Pokemon Go might be a 'slimmed down' version of the Pokemon experience, but when push comes to shove it is still a Pokemon game, and that means there's a fair slice of leveling up and other RPG-style character progression built into the way the game advances.
Significantly different for Pokemon Go is the nature of leveling up; rather than strictly gaining experience for your Pokemon, XP/EXP is mainly based around the player, represented in a trainer level that grows across the board as you perform in-game tasks.
Your trainer level is vital for catching better Pokemon and making those you have more powerful. When you level up Pokemon in your possession have a chance to get boosted along with you, and higher level trainers will encounter different Pokemon in the wild.
Location is important, but a level 3 player is likely to encounter Pokemon with CP (Combat Point) levels of 10 or so, while a level 10 player in the same area will encounter the exact same Pokemon with CP levels in the hundreds - so trainer level is important.
On top of all that, higher level players will get access to more in-game equipment with which to battle and train Pokemon - basically, player level is used as a gatekeeper to much of Pokemon Go's content.
As with any RPG sometimes the level grind can be a little intense - and that's where we come in. Here's some tips to try to speed up the grind and keep you from getting too frustrated at capturing Ratatta over and over again outside your house.
Pokemon Go: Trainer XP rewards in detail - what gives the biggest gains?
Every major action in Pokemon Go nets you a certain amount of experience, with by far the most lucrative action being to catch a Pokemon of a kind you've never caught before.
There's also experience bonuses for getting fancy when you throw a Pokeball to catch a Pokemon - you can get a little extra experience for nailing a throw or putting some curve on a throw. These experience bonuses are relatively minor - you'll get 10 extra XP for throwing a curve ball or nailing a 'Nice' throw, while a 'Great' or 'Excellent' throw earns a little more.
The easiest repeatable experience gain comes in the form of checking in at a Pokestop. Pokestop locations can be checked into again after a short cool-down period, making it an easily repeatable 100 XP task. If you can find an area where several Pokestops are stacked up together you can easily walk a lap of the Pokestops between their cool-downs, earning a fair chunk of experience in the process.
Here's a table of what each act in Pokemon Go gets you experience-wise:
- Pokemon caught - 100 XP
- Pokemon caught Daily Bonus - 500 XP
- Pokemon caught weekly bonus - 2000 XP
- New Pokemon caught - 500 XP
- Pokemon caught with a Curveball - 10 XP
- Pokemon caught with a Nice Throw 10 XP
- Pokemon caught with a Great Throw - 50 XP
- Pokemon caught with an Excellent Throw - 100 XP
- Pokemon caught on the first try - 50 XP
- Pokemon runs away - 25 XP
- Evolve a Pokemon - 500 XP
- Evolve a new Pokemon (stacks) - 500 XP
- Hatch a 2km Egg - 200 XP
- Hatch a 5km Egg - 500XP
- Hatch a 10km Egg - 1000 XP
- Hatch a new Pokemon (stacks) - 500 XP
- Check in at a Pokestop - 50 XP
- Check in at a new Pokestop - 250 XP
- Pokestop Daily Bonus - 500 XP
- Pokestop weekly bonus - 2000 XP
- Battling a Pokemon Trainer at a Gym - 100 XP
- Beating a Pokemon Trainer at a Gym - 150 XP
- Beat a Pokemon in training at a Gym - 50 XP
- Complete a Raid - 3000 XP
The criteria for how the game registers a Curveball or a Nice, Great or Excellent Pokeball throw is quite specific, and the Pokestop method is obviously hugely dependent on their placement where you live (I have a great place to 'run laps' near my house, but not everyone is so lucky) - and so these methods aren't actually isn't anywhere near the best way to earn experience - but instead, let's talk about Pidgey and Rattata.
Pokemon Go: Using Pidgey, Weedle, and other low-tier Pokemon to level up fast
Once you've caught one or two of any given Pokemon the temptation is obviously to not catch any more of them. Don't listen to that temptation: keep catching stuff! Here's why: By far the most cost-effective way to earn regularly large drops of experience is by levelling up Pokemon in your possession that have low cost evolutions.
The two highest experience games in the game are when you catch a Pokemon you've never owned before (so that's a one-off bonus of 500XP) or when you evolve a Pokemon - rewarded every time you do so. As such, you can catch a bunch of Pidgey, Weedles, or Caterpies and evolve them - even if you send them to the professor afterwards, you're rewarded candy for that action and you keep the experience.
Each Pokemon caught will reward you 3 candies, and additional candy can be obtained by sending duplicates to the professor. It'll be impossible to evolve every single one you catch due to the economy of the candies required for the evolution, but if you're anything like me you'll find yourself in possession of 20 or 30 of these Pokemon in the early stages of the game.
Abuse that - catch as many as you can and evolve them to enjoy the experience bonus. Make the most of them by stockpiling them and evolving them all at once part of the lucky egg trick - but more on that in a moment.
Pokemon Go: Doubling down on your XP gains with Lucky Eggs
As detailed above, if you stockpile Pokemon and their candies in advance, it's possible to gain thousands of XP in a matter of minutes by evolving many at once. If you want to make the most of that XP there's one other step however - making use of Lucky Eggs.
Lucky Eggs double all experience gains. You see where this is going, right?
Lucky Eggs are particularly rate items in Pokemon Go, and appear rarely at Pokestops. Lucky Eggs are also rewarded to the player occasionally upon leveling up - you'll get one from the game at level 9, 10, 15 and two at level 20. You can also buy them fairly cheaply with real cash from the in-game shop if you want.
The strategy is simple - stockpile low-tier Pokemon that have low evolution costs ahead of time - namely Pidgey, Caterpie, and Weedle - then pop a lucky egg. Your evolving strategy will reward double experience, boosting the most lucrative action in the game even further. The levels should fly by - especially the early ones.
The PidgeyCalc is a great way to see if it's worth using your Lucky Egg based on the amount of Pidgeys (and Caterpies and Weedles) and candies you have, so check in before you activate it.
Lucky Eggs boost the experience gains for all actions, so they also work well in tandem with the Pokestop lap-running activity - with incense active you can ensure you encounter a steady stream of Pokemon to catch for XP in between your Pokestop visits, making the most of that 30 minutes.
Powering up Pokemon: how and when to do it
The process of deciding which Pokemon to power up in Pokemon Go is a complex one - it's not just based on which has the highest CP, and you'll need both Stardust and Pokemon Candy for that type of Pokemon in order to power up the Pokemon - the Pokemon Go equivalent of leveling up a Pokemon from the traditional Nintendo handheld games.
Stardust can be used to power up any kind of Pokemon. You can collect it by capturing Pokemon, hatching eggs, helping out and gyms and taking part in raids and other community features. Pokemon Candy is specific to each species and evolutionary branch of Pokemon, and is rewarded to trainers for catching Pokemon, hatching eggs, and transferring Pokemon to the professor - as well as using Rare Candy. You can’t get them back once you send them away, so if you’ve got a butt ton of Drowzee, get rid of the lower level ones to bump up the candy you need for powering up and evolution on your stronger ones.
Remember that CP is merely a guideline for the player - under the hood, Pokemon Go sees Pokemon with three unique statistics, Attack, Defense and Stamina. These three stats determine a Pokemon's power, and so higher CP isn't always better. You'll want to look into 'IV Calculator' tools if you want to truly find out which Pokemon is best for battle. A good place to start in general is our regularly updated Tier List of the Best Pokemon in Pokemon Go - ranked by their attack, defense and stamina stats.
When you've decided a Pokemon is lucky enough to get the power up treatment, you'll want to power it up. The stardust and candy cost of powering up rises each time you do it, and a Pokemon's overall power is capped based on your trainer level - so you may hit a wall with powering them up until your trainer level increases.