Team Rocket Has Invaded Pokémon Go, But They Sure Are Hard To Track Down

Image: Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go players booted up the mobile game today to find the world invaded by the franchise’s original baddies, Team Rocket. In addition to taking over Pokéstops and challenging trainers to fights, the dastardly villains have also disrupted the local ecology, changing the kinds of Pokémon that players are likely to find. The theming is great because, come on, who doesn’t love Team Rocket, but overall it’s a little too shallow to hold my attention for long.

After a brief preview earlier this week, Pokémon Go’s Team Rocket event began in earnest Friday. The biggest change is the appearance of Team Rocket grunts, who have claimed the game’s ubiquitous Pokéstops as their own. As such, these landmarks now provide scant resources to trainers looking for more items, and the only way to return them to normal is with a good, old-fashioned Pokémon battle.

These fights play out just like they do at a Gym or against another trainer, the real-time aspect necessitating frantic tapping and smart shield use to block super attacks. They can be pretty tough if you, like me, haven’t been training your Pokémon for the last few months. After losing, the Team Rocket trainers leave one of their Shadow Pokémon behind, giving players the opportunity to catch them.

With a simple purification, which costs Stardust and Candy, these Pokémon are exorcised and become much stronger, a trait that carries over to future training and evolving. My short time hunting down Team Rocket didn’t yield any special Pokémon, just the usual collection of starters like Squirtle and Charmander, but it’s possible that this will change over time.

Image: Niantic

That said, invaded Pokéstops are currently pretty sparse. The closest thing my small city has to a downtown is populated by at least 30 stops, but only one or two at a time showed the telltale twitching and discoloration that indicates a Team Rocket takeover. Furthermore, Team Rocket leaves the Pokéstop once you defeat them, which means you’ll have to do a bit of travelling in order to farm their rewards.

I stuck to driving around in my air-conditioned car (sorry Maddy) so as to avoid the California heat, but was still only able to hit three Pokéstops within an hour of playtime. I’m sure this process is sped up a bit by having a stronger team and better knowledge of your city’s Pokéstop layout, but the developers definitely make you work for those new badges.

Another side effect of Team Rocket’s presence is a disruption to the local Pokémon habitats. The arrival of the organisation means that Pokémon typically associated with their crimes — Koffing, Ekans, Meowth, and the like — are now appearing in greater numbers. This extends to the Pokémon hatched from eggs and those that show up in raids as well. Finally, a series of new research tasks from Professor Willow encourages players to try out the new mechanics for some basic rewards.

Pokémon Go is an odd Psyduck. Its launch carried so much promise, and the excitement of travelling the real world for Pokémon keeps me coming back after all this time. The incremental updates Niantic has made over time have only improved and expanded what you can do in the game, but for some reason I don’t feel that same longing anymore, relegating the mobile game to something I do when I’m waiting in line or killing time before a movie.

Team Rocket is cool and the developers have teased future surprises, but it’s just not enough to make Pokémon Go a regular part of my daily routine again.


    "...launch carried so much promise, and the excitement of travelling the real world for Pokémon keeps me coming back after all this time. "

    I remember in Sydney when the game first came out. It was INSANE
    but Niantic was so slow with updates and he even took away features with the footprints.
    They were raking in the cash but somehow couldn't keep up with the demand

      Cause they launched the game, without telling anyone in their own company. Development team thought it was still a Beta and had plenty of time to polish the game, until their server nearly died and saw the user activity.

      Their head of marketing was in the Sydney Opera House hosting an Ingress Event saying it wasn't going to be launched until later that year, 12 hours later while he was on a plane over the Pacific Ocean, they released it to Australia. If they planned to release it, they would of told him, kept him in Australia to promote it, used the Ingress fans to play it around Sydney for promotion... nope, he landed back in USA thinking why his phone was spamming notifications.

    With a game aimed at 'catching them all' it spends a surprising amount of effort stopping the player from that goal (in a game built on finding creatures, there is no mechanic that lets me 'hunt' for them, I just have to randomly walk around the map until I trip over one).
    We now have 4 times as many pokémon to collect since launch and yet the spawn rates haven't changed. This is also hindered with the map not being updated anymore, so new housing estates and towns are barren wastelands. lastly there is no opportunity for the community of players to add stops and gyms to the game (or anything to keep it interesting).
    I boot it up every time a new major feature is added, but then I remember that the game is a grind with no end goal or feeling of achievement.

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