Pokémon Go, one of the biggest phenomenons in all of video games, is also one of the most baffling. Very few of the app's mechanics are explained in-game and if you truly want to catch all of the game's Pokémon, you'll need some help forming a strategy. But who can you ask for an assist? The intimidating 10-year-olds catching Dragonairs at the park? The weird people who sit in the idling Subaru in front of your local Poké-gym? These guys?
Instead of soliciting advice from any of those oddballs, let this Vulture guide do the dirty work for you. I've been roaming from city to city, putting together a comprehensive roster of eclectic, high-CP Pokémon, and I've got the terrible farmer's tan to prove it. Here are eight important tips I wish I'd known when I first started.
Get to the water
I feel like the president in a disaster movie when I say it, but my number-one tip for Pokémon Go players is to get to the water. After a few days of playing, you should have caught a few dozen Pokémon, but you’ll keep seeing the same creatures if you only stick to your neighborhood. A pilgrimage to a lake or beach can be bountiful: Since water Pokémon tend to congregate there instead of inland, you’ll catch a ton of brand-new Pokémon (Psyduck! Horsea! Omastar!), and adding each unfamiliar creature to your Pokédex will give you an incredible experience-point bonus. Even better: If you’re the type of player who likes to do battle, you’ll be bringing back rare water Pokémon that will give you an edge on all of the fire, rock, and ground creatures that guard your local gyms. Few things are more satisfying than to take down an intimidating Graveler by spraying water at its dumb face.
Find a Pokéstop nexus
You never can tell when it comes to item-bestowing Pokéstops: Some areas are all but devoid of the things, while other places have an abundance. Get to know the most Pokéstop-dense places around you, and pay special attention to those rare, wonderful places where you can stand in one place and activate two or even three Pokéstops within range. These, I’ve found, are the places where Pokémon Go players are most likely to place lure modules, which draw more creatures to the area and benefit every trainer clustered there. (You’ll know a lure module has been activated when the Pokéstop is spouting pink and white confetti.) If a group of players lights a few lures in one concentrated location that has access to multiple Pokéstop, a constant flow of wild Pokémon will wander in for the taking, and every few minutes, you’ll be able to swipe on all those Pokéstops to restock on diminished supplies.
Invest in extra incubators
If you’re going to spend a little real-world coin on the game, my advice is to buy one or two extra egg incubators. Hatching an egg requires a whole lot of walking around, and there’s nothing worse than investing all that time in a 5-KM egg that ultimately hatches a worthless Magikarp instead of some powerful rarity. With several incubators on hand, you can stagger your 2 KM, 5 KM, and 10 KM so that something is on the verge of hatching at all times, which will lessen the hurt of a dud egg prize since there’s something new just around the corner.
Transfer your weaker Pokémon
After you’ve seen the umpteenth Pidgey hanging out on the sidewalk, your first instinct might be to press on: After all, your bag is already full of the little birds. But here’s why you really ought to catch 'em all: Each Pokémon you get comes with three pieces of creature-specific candy, and you can hoard that candy for evolutions and power-ups. Moreover, if you tap on the weaker Pokémon in your arsenal and scroll down, you’ll have the option to transfer them to the Professor, which will net you one more piece of candy per repurposed Pokémon. It’s a little time-consuming to transfer them one at a time (Niantic, please add a mass-transfer feature!), but those candy-fueled evolutions will make it all worth it.
Maximize your Lucky Eggs
After some leveling up, you’ll be granted the occasional Lucky Egg, which doubles all your experience for a half-hour after it’s activated. By being smart about when and where you use these, you can earn staggering points. A double- or triple-lured Pokétop nexus is a great place to rake in egg-enhanced experience, and your first trip to the water is even better, since you’ll be doubling up on new-Pokémon bonuses. A truly savvy player will also bide his or her time when it comes to cashing in candy: Though it’s tempting to evolve Pokémon as soon as you have enough candy on hand, it’s wiser to wait until you’ve got several Pokémon that you can mass-evolve during one Lucky Egg session. The experience-point bonuses for those evolutions will be through the roof.
Get your gym reward
The entire gym-battle process is awfully arcane, but it basically boils down to this: If the gym near you is another team’s color, you can send in six of your Pokémon to battle the monsters stationed there. The more creatures you defeat, the more the prestige level of the gym drops, and if you can get it down to zero, you can then claim it for your color and drop in your own Pokémon to guard it. You can also fight Pokémon at a gym that your team has already claimed — this time, you use only one of your Pokémon instead of a team of six — and if you do well, you’ll up the prestige factor at that gym to the point where you can plop in one of your own Pokémon to help guard it. Gym fights will win you experience points, but what’s less well-known is that if you have one or more Pokémon guarding a gym, you can go into the Shop and click on the shield icon in the upper right corner to earn extra Stardust and coins. Every 21 hours, you can claim that gym reward, and the more Pokémon you have out there in the field, the more you’ll earn.
You’ve got two different gym attacks
Gym battles can be hectic, especially if the server is lagging, but a little bit of foresight can help you prevail. Google the Pokemon stationed there to see what kind of attacks are most effective against them, and then send in a team of creatures that can exploit those weaknesses. Once you’re in the ring, tap the enemy Pokemon to attack it and swipe left or right to dodge attacks, but pay special attention to the blue meter in the upper-left corner: It starts to fill every time you land a blow, and when a bar is full, you can unleash a more powerful special attack by holding your tap until it occurs. That extra ability can be crucial, and sometimes has a different affinity than your regular attack, so peruse the profile of your Pokemon before you draft it for war.
Pokémon are gonna be a bitch to catch
As you level up, you’ll see rarer, stronger Pokémon out and about, but even the common creatures will gain in combat power, and they’re much more likely to wriggle free when you try to capture them. If you find a super-strong Pokémon, plan accordingly: Use a berry to lower the creature’s defenses, then try to toss your ball into the middle of the shrinking circle. You’re more likely to find success when the circle is at its smallest, but that’ll make your throw more difficult, so practice the technique first on weaker creatures. Also be forewarned that Pokéballs can become scarce as you gain strength: Pokéstops that used to give you three or four now dispense one or two (in addition to potions and revive crystals that are mostly useless unless you’re a big gym battler), and since you’ll be throwing quite a few balls at high-level Pokémon, you need to save your best balls for the most powerful finds. Otherwise, you'll have to explain to a stray Gyarados why you wasted all those super balls on a 200 CP Rattata.