Dreadlocke: The First Gym

Hey, adventurers! Having finally gotten something roughly resembling downtime, I’ve been able to make some progress on my playtest of the Dreadlocke challenge. If you’re not familiar with what I’m doing, definitely check out¬†this article¬†before reading on. Today, I thought I’d update you on what I’ve experienced with the challenge so far.

Currently, I’m on Route 6, beating up some trainers before doing the whole Parfum Palace thing. This means that I have beaten the first gym and progressed through quite a few routes. In that time, I have caught about seven or eight Towers (sets of three Pokemon that cannot be separated), and had one Fall (had a Pokemon die on accident and thus had to get rid of the other two attached to it as well). So having experienced quite a few of the game mechanics of my challenge, I think I can speak somewhat intelligently about it.

First off, losing a Tower. That certainly hurt. The Tower in question included three Pokemon: a Spearow, a Poochyena, and a Shroomish. This was my very first Tower, my “starter” so to speak. Spearow and Poochyena were garbage – the former is way too frail to spend any time on the battlefield, and starts out with peck rather than tackle, making it less offensively viable than Pidgey in the early game. The latter is basically worthless until you get bite at level 17 or something like that. So basically, I had a Shroomish as my starter, and boy was that a good Shroomish. Being able to absorb HP so I could train longer before heading back to the Pokemon Center was great. I gave the other two Pokemon a bit of training but mainly focused on Shroomish. My long-term plan was to use the Pull maneuver to put Shroomish in a better Tower and just let the other two die. Yeah, I’m a jerk.

Anyway, long story short, that fragile Spearow I mentioned earlier decided to bite the dust. It was on the receiving end of a counter from a Riolu – if you’ve done a Nuzlocke of XY before, you probably even know the trainer I’m talking about. Anyway, I pecked the little punk and brought its HP down at least 95%…since counter hits twice as hard, you can imagine how utterly devastated my little bird was by the blow. I didn’t particularly mind losing Spearow or Poochyena, but losing Shroomish certainly hurt.

I think that’s where the pain of Dreadlocke will probably stem from. When you lose one Pokemon, you lose three, so there’s three times the chance that you’re going to lose something you wanted to keep around. It makes you play more carefully – I currently have a Tower with a Skarmory that has proven a necessary team member in my playthrough, but this defensive wall is paired with a Ralts and a Cubchoo, the latter having a defense-reducing nature. With two such frail Pokemon paired with one I really want to keep around, I am very careful to keep the glass cannons out of harm’s way.

This introduces another facet of the Dreadlocke that so far is working well: keeping the Towers together. I would love to not use Ralts – the one I got via Wondertrade has a terrible nature, and as I said, having something so fragile paired with something I really care about keeping around is…unnerving, to say the least. And while I was initially excited about Cubchoo, its low defense really isn’t working for me either. Losing either of these would cause me to lose Skarmory, but I have to keep the three of them together or not use any of them at all. It’s frustrating, but it’s a frustration that’s part of the challenge and it does make the game tougher. So mission accomplished.

I haven’t had an opportunity to Pull from any Towers yet, because so far I haven’t had any with less than the full three Pokemon. However, I do have some Towers I plan to use for this purpose. One has an analytic Staryu paired with Azurill and Ledyba – two Pokemon I have no intention of ever using. Another such pair includes a Zigzagoon and a Pidgey, but then a bred Goomy complete with 5 perfect IVs and a beneficial nature. In sets like these where I have one redeeming Pokemon surrounded by garbage, I’m very ready to make a Pull – I just haven’t had the opportunity yet.

This all brings me to what is probably the biggest flaw of the Dreadlocke thus far. The standard Nuzlocke challenge is meant to be a challenge playthrough, yes, but it has another purpose. It is meant to lead you to give a chance to Pokemon you might normally skip over. It wants you to find and care about those Pokemon in a way that you never would, given the pick of the litter. A standard Nuzlocke is about loving the Ledybas of the world, and here I am contemplating murdering one so I can put a Staryu with a pair of Pokemon that I like better.

This doesn’t pair particularly well with Dread, either. I mean, the source of the dread is that you want your character to survive. The tower falling over is a mortifying moment where you see your character losing their life (or sanity, or whatever) played out as the physical act of the Jenga tower falling over. So losing a Tower in the Dreadlocke should hurt, and the whole idea of “pulling” Pokemon from other Towers by sacrificing the other two is pretty antithetical to that idea. I’m gonna finish out the playtest and see what other aspects of the Locke work well and which ones need more tweaking, but at the end of the day I think something is going to need to change so that the rules don’t just make the game more challenging, but also increase your attachment to the Pokemon you have, whatever they may be.

If you haven’t started your own Dreadlocke run yet, I still encourage you to give it a try. It’s been fun so far and it does add a new layer of strategy to the game. If you have been playing along with me, be sure to let me know in the comments how your own Dreadlocke run is going. I’ll be back soon with another update and hopefully more insight about what makes the Dreadlocke a good (or a bad) challenge.

By the way, if you missed part three of Mario Party yesterday because of the incredibly late posting time, be sure to go back and check it out!

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