If you've been waiting around to get an EX Raid Pass in Pokémon GO, you're in...well, luck seems like too strong a word. But Niantic just released a round of changes and updates to the game's albatross du jour, with more detailed notes than the company usually gives on how things are actually working under the hood. For those just arriving: EX Raids are special Pokémon battles that you can only participate in if you've been chosen to receive a special "EX Raid Pass," the criteria for which has been mostly opaque until now. EX Raids are the only way to get Mewtwo, which is currently the most powerful creature in the game. The system does not work very well, and feels more often like a source of frustration than anything else. Hence the changes.
First, the good news. Raid rewards are getting a tweak across the board: not only should we receive fewer trash potions for our efforts, we should also receive Golden Razzberries or Stardust for all Raids and more Technical Machines for high-level Raids. These are changes players have been asking for for a long time, and so it's nice to see them finally come to fruition. Raids are still some of the more fun activities that the game has to offer, and it's nice to see Niantic pushing us toward them again, particularly with the Stardust rewards.
And then there's the EX Raids. Niantic has clearly laid out some criteria for selecting who gets a pass. The company has formally announced that it will be prioritizing sponsored stops and public meeting places for EX Raids, and also that it would be attempting to coordinate EX Raid timing with popular Raid times for those gyms. In addition, it will be awarding more Raid Passes to players with higher-level gym badges at the Raid gym, as well as to players that have completed more Raids overall. All good news, one supposes, and it's always good to get notes this detailed rather than forcing the community to sift through datamines to figure out what's going on. But this does little to transform the misfire that is the EX Raid system into something workable.
Let's consider how I -- a high-level, committed player with a flexible job, mind you -- would go about trying to get an EX Raid Pass. There is a Starbucks and a Sprint store about a 20-minute walk from my house, and those feel like my best bet for going after one. So I'd have to walk up there and then either use a third-party tracker or just sort of hope that there was a Raid up there when I arrived. I'd then have to complete the Raid and then wait, hoping that the stars aligned for there to be a Mewtwo Raid coming up. And then even if I got a pass, I'd have to both hope that it corresponded to a time when I would be able to make it -- I've got a baby, so that's hard -- and then also hope that enough other people showed up that we'd be able to complete it. And then even after that, I might not catch my Mewtwo due to the infuriating random action of Legendary catches.
Having done a bunch of Raids now helps my chances, and I suppose I could make that 20-minute walk more often and try to level up my gym badge at those sponsored stops in order to increase my odds. But this remains an obtuse, difficult system with little upside.
EX Raids, like Gym Battles, can't help but feel like part of an ill-conceived system that no amount of tweaking is going to make successful. They can be improved, to be sure, but I do not think that they can be salvaged. The problem should be obvious from the minute we started reading about them, with that word "exclusive" right out in front. Pokémon GO is a game at its best when it's getting people out in the world, battling and catching Pokémon together. This is the game's true north, and the best ideas are those that chase that concept. A system specifically designed to exclude players, in that context, feels willfully counterproductive.
Still, things are improving. I would still prefer that there was no random action at all, and that the requirements for getting an EX Raid Pass were explicitly laid out for any player to accomplish. This might look too much like a quest, however, and Niantic seems opposed to quests. As things stand right now, EX Raids have put a serious damper on how I play the game: I used to play to complete the Pokédex, which I had all but finished save regional exclusives. Now, however, that goal feels impossible, because I have zero control over whether or not I get a Mewtwo. And that's a major enthusiasm suck.