Pokémon GO: How To Play (Now That The Game Is Good)

Let’s be honest, when Pokémon GO first came out it was a bit of a train wreck. There was no battling, there was no trading, there was a very limited number of Pokémon, and even some in-game features like the Pokétracker just didn’t work.

It’s been a long road, but finally, Pokémon GO seems to have picked itself up, dusted itself off, and is ready to give aspiring Pokémon trainers the game experience they so rightly deserve.

But before you go running off into the world to catch ‘em all, it’s a good idea to take a quick peek at our new player guide to make sure you’re getting all you can out of the game. Whether you’re a veteran looking to sharpen your skills or a new trainer just making your first tentative steps with your Pokédex, this guide is sure to help all players on their journey to becoming a Pokémon master.

PART 1: The Early Game

Catch Everything

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You’ll first start the game by choosing a team (pick whichever you like, it really doesn’t matter) and then be given a few pokéballs to catch your starter Pokémon. I’ll be honest, these starters are probably not going to be much worth to you since their stats will be way too low to battle at a gym.

Instead, the early part of the game is all about one thing: catching them all.

Your objective is to build up experience so you can start catching stronger and stronger Pokémon to eventually take part in gym battles. That won’t be for some time though, so for now just catch everything. You net experience every time you capture something, and then even more experience when you catch enough of the same Pokémon to get enough candy to make it evolve.

Use your Pokétracker to see what Pokémon are nearby, and then go chase them down and catch them. Certain Pokémon tend to spawn at certain places, which you may notice over time, but in general, it doesn’t matter since you want to catch them all.

How you capture a Pokémon can also greatly help your experience gain. Making particularly accurate throws or using a curve ball will net you bonus experience from every capture.

Use The “L” Technique For Perfect Curve Balls

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An easy way to throw perfect curve balls is to use the “L” technique. The technique is simple: trace the outline of an “L” on either side of the Pokémon you’re trying to capture, and release the ball as soon as your finger reaches the same height on-screen as the Pokémon. If you time it correctly, not only will you be throwing curve balls every time, but you’ll get even more bonus experience from have great throws.

Hit Up Pokéstops For Experience And Free Gear

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As a freemium game, Pokémon GO is trying to make you spend money. Running out of Pokéballs is the most common reason people shell out some dough to keep playing. To avoid this terrible fate, be sure to hit up as many Pokéstops as you can to keep restocking on your gear.

Every Pokéstop you go to will give you free Pokéballs, as well as berries and eggs, and free experience. In general, you should be plotting your hunting expeditions so that it crosses as many Pokéstops as possible.

Make Sure To Play Every Day For Daily Rewards

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but it bears mentioning since the rewards add up over time. Make sure to log in every day, and make one capture every day, so that you can get the most out of the daily bonus. It’s free XP and Stardust, so there’s really no reason not to.

Wait For A Lucky Egg, Then Evolve Everything

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The next step in harvesting that sweet, sweet XP is to evolve your Pokémon. But don’t just do it as soon as you have enough candy to do so - instead, wait until you have enough candy to evolve a whole bunch of them at once, and then just before you do so use a Lucky Egg.

The Lucky Egg is an item you get from certain level milestones that doubles the amount of experience you get from all sources. Evolving Pokémon nets you 500 XP, so doubling that gives you 1000 XP per Pokémon. If you’ve got 40 or 50 Pokémon to evolve at once, that gets you a TON of bonus experience, and can usually get you several free levels.

Always Have Eggs Hatching

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Another great source of experience is hatching eggs. You get eggs by going to Pokéstops, and then you hatch them by putting them in an incubator. You get free incubators at certain level milestones, but the sad part here is to keep a roster of eggs hatching you’ll likely to have to spend some green to buy incubators from the store. If you’re a trainer of means feel free to do so, but if not just make sure you always have as many eggs hatching as possible.

That’s it for the early game. Just keep doing all these things until you reach a level where you’re catching powerful enough ‘mons to start taking on the local gyms.

PART 2: The Mid Game

Most of Pokémon GO is performing the actions described in Part 1. For Part 2, we start getting into the fun stuff: gym battling.

Make A Power Team

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Before you take on a gym, you gotta have a team of powerful Pokémon on your side. The power of a Pokémon is generally described by the CP or Combat Points. The higher the CP, the more powerful the Pokémon.

How do you get high CP? Well, first you have to be at a high enough trainer level. Your trainer level will dictate the potential of all your Pokémon, so you want your player level to be as high as possible.

Second, your Pokémon will have innate power based on some hidden statistics. You can’t view them in the game’s menus, but you can use the appraisal feature to have your team’s leader appraise your ‘mon and tell you how good it is. A Pokémon that is appraised as “Great” has potential to be a heavy hitter, so you should hang on to those and not harvest them for candy.

Third, every Pokémon has a power meter that can be filled using Stardust. You get Stardust from capturing Pokémon of the same type, so it can be tricky sometimes to make a rare Pokémon into a powerful one. But rare Pokémon will often have advantages over more common ones by having moves that gym leaders don’t prepare for.

Know Type Advantages

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The next thing you’ll want to consider in creating your team is type advantages. Pokémon has a sort of paper-scissors-rock system that means certain types will do double damage to other types. For example, a Fire-type will do double damage to a Grass-type, while a Water-type will do double damage to a Fire-type, and so on. It’s a complex web of advantages and disadvantages, but knowledge of this system will allow weaker Pokémon to defeat stronger ones if you use them right.

Have Moves That Match Your Type

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Each Pokémon has two moves they use during combat: a fast move and a charge move. The fast move is used all the time to deal small amounts of damage and power up the charge move, and the charge move does massive damage once fully charged.

The thing is, the moves you learn are random, and sometimes the move can be of a different type than the Pokémon using it. If that’s the case it suffers a damage penalty. But if the move is of the same type as the Pokémon using it, it has a damage bonus. In general, you want to have moves that have the same type as the Pokémon using it for maximum damage.

Start Gym Battling!

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Now that you have a team of strong Pokémon, you’re ready to take on your local gym. Go find one and be sure to have plenty of potions and revives handy for when your Pokémon inevitably take damage or even faint.

We'd recommend scouting out the gym before sending your team in there. Some gyms in built-up areas might be lead by some powerful Pokémon that will be at a higher level than you expect.

Once you find an opposing gym that’s ripe for the taking, send in your team to start taking defending Pokémon out. It may take a few tries as defeating a Pokémon doesn’t immediately remove them from the gym; you have to wear down the motivation by beating the snot out of them first. Once you’ve done it a few times and the defenders have all gone home with their tails between their legs, you’re free to pop one of your own Pokémon in the gym and claim it as your own.

Battling is definitely easier said than done and requires you to know a few basic commands. First, dodging is all important to victory. Dodging your foes moves will mean your ‘mon takes less damage and can stay in the fight longer. To dodge, simply swipe left or right when the opponent moves to attack. Try and save your dodge for the charge attacks as they’ll be the most damaging.

To attack, simply tap the screen as quick as you can. The faster you tap, the more damage you deal and the faster your charge your own charge attack.

Train At Friendly Gyms

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Sometimes you’ll be on the winning team and there just won’t be any opposing gyms to fight. If that’s the case, then you can train at friendly gyms to build up your team. It’s also a great way for lower level players to gain experience since the opposing Pokémon at friendly gyms will have their CP lowered to better match lower level players.

PART 3: The End Game

So you’ve beaten your first gym, and feel on top of the world. Congratulations! Welcome to where Pokémon GO really begins. Welcome to the End Game.

Defend Your Gym

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Naturally, what you’ll want to do after beating your first gym is to maintain control of it. Being a gym leader means you get rewards like free experience (in the form of Gym badges) as well as Pokécoins, the in-game currency you can use to buy items. Being a gym leader is great, but staying a gym leader is a challenge.

First, you’ll need to pick what Pokémon you want to defend with. You should pick a high HP and CP Pokémon to defend since as the defender the AI will be controlling your Pokémon and you won’t be able to send it commands to dodge or use certain moves. Next, make sure you have a bunch of berries to keep your Pokémon’s motivation up when he inevitably gets attacked.

Take Part In Boss Raids

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A new feature implemented in Pokémon GO is Boss Raids. These giant Pokémon will appear at gyms randomly, and you’ll have an hour to defeat the Boss for big rewards.

What kind of rewards? TMs and Rare Candies are both super items that will train your Pokémon just the way you want it, but you’ll also get a chance to capture a powerful and rare Pokémon. You can also get Golden Razz Berries that fully restore motivation and almost guarantee a capture in the wild.

They are also team fights, so you can team up with trainers to take down the boss and all share in the goodies.

And that’s it! You’ve reached the heights that Pokémon GO has to offer. But even if you’re level 40 and are bearing boss raids left and right, the developers are always thinking of new features to add to the game. According to Niantic, Pokémon trading and in-person battles are just around the corner. Stay tuned for the latest updates and greatest tips and tricks to make you a true Pokémon master.

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