Game Title: Pokemon Quest
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 4.5 – 6.5 hours
Download: 221 MB

Out of all of the games coming out for the Switch, a lot of people have been most excited for Pokemon games. Sure, we got Pokken Tournament DX, but ever since the announcement of a Pokemon RPG being in development, everyone’s been wanting more information. When we got it, though, it was a bit polarizing in the more vocal parts of the community. Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee are something I’m really excited for, but others aren’t so excited.

Either way, we don’t have to wait for that to come out for more Pokemon on the Switch. A new Free-to-Play Pokemon title has released for the Switch with a Mobile version coming out soon as well.

I wasn’t sure how to handle a review of this game at first, so let’s see how I can do. Here is my review of Pokemon Quest for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

There is little to no story to this game. You arrive to explore a special island in the PokeWorld where all Pokemon inhabitants have strange block-like bodies. Your goal is to explore the island and research these new “variations” while befriending some of them for your expeditions.

I wasn’t really expecting there to be a story in this game, and that’s pretty much what I got. A small tidbit at the start to get you going and 100% gameplay from there on out.

Gameplay

Pokemon Quest is, well, I’m not sure what it is. It’s a free-to-play game that takes place in dungeons with waves of enemies that are fought in a semi-automated fashion. There’s also equipment management, leveling and evolving like in traditional Pokemon games, and a cooking system for recruiting new Pokemon into your roster. So, its basically….that. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but that’s what it is.

The goal of the game is to clear these mini-dungeons to unlock more and explore the whole island. This is done through picking a starter Pokemon and sending them out on these expeditions to dungeons. Upon completion, you gain Power Stones to equip and power-up your Pokepals and ingredients to cook into meals that will attract new Pokemon to be added to your roster.

These mini-dungeons are pretty neat, as it’s semi-automated. You start your expedition and your Pokemon run off to fight waves of enemies. This really sets the casual feel for the game as the only interaction you have during this is clicking on moves for them to use, though you don’t need to do that, either. With the Auto feature that’s constantly staring you in the face, all but the most difficult dungeons can be cleared with literally no user input, letting you just watch as your team takes out all that stands before them.

Party Management is the biggest interaction-based part of the game, though. As you collect new Pokemon, you’ll be managing who your party is but also choosing who you may want to sacrifice along the way. Every Pokemon comes with different moves and if you want to learn a new one, you must Train your Pokemon with others. These others are wiped out for the sake of learning that new move (or leveling). The more Pokemon you use, the higher the chance of learning that new move. It’s not a matter of catching them all if you get an Abra that only knows Teleport and Light Screen. If you want him to be useful in battle, you gotta dive into your crew and choose some to give up for the sake of making that Abra useful.

All of these features are pretty interesting and fun. But, there’s a catch. This is a F2P game and all of the typical F2P elements are here. You’ve got a Battery with limited uses, restricting how many times you can go on expeditions before it recharges every 30 minutes, and each food item you cook to attract a new Pokemon requires you to go on several expeditions to complete. So, if you want to get a big roster to sacrifice for a guaranteed new move, expect that to happen in the not-so-immediate future.

This, of course, is helped with the special currency the game has. You get 50 of this currency each day and can use it to buy decorations for your base, or you can spend 25 for a full Battery Recharge, or 10 per expedition slot for cooking meals. Or….Paid DLC can give you free items and large quantities of this currency.

This DLC varies in price, from $2.99 packs that give you the currency and Power Stones that can be obtained pretty easily in-game to $9.99-$17.99 for special upgrades to the Battery as well as special Pokemon that come with unique moves for the DLC versions. Or, you can buy all of it for a whopping $29.99.

It’s fine, right? I’ll just go at my own pace and not pay a dime. I don’t need that Paid DLC. My Pokemon are my friends that love my homemade meals. I don’t need to pay for them. But that’s where the problem lies. For the first half of the game, the pacing is pretty consistent. As long as you always have meals going and manage your Power Stones, you can get through pretty much all new dungeons with little to no actual grinding. You also get rewards left and right for doing micro-tasks as you go on expeditions.

At that half-way point, though, things slow to an absolute crawl. When I tackled Areas 7-10 (out of 12 areas total), it turned from clearing each stage one after another to beat a stage and then grind it for several battery cycles until I either get a Pokemon that gets a bonus in the area or eventually level enough and get enough rare stone drops from grinding this one mission to be able to manage the next one and start the process all over again.

That’s really the point where Pokemon Quest goes from being a fun little time-waster with constant progress to a fun little time-waster with not expecting to progress to the next area for a good few days or more. Even with buying the DLC for all that premium currency and upgrades, it doesn’t speed up this process all that much. You’ll still have to grind a lot in the second half, whether you pay nothing or chuck out that full $30 for the DLC Bundle.

Granted, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. I really enjoy the casual micro play-sessions that comes with only having so many uses per time and collection/evolving my team of Gen 1 Pokemon. It just means that the pacing of progress is incredibly unbalanced and made to give you certain expectations and throws you for a loop when you go from a racing speed to a crawling speed.

This also has a dramatic effect on content and length. This is a bit strange to gauge since it’s a free game, but as far as time goes, each area would likely take you around 30-40 minutes to clear, giving all 12 areas a play time of around 6-8 hours. But that’s easily multiplied exponentially, given all the constant grinding you’ll be doing. It’s a game that you have to set your mind to just taking one day at a time, rather than trying to progress and get to the end. Sure, that means you’ll get a lot of time out of it, but not the good kind of time, if you want to get things done.

Controls

Controlling the game is pretty versatile. Being a game designed for Mobile platforms as well as the Switch, you can tap the screen for anything and everything you can do. ALternateively, you can select options with the buttons by dragging a cursor around the screen and tapping on them that way.

But, it’s pretty clear that the development of this game had iOS and Android in mind far more than the Switch.

Presentation

Visually, it’s got a unique design, which I view as “Minecraft meets Pokemon”. Everything is designed as blocks and it’s really cute and funny to see some pokemon look like this, like seeing a Koffing or Electrode that just look like giant cubes with faces on them.

Performance-wise, I don’t really have any complaints. The opening menu has some slight lag as it loads, but it’s nothing really worth noting or worrying about. It plays nicely.

Battery Life

Battery Life I expected to get quite a bit out of. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 34 minutea
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 43 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 19 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 40 minutes

As expected, you get a ton of Battery out of Pokemon Quest.