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Pokémon Go’s trainer battles bring true multiplayer to the game

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But these one-on-one battles have less in common with the main games than you’d think

A trainer battle in Pokémon Go Niantic/The Pokémon Company

Pokémon Go will introduce PvP later this month, Niantic announced. Trainer battles, as teased late last week, bring the game closer than ever to a multiplayer experience, although there are marked changes from the traditional Pokémon battles many players are familiar with.

Trainer battles allow for one-on-one matches against either another player or a computer-controlled opponent, with each side bringing a team of three Pokémon (called their battle party) into the arena with them. A timer is set for four minutes; whoever knocks out the other player first wins. If both players still have Pokémon remaining by the time the clock runs out, the winner will be the trainer whose Pokémon have the most health remaining. No matter who wins, each person will receive prizes, like the elusive Sinnoh Stones.

The time limit is designed to let players get through numerous battles in a day, as opposed to standing around in a lengthy slog of a fight, a Niantic spokesperson explained. The idea is to encourage players to engage in as many battles as possible on a regular basis — so the shorter the battle, the better.

A trainer battle in Pokémon Go
The Protect Shield ability helps defend against particularly strong charge moves.
Niantic/The Pokémon Company

Trainer battles otherwise work the same way as gym and Raid battles, with players swiping and tapping on the screen to attack each other in real time. Niantic will also add an additional charge attack into the game, so that players have a little more strategy to work with; they can also use a special shield to defend against other players.

What’s most interesting about PvP is that Niantic is facilitating direct contact between remote players for the first time. Unlike trading, trainer battles support both local and online options. Locally, players can exchange QR codes, called battle codes, to compete against one another. Best and Ultra Friends can send each other invitations to connect and battle, no matter where they’re located.

That said, Niantic said the focus is heavily on community-based interaction. There are three different leagues that have different CP limits so that players with varying types of Pokémon can still compete; and there’s also a training mode that lets players get themselves battle-ready against the three team leaders: Candela, Blanche and Spark. But the main focus is for friends new and old to test their skills against each other in person, coming up with their own local league and tournament rules and increasing their friendship levels.

Thus concludes a year of great strides for Pokémon Go, a game that felt sorely lacking in features for much of its lifetime. Between trading, the friends list, and soon, trainer battles, Pokémon Go seems closer than ever to being something of a full-fledged game — not just a Pokémon collecting sim.

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