The latest message from the Pokémon Masters development team has been released recently. As usual, it features glimpses into upcoming updates. There are plenty of really interesting ideas to go over, and since some overlap, I will be approaching the topic from a more relaxed perspective.
The primary goals of Masters are outlined as letting players build their “dream teams” (while strengthening their bonds), and having players overcome tough opponents. Starting with building their “dream teams,” upcoming changes to the way sync pairs can be trained have been disclosed. One such way is the implementation of Pokémon Eggs. We saw a hint of this in the previous trailer for Masters in which the player hatched a Charmander. The in-game message further elaborates that the system will allow the player character to hatch various Pokémon. This is in response to player wishes to be able to use their personal favorite, rather than just Pikachu, with their in-game avatar. Normally it makes perfect sense to allow the player to use a Pokémon of their choice, but these hopes were mostly voiced before the player obtained both a Torchic and even the legendary Pokémon Solgaleo. After receiving numerous Pokémon in a short timeframe—Pokémon that could have perhaps been better-suited with different Trainers, no less—it seems as though the desire for the player to receive even more different Pokémon has died down.
Personally, I feel this Egg system would be perfect if applied to Trainers besides the player. This would exclude sygna suits, however, as their outfits are usually tailored to match their partner (for example, it would be very odd for Holiday 2019 Rosa to have anything besides the festive Delibird, and Elesa’s Rotom-inspired outfit would feel very out of place if she did not use Rotom itself). But every other sync pair would be fair game: players could, for example, hatch a Piplup for Dawn (who, in the aforementioned trailer, was shown to have Turtwig) and a Turtwig for Barry to better match their playthroughs of the Sinnoh games. They could hatch a Binacle and evolve it into Barbaracle to give Siebold his ace, or hatch a Magmar for Blaine. While giving extra Pokémon options to the player character makes sense, I feel Eggs would benefit established Trainers far more. Players would have more control over crafting their “dream teams” like the developers want them to.
The next detailed update that will definitely have a further reach involves the sync grid. Specifically mentioned were the process of collecting orbs, the conditions to obtain orbs, and the system overall as well as the release timing for expanded sync grids. I truthfully feel the process of collecting orbs (using sync moves when a sync orb chance is active) is not all that problematic. The triggering of a sync orb chance would not be all that problematic either if it were not for the fact that it takes absurd numbers of orbs to fill out any given sync grid. I love the variety and customization sync grids provide, but getting enough orbs is daunting, and—as will be covered a bit later—with the game encouraging the player to build many different sync pairs, the sheer number of orbs needed is overwhelming. I am not in such a hurry for every single sync pair to get an expanded sync grid (I find myself rather patient with this game overall, which I consider to be a very good thing), but that may subconsciously be due to the fact that I know I will not be able to make significant dents in any of them due to my low number of orbs. I would not be against sync orb chances being made more frequent or easier to trigger, but I think the biggest issue lies simply in the massive amounts of orbs needed to activate spaces in the sync grid. As an aside, I find that requiring sync move upgrades (by receiving duplicates of the same sync pair) to unlock certain nodes in the sync grid is actually not too awful, as it makes scouting duplicates at least a tiny bit less painful. But I would not be against an alternative way of obtaining these duplicates especially for the more elusive limited-time sygna suits or Poké Fair sync pairs, as unlikely as that may be.
The final major element in allowing players to build their “dream teams” is that bonus effects will be active depending on which Trainers you place into your team. I have played games with similar mechanics, such as Ensemble Stars, where your team will get a specific stat bonus if all four members have something in common, such as attending the same afterschool club, or if they all wear glasses. Masters seems to approach this in a similar fashion, giving examples such as using Trainers who all specialize in the same type, or are perhaps Gym Leaders in the same region. This sounds incredibly fun, and depending on the bonus effects could really allow players to use their favorite sync pairs in conjunction with one another even if not all three have a type advantage against the opponent. As long as the bonuses are balanced—so long as they are not so strong that they end up making battles too easy, and so long as they are all at a similar power compared to each other (please do not make the Kanto Gym Leader bonus stronger than the other region’s…)—this will be a very enjoyable way to give players more strategy in crafting their teams while also rewarding them for using their favorites.
When it comes to “overcoming tough opponents,” the first of the mentioned tweaks involves the quest structure, specifically in regards to events. “High number of replays” and “battles feeling like work” were noted as two separate symptoms, but I feel they are closely related. When I think back to the Steven story event, “The Strongest There Is,” I felt the hardest co-op difficulty was a great level of challenge, because leaving your team on auto almost always led to poor results, while proper team composition and battle strategy would lead to a well-earned, not too easy but not too hard, victory. But because you had to clear it a whopping 50 total times to receive the quest rewards and, by extension, receive the 100% completion reward, it ended up feeling like a torturous slog rather than a rewarding battle. The shift in story event execution from Steven’s to Elesa’s “Shining Star” is like night and day, with the new format requiring repeats at a steady pace while also offering a unique setup that makes story events feel appropriately distinct from the other event types. When it comes to encouraging and rewarding players for incredibly challenging battles, I feel the Super Hard co-op challenge in the Giovanni and Mewtwo legendary event offers the best method we have seen thus far. It was so challenging that I nearly cried when I finally managed to clear it (I have no shame in admitting this), but because it does not offer exchangeable tickets and the gem reward is tied to your first clear, the player is not encouraged to replay it once they have cleared it. The lower-difficulty maps, which can be reasonably cleared consistently, are the ones that should be repeated. I would not be opposed to better rewards for clearing the likes of the Giovanni and Mewtwo Super Hard co-op stage, but the logic behind only requiring it to be cleared once is flawless.
“Rewards offered” for clearing quests and missions are another point that the developers touched on, though, and I certainly feel there is room for improvement in that area. Legendary events were specifically mentioned, and I enjoyed the alterations made during the Zinnia and Rayquaza event. I feel the primary issue with the quest system at the moment is that you must clear every quest to get the “big” 100% completion reward. Of course it makes sense to complete every quest to get 100% completion, but I feel a compromise could be reached if the quests were “split up.” For instance, if the “100%” completion reward for Steven’s event could be earned at 30 co-op battles, they could still offer extra quests afterwards to reward players who go above and beyond, all the way up to 50, or maybe even more. The rewards would be helpful but not as FOMO (fear of missing out)-inducing as gems. That is why I enjoyed the Zinnia and Rayquaza event approach so much: instead of quests, there were bingo cards. The first two bingo cards offered gems for completion, while the third offered sync orbs. It was a lot of sync orbs, absolutely enough to be worth the intense grind, but because sync orbs are not as “exclusive” as gems, players could safely stop whenever they wanted after the second bingo card. It essentially rewarded players for going above and beyond without making the more casual audience feel as though they had to slog through tons of missions just to get the gem rewards. At this rate, I feel the only big improvement that could be made (besides “better” rewards overall) would be to lower the number of required battles in the earlier bingo cards, or maybe use a combination of quests and bingo cards to achieve a system that rewards those who go above and beyond without inducing FOMO in the more casual audience. But overall, based on the strong improvements already made, I have faith in the future for legendary events and other event types.
The developers also expressed wanting to create more challenging battles. One system hopes to give advantage to players who have trained many different sync pairs. I find this curious because to me it seems like the newly-implemented Battle Villa is exactly this. I am not opposed to seeing more modes that encourage a large entourage of trained sync pairs, but at the same time I would rather the Battle Villa receive tweaks and polishing than have an all-new but similar mode be released so soon after its implementation. I have also found the Battle Villa to be incredibly challenging starting partway through, so I worry that any additional mode made under the pretense of a desire to create “more challenging battles” may be a bit overtuned.
In addition to challenging battles that reward players with many trained sync pairs, a new Legendary Arena was announced that will have, as a bonus, a way of rewarding players who clear with only a few sync pairs. This does in fact go hand-in-hand with the idea of training many, as it will be up to the player to pick between their many sync pairs and choose only the select few that they feel could clear with the most ease. The Legendary Arena is described like an RPG superboss battle, featuring a legendary foe whose attack pattern changes as its HP is depleted. The first Legendary Arena event is slated for a summer release, and the developers coyly suggest preparing your Water-type Pokémon for the occasion. This, combined with the enigmatic ending to the previous trailer, makes it seem as though Ho-oh lurks just over the horizon. I am firmly in the camp of “do not overthink it, that is Silver and Ho-oh.” As various individuals have noted across social media platforms, Silver mentions in the postgame of HeartGold and SoulSilver that he will train “[his] own heart” as well as his Pokémon team, and Ho-oh’s Crystal Version Pokédex entry claims “it will reveal itself before a pure-hearted trainer.” Considering Zinnia was able to receive a bit of character development through finally succeeding in capturing Rayquaza during her and its legendary event, it is not at all farfetched to believe the upcoming Legendary Area event will showcase a “postgame” Silver who has grown into a kind Trainer with a pure heart who draws Ho-oh to him.
If this turns out to be the case, my personal hope of Eusine alongside Suicune may be more likely than ever! But until that time comes, we have plenty to look forward to. Other details on upcoming challenging battles include the as-of-yet vague information about battles in the vein of challenging a region’s Elite Four and Champion, as well as ensuring they are rightfully rewarding. There is also information about a medal system not unlike those from Black Version 2 and White Version 2 in which the player received special medals for achieving certain milestones. The medals in Masters intend to reward players for overcoming challenging battles, battling in unique ways, and overall showcasing how dedicated each player is. Even purely cosmetic rewards such as these can be major incentives for players, and it will be incredibly fun to collect these medals and be rewarded for playing how we enjoy most.
Ultimately, the Masters development team has been doing a phenomenal job thus far responding to fan feedback and making appropriate changes to various aspects of the game for the sake of improving player enjoyment. The latest list of upcoming updates seems no different, and it is wonderful as well as relieving to see that the developers have not let up even though they have already enacted so many changes. As the first anniversary of the title looms ever closer, I cannot wait to see what new sync pairs and gameplay features lie in store, as well as the detailed improvements to currently-existing features. The next message from the developers is slated for a mid-April release, but I am perfectly content with the wait as there is plenty to enjoy in the meantime.
Edited by bobandbill, HeroLinik, and Ranko.