Review platforms: MSI Katana GF66 and iPad 6.
Pokémon TCG Live has opened up to more countries for beta testing, and my advice to tablet gamers is to make sure you are connected to a power outlet for more than an hour of play. It was limited to Canada during the past year for working out the kinks, and with half the problems dealt with, I recommend the desktop version for the Mac and PC. I would not play on any mobile device (laptops not plugged into the wall included) because it drains the power fast. Players may be able to get three or four long games in before recharging. Hopefully, this issue can be addressed by offering a battery saver option in the next update.
Otherwise, this game is almost like the previous iteration, Pokémon TCG Online. The main difference is in the changes to the layout and more 3D models. For testing, only the last five or so expansions are being put through the paces. In the card construction front, players can get credit for extra cards beyond the needed four in a deck to buy missing cards. In both versions, players can buy real world product to exchange the QR code for extra cards. With the old version, there’s more value by getting ten randomized digital cards over the five; because of that, I love the older version more. Its visual aesthetic is not as garish. Also, I should’ve stayed with the older app.
On my 9.7-inch iPad 6, unless the cards are zoomed in, the text rendering isn’t all that crisp and the iOs version frequently crashes. The PC app is better and has an advantage for those coming into this game new and has cards to “scan” into it. That is, the webcam becomes a QR code scanner for those saving their redemption codes. Two things I noticed is that the cards that you get do not match what you buy–I hoped this would change but didn’t–and if you’re migrating your Online account, it failed to recognise the two battle decks bought in real life. I had to reconstruct them.
Although the game play is smoother, the GUI can be improved. The developers designed the interface for keyboard and mouse play rather than keyboard and trackpad. The tablet version’s touch screen navigation is smooth. I’ve been bouncing between the two versions to obtain a sense if Pokémon TCG Live is truly playable on any platform.
Unfortunately, this release doesn’t have an option for solo play, and I’m hopeful this will be added in due time. Newcomers are at a huge disadvantage with this update. So far, I’ve been facing opponents with stronger decks because they’ve migrated their collection over. The level indicator that’s next to the player’s avatar isn’t perfect either. It’s easy to get mismatched challenges when one hasn’t played this card game in a long time. I had a better win/loss ratio with the old game and this one feels like a nightmare.
Thankfully, there’s an option to test these pre-made decks or your own custom against the AI in the deck construction screen. But the AI is rather weak and randomly chooses from the in-game theme decks to offer some challenge. With no surprise, a Pokemon Trainer Account is required to play, and once newcomers sign up, they have the following decks to try out.
- Blissey V (The Sableyes on Youtube recommends this deck for absolute beginners)
- Decidueye & Inteleon
- Inteleon VMAX
- Rapid Strike Malamar
- Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX
- Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX
- Suicune V
- Zacian & Zamazenta
The in-game marketplace does not differ from Pokémon GO and Magic the Gathering: Arena where you’re grinding for crystals and coins for buying either packs, leveling up, purchasing visual improvements to your card set, or looking at the new battle decks. I should’ve stuck with the older version for longer to try out the decks now unavailable at the online Pokemon Center.
It’s cheaper than trying to acquire them through eBay at collector’s prices, and as long as the product isn’t too old, it has a few more years of play life left. In order to obtain enough in-game currency, players will have to embark on a daily grind for it, and there’s three different types. Coins exist to customize the visual look of decks and the avatar, Gems will help players buy new cards or decks (not every past deck from the Center is available), and Credits are for buying any card needed for that competitive level deck build.
This update to Pokémon TCG isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Until it gets out of open world testing and deals with the huge battery drain issue, it’s best to stick with the old one. I suspect it has at least another year and a half of life left. And yes, I have to say it, you beta believe it.
Feb 1, 2023 Update: sadly, this version is going away come March, which is too soon.