Pokémon Quest: Review

So with the exciting announcement of Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee last week who else was surprised to find that there was already a Pokémon game available on the Switch? I certainly was. And when I saw that it was free it was an easy decision to click that button and eagerly jump in. What a disappointment it turned out to be.

Let’s start with the controls. It is the only game I have played out of a fair few on the Switch that encourages the use of its touch-screen capabilities. The cursor moves slowly using the joystick and during expeditions the buttons you use are far enough apart that it’s an annoyance to use the joysticks. And it’s only a cursor, there’s no automatic selection like in every other Switch game ever. And that’s frustrating, because the Switch is just large enough that holding it with the joycons attached makes touchscreen controls a real pain in the butt.

The basic gameplay of Pokémon Quest is as follows:

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You can take three Pokémon with you on expeditions. These expeditions function somewhat like tower defence games. If you look in the top-right corner of the image, those boxes fill up as you defeat wild Pokémon in ‘waves’, culminating with a boss Pokémon, which is just a large, beefier evolved version of something you’ve defeated before. Here’s my issue: you have such limited control over your Pokémon. They move automatically and they attack automatically, and all you can do is decide is when they use their special moves. And if you click that there Auto button you can automate that too. You can make the gamplay of this game play itself. I don’t know why you would, it’s a painfully simple game.

Moves are preset when you get the Pokémon, or you can sacrifice four Pokémon to get a chance to learn a new one. Some are more useful than others, and type efficacy seems to not be worth as much as is usual in this series. Your method of recruiting Pokémon is by gathering ingredients in expeditions (automatically, of course) and mixing them up to make some sort of soup dish, which apparently attracts a friendly critter. Or you get one daily, or you can apparently recruit them from expeditions (which hasn’t happened to me yet). And you have little control over what you recruit without looking online for recipes. It’s not fun. That’s the problem, it’s not fun. It’s a chance based roll designed to make you buy the premium currency to be able to roll more and more to get your favourite Pokémon in the form you desire. It’s lootboxes, but with Pokémon.

Now let’s look at the base camp, the main screen of the game, in which you get all your information quickly.

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Some quick red flags: there’s a stamina meter. That 5/5 up there. Every expedition takes one stamina, and it takes half an hour to recover one. Next to that is your ticket counter – your premium currency for the game. On the bottom right is how you go to choose your expedition, and in the middle is your current team makeup. In the centre of your screen is your base, which is actually pretty cool. Something that the game can’t be faulted for is its aesthetic. The Pokémon look cute strolling about or interacting with each other, and you can place decorations that you buy with premium currency or through expeditions.

Now, I’m not new to freemium games, I’ve played a few in my time and I’ve really enjoyed freemium entries in both the Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem because they know how to adapt their series’ styles and gameplay features to the mobile market. This game does not.

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As you probably know, Pokémon in the mainline games are complex entities with abilities, natures, up to four moves and multiple stats that affect how it plays in battle. In Pokémon Quest your little fighting machines have health, an attack stat and some slots in which to boost their health and attack stat. There are hidden stats, like critical chance, movement speed and such, but they don’t vary much at base, so a Rhyhorn with 300 attack will be identical, offensively, to a Caterpie with 300 attack. It’s disappointing. One thing I enjoy is those slots next to their special attacks. You can upgrade a Pokémon’s moves to make them attack more than one time, or to increase its range or give it more projectiles, and in that way it’s actually fun to develop your Pokémon’s offensive capabilities in a unique way.

And you’ll notice that only Kanto Pokémon are in the game as of today. That’s another disappointment, honestly. There are over 800 of the buggers now, but this game released last week only has 151. Shame.

Pros

  • The graphics are really nice
  • The sound design is pretty good, not really Pokémon per se, but it’s cute
  • It’s free

Cons

  • Overly simplistic game-design
  • Only 151 Pokémon
  • Non-ergonomic controls
  • The story is so lacking that I didn’t even write about it
  • Does not scratch the Pokémon itch

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