We have chronicled the many, serious problems With Pokemon scarlet and violet since its release last month, but there’s one aspect – worse than any other – that hasn’t received enough attention: its abysmal online raids.
Pokemon SV reintroduces the Gigantamax Raids sword and Sign, where up to four players can battle a single super-powered Pokémon. In the previous games, the raid Pokémon were just really big. This time they are “terastalized” and take on a crystallized form that makes them more difficult to defeat. The new raids, with their odd mix of free-for-all and turn-based attacks, ultimately don’t work.
While it used to take players a turn to launch an attack before the Pokémon fired back, there’s now a weird mishmash of the two. Players can get their turn all at once, but they still have to wait for the Pokémon to perform its retaliation before continuing. This makes for a confusing start, even when playing offline alongside three completely useless AI companions. But go online and it Yes, really going bad.
Continue reading: Pokemon scarlet and violet: That kotaku review
Basically, everything goes haywire.
Raids are designed to follow a specific pattern. In a balanced fight, players can use about two attacks each before the Pokemon draws some kind of energy around itself and boosts its HP bar with a crystal nugget. To counter this, players must perform a third attack that allows them to terastalize their own monster and shoot at this harder belt of hit points. Meanwhile, a timer counts down, at the end of which – if you don’t defeat it – the target Pokémon will unleash all this energy and everyone will be knocked out of the raid.
Should your Pokemon fall unconscious at any point, you’ll have a five-second penalty the first respawn, ten seconds the next, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever have time for a third.
It almost never works like that. If you’re playing online via the Poké Portal instead, you should be lucky enough to get past that awful Lobby, raids are more like this:
You launch your first attack, and it knocks out a lot less HP than you expect. The Pokémon reacts, but the attack takes forever. After that, the menu for your second attack will not appear. And still doesn’t show up. And then appears, but when you click on it, nothing happens, but an option “Y: Check status” starts flashing, although pressing Y does nothing.
Then, just as the attack menu finally reappears, the camera cuts to the target Pokémon, which is now noisily shaking off all the effects of attacks. When it returns to you, you press A to select an attack, but it clips back to the Pokemon, which now appears to be removing buffs that neither of you could have applied. You get your second attack and then notice that the timer suddenly jumps from three quarters full to less than half for no reason at all.
(Oh, and if you got knocked out at any point, your five-second countdown won’t start until you after it’s done with that annoying series of tedious interruptions, or often just never bothers to do it at all.)
The Pokemon will then terastalize before letting you go through the previous events when you try to perform your third attack, allowing you to terastalize back. Except at that point it suddenly announces that the Pokemon stole some of your Tera Orb energy, so you have to do a fourth attack. Except the timeline just jumped again from a third to the left to everything but nothing, and then before time runs out you’re blasted out of the heist.
Or maybe you have an entirely different version of this where, for some reason, the six-star Charizard you’re fighting suddenly seems to lose most of its health in an inexplicable leap, and you can still catch it buffing its HP.
Or maybe my favorite: the one where the Pokemon’s HP is down to zero but doesn’t faint for some reason. So you all do another attack on its empty HP bar, and then it knocks you out of the raid as a loser.
To be clear, this can happen with a team of level 100 Pokemon against the Tera Beast. It seems entirely up to the whims of the broken software.
As I said, this cavalcade of boredom only happens when you’re sneaking through the lobby. Here you’re given eight raids to choose from, but should you fail to get into the first of your choice (which takes a full 45 seconds and says “Connecting…” before admitting you didn’t get into the raid ), all others on the screen have been filled and started a long time ago. You then have to sit and wait for the “Check for New Posts” button to live ping, which takes a minute and 30 seconds (why?!), and repeat the process until you happen to get lucky. Or bad luck, depending on how broken the following raid turns out to be.
Given that you have to pay for a Nintendo Online subscription to even be able to participate in all of this, it’s exceedingly annoying. It’s such simple stuff, just getting four people together to play together over the internet, and yet it’s clearly way out of reach for the software and infrastructure used. Secure, sometimes it works and feels like a “fair” raid (whether you win or lose), but in my experience it’s less than half the time.
Given that such raids are the only way to get certain Pokemon, not least Charizard, and a means of catching monsters exclusive to the version of the game you don’t have, they’re not just a frivolous bonus. It’s an extremely frustrating experience, from the sluggish menus, to the unlikely chance of getting caught in a raid, to the huge wait before you can reload the available menus, to the huge chances of all that time being wasted .
Oh, and I forgot you can’t see the levels of the other players you’re battling with, so you have no idea if it’s a fruitless endeavour. And you’ll be thrown back into the game world whether you win or lose, requiring you to go through all the menus again. And in addition to the enemy’s HP bar bouncing around, it sometimes disappears entirely, meaning you have no way of knowing where you are in combat.
I have no solution. I just want you to know that it’s not just you, and it’s certainly not good enough.