Pokemon GO – New Gym Update Review


Pokemon GO released a cool new gym update recently. Well, it’s new. But is it cool? That’s the question. Let’s answer it together.

Pokemon GO has redone how their gyms work. In terms to base game mechanics, it was probably the largest update Niantic has put out yet. When something this big happens, there are going to be expectations, and hopes, and disappointments, and whatever else. We attach our own values to the unknown, and when the unknown reveals itself, sometimes it doesn’t quite fit the mold we prepared for it.

But what can you do? Things happen. Gym Updates happened. In my opinion, the gym updates were good. I’d actually say very good. I’d actually say this is the most excited I’ve been to play Pokemon GO since last summer.

This was unexpected. I was just hoping for a couple neat tweaks to keep the novelty going a bit. This has actually done much more than that. Since I’m going to have lots of nice things to say, I’ll just jump into the stuff that’s not so nice.


If your biggest problem with gyms has been the battle system itself, you’re probably not going to be satisfied with the new system. The real-time fights have always been a bit difficult to manage. The tapping and holding and dodging are all the same as before the update. The screen is slightly different, but you still tap. And sometimes you hold. And other times you dodge, if you’re feeling like it.

That’s it. That’s the part that’s bad. It’s a part that wasn’t changed.


The improvements are far more numerous. I’ll bullet point a few.

  • The berry feeding system can encourage you to stick around and hold your gym down in a  more realistic fashion. If you want that gym to stay yours, you stay within walking distance and keep your pokemon motivated. That is a cool way to do this.
  • A litany of overpowered Blisseys is no longer a thing at gyms. You can only have one Blissey at once. This makes fighting far less boring because you don’t have to sit and wait and wait and sit trying to chip away at a pink egg carton, and you get to vary up your team to account for more than just that one Kirby wannabe.
  • Varied Pokemon lineups are now commonplace. They’re mandatory. I got recommended that my Parasect would be the best option for taking on a gym for the first time ever. That was cool.
  • It no longer feels like putting a lesser Pokemon into a gym is just waiting for it to get beat down once and then returned. Whatever Pokemon you put in can survive for as long as you feed it. There’s even more strategy to think through in picking which of your Pokemon best fill the gaps of the team already in place.
  • There is now a use for Nanab berries. How cool is that?
  • There are more gyms! My town went from two gyms a half mile apart to five gyms in two little collections. It’s neat. It feels more like occupying territory than occupying a bench.
  • Gyms being Pokestops is convenient, especially in places where there aren’t a ton around.
  • Gym badges have me encouraged to play in more areas than my typical route around my town. That has me out doing stuff in new places, and I take that as a positive.

Extremely Unbad

However, above all these other tweaks, the update addressed the biggest issue I ran into (over and over) with gyms. Before, it would be that you’d face the gym’s weakest Pokemon first and that Pokemon would be the first knocked out. Then, the next weakest would be on the chopping block, and so on and so on. This could mean you’d have to knock out multiple trainers before you even had your first chance to touch the gym’s most powerful Pokemon.

More from Pokemon

In theory, this made sense. The gym leader always had the toughest Pokemon in the video games, and they’d always be insulated in their gyms by a few waves of other trainers. Why not mirror that a little bit?

However, in Pokemon GO, this just meant an increasingly painful form of drudgery, and a greater punishment if you didn’t see it through to the end. Say you go to take on a 50,000 Prestige gym. You fight two battles against it. It was your lunch break, so you got a half hour to knock off a Pokemon or two. You do! Yay! Kinda. Not really. This opens the door for someone to come along and replace that 1900 CP Flareon with a 2800 CP Gyarados to get right in the middle of the pack. Basically, you’ve only succeeded in making the gym stronger.

This is problem is now gone entirely. Instead of battles getting harder as you stick with a gym, they get easier. You’re rewarded for persistence rather than punished. Each time you take down a Pokemon, their motivation falls and they get weaker. So even if you’re a lower level trainer than the trainers who have their Pokemon at the gym, you just chipping away at one opponent is worthwhile. You can evade the battle, recharge, and go back to work.

That is awesome.

Not in unconclusion…

It’s all awesome. And none of this even gets into the raid systems. Arguably, the raids are the best part. I’ve leveled up a Snorlax, caught a Quilava, and changed my Dragonite’s charged move to Hyper Beam all with a couple raid battles. I’ve also met new people playing the game for the first time since last summer.

Next: Everything wrong with Pokemon GO's update to gyms

So again, depending on your expectations or hopes or personal experiences, this update may not give you this same type of exhilaration. It’s definitely an improvement, though. It’s hard to say Pokemon GO update is bad when it makes something better.

Final score: Yes