In this year alone, Niantic has introduced:
- Combat system updates and balance changes, including stat-boosting moves
- The team medallion item enabling players to switch teams
- Generation V Pokémon
- Lucky friends and avatar poses
- Glacial, mossy, and magnetic lures allowing for targeted farming and evolutions
- The wayfarer program which lets max level players suggest new Pokéstop/gym locations
- Team GO Rocket
The most recent, and perhaps most ambitious addition yet, however, arrived in the middle of this month in the form of the buddy adventure system.
While this buddy adventure feature is adorable and adds a coveted mechanic to a tangential Pokémon game, there are a few aspects that could benefit from some tweaking.
For starters, the amount of time and resources required to raise your buddy’s affection level tends to take longer than you will ever have that particular buddy with you (unless it’s a 5 km Pokémon and you’re starting from scratch – in that case, buckle up).
In order to reap the full spectrum of rewards offered by the new buddy system, you must reach 300 hearts with that Pokémon. Since you can only accumulate a total of 10 hearts per day (not counting the maximum happiness buff), you will be playing with the same buddy for quite some time.
And this is assuming you can accrue the 10 hearts each and every day, which leads to yet another issue – the tasks that award buddy hearts.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the activities that reward hearts are fine. Taking a snapshot of your buddy, battling with them, and feeding them treats are all simple and quick (although my berry stores are beginning to look a little bleak).
No, the tasks I’m referring to are the ones centering around movement and exploration – walking six kilometers while your buddy is active and discovering a new Pokéstop.
Since I work in an office in New England, walking six kilometers in a single day, every day, can more often than not be a challenge (like right now when it’s freezing outside). I will say, however, that the fact adventure sync counts towards this task so long as your buddy is active is a blessing.
Speaking of challenging, forget about continually trying to discover new stops. Because I play Pokémon GO at least once a day and I have been since release, there is not a single Pokéstop within three miles that I have not spun.
Even if I lived in a stop-packed city like New York or Philadelphia, I would eventually run out. Perhaps not on my third, fourth, or even fifth buddy. But I would run out.
Tasks aside, but still task-adjacent, the next problem area of the buddy adventure system is the coercive requirement of AR mode.
Now I might seem old-fashioned, but in a world where an ever-increasing amount of companies are vying for access to your personal information, I try to minimize my digital footprint as much as possible.
This becomes impossible when a developer requires you to enable camera access in order to use a feature, thus leaving me with two options: compromise my morals and sacrifice a bit more of my digital soul, or don’t and miss out on the nifty new buddy system.
Last but not least, let’s swing back around to that maximum happiness feature I mentioned a bit earlier. This mechanic enables your buddy to gain double hearts and cuts the distance required for earning candies in half.
The poffin, a new food item added in with the buddy adventure update, activates maximum happiness for six hours upon being fed to your Pokémon. On paper this sounds amazing.
That is, until you realize each one costs 100 coins in the store and there is not yet any other way to amass them. I’m sorry, but unless you have coins burning a hole in your Poké bank, there are a lot more important things to purchase (inventory space for example).
In all honesty, the modifications required to remedy these imperfections would not require much work on Niantic’s end and I’m positive they would lead to a greater appreciation/utilization of the buddy adventure system.
I suggest decreasing the max heart totally to achieve level 4 rewards from 300 hearts to 250. This way, the grind is reduced a bit without completely depreciating the value of reaching max friendship with your Poké pal.
It should also be easier to earn the maximum amount of hearts per day per buddy, meaning that the daily kilometers should be dropped from six to four and the new Pokéstop requirement should be reworked completely. Maybe make it so that a stop can be reused after a week or something. I’m not picky, but the current task needs to change.
For the forced AR mode requirement, Niantic simply needs to realize that not everyone wants a company to be able to access their camera and media files. Moreover, AR mode can be inactive when catching/battling Pokémon, so why not while playing with them and feeding them?
Speaking of feeding Pokémon, the poffin needs to either drop in price in the store or have another dedicated farming source. This could be a seven-day Pokéstop streak, successful raid completion, friend gift reward…the list goes on; but 100 coins are a bit steep for some miracle food.
As a system in general, I think the buddy adventure feature is a great addition to Pokémon GO, a game that is constantly growing and improving.
Regardless of the shortcomings this feature may be currently experiencing, they are merely growing pains. Given more time and feedback, Niantic will undoubtedly improve upon it (as they have done several times now with other features).
Time will tell, but until then, I’ve got some berries to farm.
Am I way off-base here, or do you share similar feelings about the buddy adventure system? Leave a comment below!