Out with the old and in with the new! Pokémon Trading Card Game Live is an upcoming video game that lets you play the Pokémon TCG, replacing the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online client that launched in 2011. Live offers a fresh look, a first-ever ranked mode, and a new crafting system among other updated features. IGN attended a first-look demo of PTCGL with a group of press to get a look at the game in action on desktop. We’re going to share everything we learned, show off some new screenshots, and offer our thoughts on what we saw.

Pokémon Trading Card Game Live Gameplay Overview

Pokémon Trading Card Game Live uses the same official rules as the physical TCG. If you learned how to play the Pokémon TCG back when it first came out in the ‘90s, then you’ll be happy to hear not much has changed. Sure, there are new card types such as Supporters and Pokémon VMAX, but the easy-to-learn/hard-to-master flow of gameplay remains the same with evolving Pokémon, declaring attacks, and taking six Prizes to win. For those who need a rules refresher or are learning for the first time, PTCGL offers a breezy tutorial that teaches you everything you need to know.

Cards are played by dragging and dropping them to their appropriate place on the board, with highlighted prompts helping to guide your hand. Though we didn’t get to try it out ourselves, playing cards seemed easy and fluid. Pokémon cards rise into the air to deliver attacks, and the board lights up with a neat flourish corresponding to the Pokémon’s elemental type. The presentation is flashy and clean, but also sparse and basic.

PTCGL offers improved visuals over PTCGO, to be sure, but so far it doesn’t feel like it pushed its innovations far enough. When comparing the PTCGL game board to other digital TCG games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel or Magic: The Gathering Arena, the lack of style is even more apparent. Pokémon is a franchise bursting with substance and flair, but as far as this demo is concerned, little of it is on display in PTCGL.

The same could be said for the player avatars, which have a decent amount of fun customizable options but come off a bit odd with their overly smooth features, exaggerated smiles, and empty eyes. Again, Pokémon features a cast of numerous iconic characters each with their own signature outfits–have you seen Cynthia’s eye-catching, all-black battle lewk?–but you wouldn’t know that from the simple sweaters and shirts on the rack in PTCGL.

PTCGL offers both a Casual Mode (Standard Format with Expanded coming soon) and Ranked Mode (Standard only), the latter of which is a new, long-awaited feature for online Pokémon card players. Ranked Mode allows you to advance to new tiers of competitive play, earning rewards along the way. It currently lacks a numbered ranking system upon reaching the top level, so it’s unclear what will motivate players to continue playing after reaching the top of the ladder.

When starting PTCGL, players will be given a handful of ready-to-use, 60-card decks to play with. More cards can be obtained through various methods, including the Battle Pass, booster packs, and the new crafting system. That’s right, there’s no more trading between players like there was with PTCGO, but this is a most welcome change because now all cards are easily obtainable through crafting regardless of popularity. Gone are the days of being forced to trade 30 packs for Mew VMAX on the day of release–and thank Arceus for that.

PTCGL touts itself as a completely free-to-play game with no microtransactions. Its three currencies (Coins for cosmetics, Credits for crafting, and Crystals for extra rewards and perks) are all earned by playing the game and claiming them from daily missions, the Battle Pass, and the like. However, as anyone who buys physical Pokémon booster packs knows, code cards found in packs can be redeemed in-game for digital boosters, so there is the option for players to throw down cash in order to flesh out their collections faster than regular gameplay would naturally allow. This may sound like an issue of “pay to win,” and to a certain extent it is, but from what we were shown in the demo it seems like it’s not too difficult to assemble a competitive deck using just the resources provided, meaning winning will ultimately come down to the skill you have more so than the cards you own.

Pokémon Trading Card Game Live Overall Thoughts

Pokémon Trading Card Game Live is certainly a big upgrade to the online Pokémon TCG experience, with a new modern look and several long-awaited features, but the underwhelming graphics and presentation in the demo have us unsure if it's big enough, especially when compared to its competitors.

What Platforms Is Pokémon TCG Live On? Is It Cross Platform?

Pokémon Trading Card Game Live will be available on iOS, Android, Windows PC, and Mac. It will be cross-platform so you can access and play on the same account when switching between your desktop, tablet and mobile device.

Language-wise, it will be available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

What Happens to Your Collection on Pokémon TCG Online?

If you already have a collection on Pokémon Trading Card Game Online, then you’ll be able to transfer it over to Pokémon Trading Card Game Live. PTCGO will eventually be shut down, although no date has been announced yet.

When Does Pokémon TCG Live Release?

There is currently no public release date for Pokémon Trading Card Game Live. However, the Canada-only limited beta opens on February 22, 2022.

Joshua Yehl is IGN’s resident Pokémon TCG obsessive. He has been a fan of the game since it first came out, played competitively since 2015, and qualified to compete in the Pokémon TCG World Championships. Hit him up on Twitter @JoshuaYehl to chat more about Pokémon TCG Live.

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