for me personally was not being able to help the whole fight. It also was obnoxious that the lag continued to when I was trying to capture Lapras.
One huge frustration is having only one raid pass for a day. Use it on a Lapras and no one shows up and you are up a creek without a paddle. I tried to recreate the experience only to find no one around at another raid. In a multi level building it becomes impossible to see if there are others around to beat the boss. These become a waste of time and raid pass. It would be great to find a way to see if other players are around digitally to know if it is worth your only raid pass.
Finally, if it is not a hugely desirable Pokémon then people do not seem to come out for the battles. Only a high level rare Pokémon at a very public area seemed to bring anyone to fight. This will work wonders for releasing the legendary Pokemon, but for all others it seems like it needs to be a 1-2 person job.
For those wanting to do raids, the safest bet is to either go solo, ask around before starting the raid, or gather the group ahead of time. I highly recommend doing raids though as the spoils of your labor is very worth the effort.