Imagine an auto chess game that didn’t make you read an encyclopedia of terms before you started playing. That’s Super Auto Pets. A free game on Steam and mobile released earlier this year, Super Auto Pets takes the auto battler concept and simplifies it dramatically, distilling all the complex systems and interactions down to their most basic, digestible form. It’s a revelation; auto battlers needn’t be carbon copies of one another, and there’s still a lot of directions to go and forms this genre can take. Super Auto Pets has such a low barrier to entry that it’s got me thinking about my Holy Grail of video games again: a Pokemon auto battler.
I’m obsessed with the idea of a Pokemon auto chess game. Auto battlers are a genre that’s all about collecting, evolving, and battling, and it's absolutely absurd that there isn’t a Pokemon version yet. Pokemon would offer a bridge into a genre that many find unapproachable. The distinct visual identity and widespread familiarity of each Pokemon would flatten the learning curve that exists in games like Team Fight Tactics and Dota Underlords. Moreover, the nebulous Class and Origin categories from other auto battlers would be replaced by Types and Regions, categories that Pokemon fans are already intimately familiar with. It’s likely a Pokemon auto battler would quickly become genre-defining, so why don’t we have one yet?
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Even with all the advantages that Pokemon offers the genre, auto chess games are still incredibly complicated and difficult. Knowing all of the different units and what Class/Origin they belong to is only the beginning. To succeed in a game like Team Fight Tactics, you have to understand all of the synergies, how the economy works, and the purpose of a dozen different items. You have to understand the meta, which builds are powerful, and how to counter enemies that luck into better units than you. You have to be able to watch your units fight other teams and assess battle efficacy within a matter of seconds, then keep an eye on seven other battles that are happening at the same time. There’s a lot of information to keep track of at the same time, and a lot of decisions you need to make on the fly. If there were to be a Team Fight Tactics-style Pokemon auto battler, it would be the most complicated and difficult Pokemon game by a mile.
But Super Auto Pets shows us that it doesn’t need to be. Just as Pokemon Unite reinvented the MOBA genre by simplifying the core mechanics, Super Auto Pets reimagines what an auto chess game can be. It does this by trading the two-dimensional battlefield for a one-dimensional row of units that can only be positioned in a line. There’s no bench, no item combinations, and no Classes or Origins to keep track of. Every unit has a health and attack value and one ability. You can combine identical units to upgrade them, and you can purchase items to enhance them in specific ways, but there’s only a few items to learn and far fewer units than other auto chess games. If you can remember that the Blowfish deals two damage to a random enemy when it dies, you can remember what every pet does, and you can be successful at Super Auto Pets.
This is a far more manageable experience than Team Fight Tactics, and a perfect model for what a Pokemon auto battler could be. It still isn’t a simple game by any stretch because there are just so many units to learn and synergies to discover, but it cuts back on the overwhelming complexity that the genre is known for. As much as I’d love to see a Team Fight Tactics-style Pokemon game in all its glory, maybe something like Super Auto Pets would be a better direction to take.
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