At this point, you've probably heard many players talk about their disappointment with TCG Live possibly for many hours. TrickyGym's Andrew Mahone has talked at length about his frustrations with the game, as have other notable creators like LittleDarkFury and CeliosNetwork. You may have even heard me talk about my experience with Live on my podcast Tag Team! By many accounts, the game has underdelivered.
But you're here now, reading this article for my opinion. Now, there are some major positives with the game - it caters heavily to new players with the dusting system and free decks post-tutorial. It also has a much improved pack opening system that will save me hours. However, many of these changes are ones they could have implemented in PTCGO without delivering a new game. Ultimately, the question I have been asking is "Why would they make the new game, given there are only marginal improvements?" I'll answer that in a minute...
My main issues with the game boil down to two things:
The game doesn't feel like playing Pokemon.
There's none of the "spice" that all Pokemon franchise games have.
To iterate on the first point, I have some serious issues with the in-game appearance of the board and some of the core mechanics. The board is far to squished in a desktop setting. For some reason, the developers decided to put the deck, discard pile, bench, AND prizes in one single like at the bottom of the screen. Simply put, why? Perhaps they felt that it was best for symmetry between both halves of the field. Another point for them for removing any uniqueness from the game, I guess.
Speaking of the deck and the prizes, why are they not arranged in a way similar to how one would in an official setting? How confusing is that to read an official rulebook and then to experience PTCG Live where everything is laid out far differently? There is SO much unutilized space EVERYWHERE in the desktop version of the game. For goodness sake, the avatars are BIGGER THAN THE ACTIVE POKEMON. It's makes no sense to me.
Why are all Pokemon cards facing the same way? This also contributes to the game not really feeling like a Pokemon game. The rules outline that Pokemon move to different positions when they become inflicted by status conditions like Sleep or Paralysis. What is the point of keeping all cards facing toward the player? It's not to be able to read the cards because they are either chopped in half or far too small.
Another criticism is of the tactile feel of the game. There's no snap, there's no rumble, there's no tactile connection between the actions I take and what happens in the game. It feels like I'm sliding on an ice sheet where, sure, I can accomplish the goal of going from point A to point B, but I do so in a way that leaves me discombobulated and fumbling the entire time.
Speaking to point two, the game is so devoid of life, that it is hardly recognizable as a Pokemon game. Some of the things I see in other Pokemon games that are not present in this game are imagination, spontaneity, and cleverness. I find few examples of those qualities in this game. Where is the fun? Where is the playfulness? The unexpected? It feels detached from any other TCG online gaming experience as well as the franchise itself.
To conclude, we have to ask, "Why was this game made?" If it was made to be unique and groundbreaking, it failed. There is nothing satisfying about the client in it's current state other than winning. If it was made to be a testing grounds for the Pokemon TCG to encourage IRL play, why did we even need this client in the first place when PTCGO is serviceable enough for that? Many in-game mechanics, like the prize card layout and status conditions, actively GO AGAINST how someone would play in person. If the answer was, they just wanted to bring the game in-house, then I am saddened by the lack of imagination that was brought to the project.
All in all, I know there has been hard work from all parties involved and I want to respect that and praise that. But the final product in it's current state simply misses the mark on so many levels. I'm hopeful for the future, but the one time in the last decade that competitive Pokemon TCG has had a chance to really generate traction on a massive scale, we've been let down.