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Should you spend money on Pokémon Quest?

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The new Pokémon on the Nintendo Switch is free-to-start, so should you pay?

Nintendo / The Pokemon Company

Pokémon Quest, Game Freak’s new Switch, and later mobile, free-to-start title, is pretty simple; it’s a mobile screen-tapping game with a very simplified version of a Pokémon battle system. However, there are several choices you’ll have to make while playing that will determine both how fast you’ll progress and how rewarding your missions will be.

These mostly relate to how you allocate your PM Tickets, an in-game currency that the game distributes to players once per day in a big chunk and, occasionally, in small amounts for completing quest objectives. Pokémon Quest doesn’t have much of a story, so this is a guide explaining how to plan and prepare for its endgame, as well as answering the question of whether you should spend money at all.

If you consider that a spoiler, then this contains spoilers.

How to get the most PM Tickets in Pokémon Quest

Other than the mystical shell legendary cooking ingredient, PM tickets are the most valuable resource in Pokémon Quest. They’re used to buy items in the game’s decoration shop, they’re used to expand your storage of power stones and Pokémon, and they’re used to recharge your energy so you can go on more expeditions.

Completing side objectives awards small numbers of them — five or 10 at a time. This will net you a few hundred total tickets, but you’ll complete most of the objectives pretty early in your journey. After that, your best source for tickets is a bundle the game gives you every 22 hours.

But the size of that bundle depends on whether you’ve spent real currency or not, so the first big decision you will have to make if you’re going to get serious is whether you’d like to spend real money on the game.

Is spending money worth it?

Pokémon Quest has three bundles of content for sale in its shop, and then a mega bundle that gets you all three of the smaller bundles. The mega bundle costs $30, and there are no recurring microtransactions once you have it.

The in-game store
Nintendo via Polygon

The bundles contain decorations for your camp, along with other bonuses:

  • Buying the $30 bundle increases your battery from five charges to eight. Each expedition consumes one charge, and the battery recovers one charge every 30 minutes. This is a pretty standard mobile game energy system. If you recharge a battery by paying tickets, it completely charges the battery regardless of its size. So once you have the extra charges, you’re paying the same amount for the recharge via ticket, but you’re getting three more “free” charges out of it.
  • You get an extra cooking pot for your camp with each bundle you buy, so you can cook four dishes simultaneously if you have them all. The cooking system is the way you get more Pokémon to join your team; each recipe you cook attracts a specific kind of Pokémon to your camp. As you progress through Pokémon Quest, you get upgraded cooking pots that can summon higher-level Pokémon at a greater resource cost, but there’s no way to get more of them other than buying the bundles. Having four pots allows you to summon Pokémon to your camp four times as quickly as a free player.
  • The bundles contain some camp decorations that aren’t available from any other source. These include the Snorlax Lounger, which doubles the experience points your Pokémon earn from expeditions, and the Gengar Balloon, which doubles all the cooking ingredients that drop. The Gengar Balloon is especially important, because items that multiply your rewards in Pokémon Quest stack on top of each other.
  • Each bundle comes with a Pokéball statue that increases your daily PM Ticket award, and you get an additional statue for getting all the bundles. The base award is 50 tickets per day, but you can get 190 tickets per day with all four Pokéball statues. The game gives you a final Pokéball that awards 10 more daily tickets when you purchase 10 items in the Decorations shop, bringing the total to 60 tickets per day for free players or to 200 tickets per day if you bought everything. Decorations can cost as much as 700 tickets, so buying 10 decorations is going to take a long time if you’re only getting 50 tickets per day.

Buying the $30 bundle effectively doubles the rewards for your expeditions, and lets you go on more expeditions, as well as nearly quadrupling the number of tickets you get to either buy more decoration buffs to make your expeditions more rewarding or run more missions.

You need to run missions repeatedly to level up. As your Pokémon level up, they unlock the nine slots on their Power Charm grid, allowing you to equip them with more stones that increase their attack or health stats.

A sample grid
Nintendo via Polygon

Power stones drop as rewards for completing expeditions, and you’ll need to constantly run expeditions to find better stones. You’ll also need to cook a lot of increasingly expensive recipes to attract new, stronger Pokémon to your camp in order to progress through the game.

That’s all going to happen very slowly if you don’t buy the bundles. And you’re going to need to worry about your power level, which is the combined total of your Pokémon’s attack and health stats, because your team needs to be increasingly powerful to handle the rapidly escalating difficulty of the game’s missions.

This is a game about grinding, and Pokémon Quest puts a wall in front of you at numerous points. For example, mission 8-1 has a recommended power level of 6,500, but you need a power level of 12,900 by mission 8-6. The final main campaign battle has a recommended power level of 17,500, and then it sends you to a post-game zone where the levels scale from a recommended power level of 18,000 to a recommended power level of 36,000.

A lot of mobile games constantly hit you up for money, and that’s both obnoxious and predatory. This game asks you for $30 and, if you pay that, you’ll get a flow of resources that allows you to progress through the game at a reasonable pace. You also won’t have to keep paying on an ongoing basis.

On the other hand, the game puts up a lot of resistance if you try to play for free. Collecting enough resources to attract new Pokémon will take a lot more time, and you can only have one pot cooking at a time, so you’ll only get a trickle of new Pokémon. Everything you’ll want to do will require about four times as much work.

I’m sure a few people will be tenacious enough to play this game to the end for free, but it doesn’t seem like it would be much fun to do. If you don’t think Pokémon Quest is worth $30, then you should probably just stop playing it. Trying to get through a grindy game with your resource income choked down to a trickle isn’t worth the time or frustration. This is a game where the free version is basically an extended demo; you’re going to want to pay for the mega bundle if you’re at all serious about paying on an ongoing basis.

So our advice? Spend the money. Next we’re going to tackle how to win.

Building an optimized team in Pokémon Quest

The community figured out the best way to play Pokémon Quest only a few days after its release. A couple of mechanics stand out as very powerful, and the strongest teams are built around them. They are:

  • Defensive buffs: An item called the Sharing Stone distributes buffs like Golem’s Harden, Alakazam’s Barrier and Machamp’s Bulk Up to all three Pokémon on your team. You can get Sharing Stones as random drops, and you get a guaranteed one for beating World Nine. If a move has multiple sharing stones attached to it, the buff it gives to teammates is more powerful, so you may want to get a Pokémon with the buff as its only move and attach three Sharing Stones to it. Alternatively, you can go for two Sharing Stones on a team buff with a damaging move that has no Stones attached.
  • Heal On Hit: This is an attribute that you can find on some of your power stones. It heals your Pokémon for a percentage of the damage its attacks deal, allowing them to sustain themselves much longer in combat. This is especially good on a bulky Pokémon with a high-damage ability. Try it on a Rhydon with Crunch and a couple of Whack Whack stones. If you can get about 10 percent heal on hit, your Pokémon should be able to heal off any damage that doesn’t kill them in one shot.
  • Ranged damage: If you’re running something like a Harden Golem and a Crunch Rhydon, you should round out your team with a ranged damage dealer like an Alakazam with Psychic. The post-game levels complicate things by adding a five-minute timer to each level, so you can’t cheese them by going full tank. You’re best off with a heavy hitter. Using Golem, Rhydon and Alakazam, I beat the final boss, who has a recommended power level of 17,500, at a power level of 13,200.

You build a team with these strategies by cooking a ton of recipes in the highest level cooking pots you have. After you beat the sixth world, you get a silver cooking pot upgrade that allows you to summon Pokémon up to level 70. This is strong enough to get you through the main campaign, but that power spike comes at a cost; the resource cost to cook those silver recipes are five times higher than the basic recipes.

You’re going to be doing a lot of cooking
Nintendo via Polygon

You’re going to want to cook a bunch of those upgraded recipes to attract a bunch of Pokémon to your camp, and then pick the ones with the highest levels and the best moves and stats to make your team.

Despite evolving into the best Pokémon in the game, Geodude, Rhyhorn and Abra are attracted by cooking recipes that use only common ingredients, so if you’ve got ingredient drop buffs, you should be able to afford to give yourself a bunch of options. Once you’ve found one that’s good, you can use the extras in training to change its moves or level it up.

Using your PM Tickets in Pokémon Quest

The fastest way to get from the start of the game to the final boss is to plow all your PM Tickets into battery recharges, and spend many hours running dozens and dozens of expeditions. Your battery is good for eight expeditions if you spent the $30, and your daily 190 tickets buys you seven recharges, which is 56 extra missions. If you log on three times during the day to get 24 extra tickets? You should be able to just brute force your way through the game in a couple of days.

That’s a lot of time spent playing Pokémon Quest, though, and you’re probably going to run into walls at several points because your expeditions won’t give you a lot of resources to use to build optimized teams.

I recommend taking things a little slower, and spending your PM Tickets on decorations instead. Doing this, I was still able to get to the post-game area in five days and, once I got there, I was better able to start upgrading to a post-game team than I would have been if I had only spent my tickets on recharges. Here’s what your priorities should be at the decoration shop:

  1. Ingredient drop multipliers (1,400 Tickets). There are two decoration for each of the four colors of ingredients: a 50 ticket item that multiplies your drops by 1.5 and a 300 ticket item that multiplies your drops by two. The base ingredient drop is one item per drop. If you have the two times multiplier from the paid bundle, you get two. The 50 ticket item multiples this by 1.5, so you get three. And the final, 300 ticket item doubles that, so you get six. You want to get six ingredients from every drop as quickly as possible. This will allow you to keep your pots cooking.
  2. Inventory upgrades (50 Tickets Each). You start off with the ability to hold 20 stones and 20 Pokémon. One page is not even enough stones to fully outfit the three level 60-ish Pokémon you’ll have at the end of the campaign, so you’ll need to expand your inventory a little. But I wouldn’t bother getting more than one or two extra pages for Pokémon and two extra pages for stones until after you have all the decorations you need.
  3. Training upgrades (1,550 Tickets). Training requires you to sacrifice some of your Pokémon to level up or reroll the moves of the Pokémon you are using on your team. This process is necessary and expensive without these items. Move rerolls become more expensive each time you attempt them, so prioritize the items that improve your cost on those over the level ups.
  4. Multi-Socket Items (900 Tickets). These increase the odds that a Pokémon attracted by your cooking will have a multi-socket. Each Pokémon comes with a randomized grid of nine power up slots for damage stones or health stones. You want your tanks to be tanky, and you want your damage dealers to be able to deal damage. A Pokémon with a badly-optimized grid is useless. Multi-sockets can take either kind of stone, which gives you more flexibility. If you’re looking for Rhyhorns, Geodudes and Abras, this doesn’t really matter. They’re cheap enough that you can just use the ones with bad grids for training fodder. However, the endgame focuses on hunting for extremely rare cooking items called mystical shells that can summon legendary Pokémon to your camp. You want these to have the best stats, so you should buy the multi-socket decorations before you cook a legendary recipe, in order to increase their chances of having multi-sockets and reduce the chances of a very bad roll .
  5. Pikachu Surfboard (400 Tickets). This increases your odds of getting multiple Pokémon from a single recipe. Once again, this is really nice to have when you’re cooking legendary recipes.
  6. Mewtwo Arch (700 Tickets). This gives you an extra battery charge. Nice, but not necessary.
  7. Recycling upgrades (500 Tickets). When you discard your unwanted power stones, you get some ingredients back. With these buffs, you get a significant amount of ingredients instead of a trivial amount. But with the other ingredient drop buffs, you should be getting a pretty decent income of ingredients, so these are probably unnecessary.

The only decorations you really need to push into the endgame are the resource drop upgrades, which give you enough resource income to build a lineup of strong Pokémon. Ticket items make it more efficient to optimize your team.

I recommend waiting to cook legendary recipes until after you get the Pikachu Surfboard and the Multi-Socket items. Including the 300 tickets you get for buying the bundle, you should be able to get all the resource upgrades and a couple of inventory upgrades within six days. You should be able to buy everything in the Decoration Shop except the Mewtwo Arch and the Recycling Upgrades in about three weeks.

If you’re free-to-play, it will take you three months. So yeah. Spend the money.

This is the best way to play, but don’t worry too much

Pokémon Quest is a pretty simple game, and any mistakes you make might slow you down a little bit but will have no lasting consequences. If you spend your tickets inefficiently, you’ll get more tickets tomorrow. If you prefer to use a less-than-optimized team of your favorite Pokémon, you might just have to level them up a little bit more to get over some of the harder boss levels.

If you like the game, a $30 spend opens up a lot of systems that are stingy and punishing to free players, and the game won’t hit you up for any more money after that. Whether it’s worth it depends on how much you like the game, and whether you can afford to throw $30 at this without giving up something better.

But give the game a shot — it’s free to begin! If you have a good time, you’ll want to spend the $30 sooner rather than later. If you don’t like the game, just move on. There are more enjoyable grinds out there if you don’t want to spend any money on this one.