Pokemon GO Trainer Battles: everything you need to know about PvP in Pokemon GO

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Trainer Battles are a new Player versus Player (PvP) mode coming to Pokemon GO and they allow trainers to fight versus their friends using teams of three Pokemon. Trainer Battles feature a handful of new mechanics, including Protect Shield, a second charge move, charging up and swapping Pokemon in and out of battle.

You can access the new Battle feature from your Nearby screen: Just tap the Nearby button and there should be a new “Battle” tab, sitting right next to Pokemon and Raid tabs. There are no premium item requirements for participating in PvP (Trainer Battles) – you can do them infinitely and they are free, but some restrictions apply for obtaining rewards.

Important note: every number, cool downs, etc mentioned in this article is not final. The numbers / charges / etc mentioned were featured in the hands-on demo, but they are all not final so don’t take them for granted – they could be inaccurate.

Trainer Battle Mechanics

Trainer Battles are quite different from Gym and Raid Battles. They allow you to unlock a second charge move for you Pokemon, they don’t feature dodging and they introduce new strategic mechanics: Protect Shields and charging up your charge attacks. You can also switch Pokemon, but every time you perform a switch, your switch button will be disabled and you can’t switch for another 50 seconds. Trainer Battles in Pokemon GO feature a mix of tap and charge time battle based mechanics which was never done in a Pokemon game before.

In order to win a Trainer battle one of the players needs to defeat all opponent’s Pokemon. If the match is not decided before the battle limit ends, a tie breaker mechanism will kick in and determine the winner by taking a look at the number of remaining Pokemon and percentage of health left.

Pokemon GO PvP: second charge move, charge up, protect shield
Pokemon GO PvP: second charge move, charge up, protect shield

Protect Shields

Protect Shields allow you to completely mitigate an incoming charge attack from your opponent. You get a few Protect shields each battle and you have three seconds to activate the shield once your opponent activates a charge attack. You do not know which charge attack is coming, so knowing which charge moves the attacker can have is extremely important. The number of Protect shields you get is not final and is still being discussed, but in our hands on it was two.

Activating a Protect shield has the following effects:

  • Consumes one Protect shield charge
  • Completely nullifies the incoming attack (you take 0 damage)
  • Protect Shield has no effect on your charge move energy pool
  • Opponent will still perform the attack and spend energy

Properly using Protect Shields is key to achieving victory in Trainer Battles, as how you and your opponents use your shield charges will dramatically impact the course of the battle.

Charging up charge attacks

Charge up is a new mechanic that is available once you activate your charge attack. During charge up, the attacker is given 3 seconds to furiously tap the screen in order to increase the move’s potential damage output (multiplier unknown), while the defender has 3 seconds to decide whether or not he should use a Protect Shield to mitigate the attack.

Anecdotally, charging up a charge move seems to increase its damage output by roughly 20%, but this is still up in the air and not final numbers by any means.

Switching Pokemon

You can freely switch Pokemon at any moment during the battle, however, switching a Pokemon will trigger a 50 second cooldown before you can switch again. When you switch Pokemon, the outgoing Pokemon remember its energy state and will re-enter the battle arena with the same energy level it had when it was switched out. Switching out and in is a key mechanic in Trainer Battles, especially when fighting against Super Effective opponents.

Pokemon GO PvP: Two Charged Moves
Pokemon GO PvP: Two Charged Moves

Second charge move

In addition to Protect Shield and Charging Up, PvP has brought another new mechanic into Pokemon GO: unlocking a second charge move for your Pokemon. Unlocking a second charge move is simple, it is available from the good ol’ Pokemon page and it costs Stardust and Candy. Once you unlock a second charge move, your Pokemon will receive a new random move from its respective move pool and this move can be used in Trainer Battles (Gym Battles and Raids as well).

Here are some key mechanics for the second charged move:

  • This move, like your primary move, can also be TM-ed into something else.
  • You can’t have two same moves in your primary and secondary slots.
  • When battling in Trainer Battles, your energy fills both moves at the same time, but using one will drain energy from both (you still have 100 energy).

The cost to unlock the second charge move is not yet known, as the numbers we were given during our hands-on session were all not final. We do know it includes Stardust and Candy, but how much is still not clear.

Trainer Battle rewards

Although only one player can claim victory, both players will get rewards to train their Pokemon for playing together. Participating in Trainer Battles will result in increasing Friendship Level for both players and fighting against Team Leaders will give you a change to receive a special item reward (including hard to find evolution items). Other rewards are also possible, but are not yet known at the moment.

You can get rewards from battling against each Team Leader once a day, and you can get rewards from battling against other players three times a day. Beyond that, you will not receive rewards, but your progress will count towards the new medals. You can battle any number of times you want throughout the day, the only limitations is on how many times you can get the item rewards (three times a day).

Pokemon GO PvP: battle against Team Leaders
Pokemon GO PvP: battle against Team Leaders

Battle against Team Leaders

In addition to fighting against real Trainers, players can participate in single player Trainer Battles against Team Leaders: Spark, Candela and Blanche. Team Leader battles are powered by AI and allow players to prepare for real world battles at the comfort of their home.

By playing (training) against Team Leaders, players can earn rewards and earn progress towards their Ace Trainer badge. Team Leader battles are designed to do two things:

  • Provide a enjoyable single player experience that can be performed daily
  • Provide a safe place to test out your battle party ideas

Local and remote Trainer Battles

There are two ways you can battle other Trainers: remote and local battles.

  • By fighting with players that are nearby in the real world
    • Requires you to share your new Battle Code, similar to how you trade
  • Remote battles are allowed for fighting your Ultra and Best friends
    • Requires Ultra / Best friends level of friendship

In order to participate in Local Battles, you need to meet face to face and exchange Battle QR Codes, similarly to how you exchange your Trainer Code before trading with new people. Remote play has no geographical limitations, but the person you are trying to battle needs to be able to accept the battle invitation. No, you can’t fight someone while they sleep.

Restricted Pokemon

As for now, there are two Pokemon which can’t be used in Pokemon GO Trainer Battles, regardless of the League you compete in. These two Pokemon are:

Ditto’s Transform mechanic is not suitable for PvP and Shedinja’s low HP makes him unusable in any scenario.

Pokemon GO PvP
Pokemon GO PvP

Everything else we know about Trainer Battles and PvP in Pokemon GO

  • Pokemon GO’s Trainer Battles are a brand new feature and a brand new game play loop, designed as a “foundation feature”, similar to how Friends and Raids were designed and introduced in the past
  • This is just the beginning for Trainer Battles and Niantic has confirmed that there will be improvements and additions down the line. No specific mechanic or mode was mentioned, but they did confirm that they are looking into core series games for mechanics inspiration.
  • Niantic was not able to comment on whether or not they plan to organise official PvP tournaments. It’s early days and they are laser focused on making the feature work properly on the current mobile networks, with a focus on local player groups. However, they do encourage players to invent their own tournament rules and systems, similar to how players organise themselves in Smash Brothers games.
  • No leaderboards or seasons are planned for the first release as the team is focused on optimizing the feature for social play. As time goes on, the team might work on competitive features and leaderboards, but the focus is not there right now.
  • No increase in Level Cap is planned for now.
  • No emotes are available for use during Trainer Battles.
  • Abilities are not available, as the second charge move is the focus right now.
  • The biggest challenge in developing this feature was “making it work” and tuning the system to feel good and fun given the current cell network limitations.

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