Posted by Michael Mitchell @MitchFizzl
Gamer, writer, occasional pedant. Mitch lives up to all these adjectives and more by writing for Now Loading and Blizzard Watch. @Fizzl_CTR.
Michael Mitchell

Pokemon GO is finally out in most parts of the world, and potential Pokemon Masters are already jumping into the fray and collecting Pokemon. But, as fun (and addicting) as Pokemon GO can be, it's also a bit lacking in instructions. Thankfully, we have you covered! Read on for a full overview of everything there is to know about Pokemon GO!

Update (7/27/16): The Pokemon GO Plus wearable has been delayed until September 2016.

Let's start with the big one: It will drain the soul from your battery faster than a Dementor.

With constant GPS tracking and augmented-reality support, this may not be a surprise, but it's still worth pointing out. Even knowing it would likely be a battery hog, I was surprised by just how much of my battery drained in a short period of time. While this is a known issue that will hopefully receive a tune-up soon, it's still something to keep in mind before you go off adventuring to become a Pokemon master.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the more important points.

How do I find Pokemon?

Go for a walk! No, seriously, the game is all about going out into the world and finding Pokemon in their natural habitats. Looking for a water-type Pokemon? Go near water! Grass-type? Walk through a field! Ghost- or fire-types? Haunted houses and volcanoes, of course! (Note: Don't actually go near volcanoes to catch Pokemon. Haunted houses are fine if they're your thing.) Different Pokemon also will appear at different times of day, so be sure to explore at all hours. That's right, a true Pokemon Master never stops Pokemon GO-ing

When you're out in the world, your avatar will radiate a ring. This is (approximately) the area in which you can "sense" Pokemon. If one is in this circle, it will appear on the overhead map. From there, you just need to click on the Pokemon and the augmented-reality portion of the game will start.

Having trouble finding any Pokemon? Look for leaf piles that occasionally pop up on the map. Walking to these means you have a high chance of encountering a Pokemon. Can't find leaves? Look at the bottom-right corner to see a list of nearby Pokemon. The number of footprints underneath that Pokemon indicates how far away it is, with more footprints meaning farther. You can select a Pokemon from the nearby list to track that one specifically and find out if you're walking in the right direction. And if you're really having trouble, the Niantic Labs was nice enough to give everyone two Incenses, which will attract Pokemon to your location.

Lastly, it's worth noting that Pokemon can still appear if you're not moving at all. It definitely takes longer (and it's a bit less of an adventure), but if you're sitting at a desk all day and want to try your luck, you can leave the app open and hope a Pokemon appears — just be sure to leave your phone plugged in!

So I can go anywhere with my phone and find Pokemon?

This is the part that is either evil or genius on the part of Niantic Labs — or perhaps it's both. Your phone has to be turned on and the app has to be running in order to actually encounter Pokemon. That is, unless you have the Pokemon GO Plus wearable.

While the Fitbit-like wrist wearable won't be out until September, it will connect with your phone's Bluetooth to track Pokemon without requiring you to stare at your phone the entire time you're out and about. While it's a little unfortunate that it will cost $34.99, it is nice in that it allows you to save battery on your phone. Also, it's pretty stylish, if I do say so myself; it's not only the perfect conversation-starter, but it may just help you find the love of your life (maybe).

Image via
Image via

I found a Pokemon! ...Now what do I do?

In simple terms, you need to hold the Poke Ball (6) with your finger and then flick it at the Pokemon. The target ring (4) around the Pokemon indicates two things. The first is how easy it will be to catch, which is indicated by the color of the ring (green being easy, yellow medium, and red hard). The second is how likely you are to catch the Pokemon, which is indicated by the size of the ring. The smaller the size, the more likely you are to catch it; however, this is balanced by the fact that a smaller-sized ring is more difficult to land a hit in.

So what does everything else on the screen mean? (1) and (2) allow you to leave the battle or toggle the augmented-reality feature, respectively. (3) shows the Pokemon's name and CP, while (5) is, well, the Pokemon itself. What is CP? "Combat Power," which effectively shows you how strong your Pokemon is. (7) allows you to take a picture of your sweet, sweet battle and works in and out of AR mode. And lastly, (8) is your backpack, which shows you all the items you have at your disposal. In combat, this can be used to change Poke Balls or use Razz Berries.

I caught a Pokemon! What the heck are these items I just got?

Every successful Pokemon battle rewards you with Stardust and Candy. Stardust is universal and can be used to increase a Pokemon's CP and HP, but powering up in this also requires Candy. Candy, while delicious in real life, is used not only for the aforementioned powering-up system but also for evolving a Pokemon. Yes, evolving Pokemon is a bit different in Pokemon GO and you need to catch Pokemon to evolve Pokemon.

The way this works is that all Pokemon in a specific line (e.g., Weedle, Kakuna, and Beedrill) will reward Candy specific to the most basic Pokemon in that line — in this example, you'd receive Weedle Candy for capturing any of the three Pokemon above. Evolving a Pokemon requires a specific number of Candies, so don't hesitate to capture the same Pokemon multiple times.

I've built up my roster, can I battle or trade with others now?

The short answer is no. This is another big variation from the Pokemon games you're likely used to. You cannot battle other people directly, however, you can battle Gym leaders. Gyms will show on the map as either greyed out icons or ones with a Pokemon hovering above. If a Pokemon is above the Gym, this means another trainer has claimed it. Here's your chance to prove your worth and battle for control!

Tap the Gym to start the battle and then select the six Pokemon you want to use. Once you're ready to battle, you'll need to use the three abilities available to you: Fast Attack, Dodge, and Special Attack. Fast Attacks charge your Special Attack meter and Dodges are done by swiping left or right. It's fairly straightforward, but, if done successfully, will mean you can claim the Gym as your own.

A few extra points to note:

  • You need to have reached level 5 to battle at a Gym. At this point, you will be asked to join one of three teams.
  • Gyms can gain prestige which increases their level. Higher-level Gyms can be reinforced with more Pokemon.
  • Gyms can be controlled by friendly or rival teams. Friends and rivals are determined by the team you chose at level 5.
  • If you want to claim a Gym, you need to select a Pokemon to guard it. This Pokemon will remain there until someone else defeats it in battle.

I think I'm ready. Is there anything else I should know?

Yes, in fact, there is! In addition to Gyms, you may also find PokeStops throughout your travels. These are places that can help you acquire Poke Balls, Potions (used to heal Pokemon after Gym battles), and even Eggs.

Yes, Eggs. Unless your idea of an egg varies wildly from most people's, these are exactly what you'd expect them to be. In order to hatch an Egg and add a Pokemon to your collection, it must be placed in an Incubator. Once in an Incubator, you need to walk — (yeesh, this game, again with the walking and general being outside-ness) — a certain distance before it will hatch. The bigger the distance, the more rare the Pokemon will be.

Which leads me to my last point: the microtransactions. While you don't need them to play the game, there is always the option of utilizing them. The in-app Shop offers a number of purchases that cost Pokecoins, which in turn cost real money. If you're in need of Poke Balls, Incubators, more storage space, or really anything in the Pokemon GO universe, the Shop will likely have it — just be careful not to spend too much.

Whew! I think that about covers it.

Have you started your 'Pokemon GO' journey at all? If so, how is your adventure going so far? Let us know, share your stories/tips, and ask any questions you may have in the comments below! (Oh, and be sure to stay safe while adventuring!)