Pokemon Unite is a Pokemon MOBA on the Nintendo Switch, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d bother giving it any time. Turns out, in the right hands, the Pokemon licence can be applied really well to all kinds of games!
I’m no MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) aficionado. I’ve played DOTA a couple of times, played SMITE once or twice, but that’s about it. So I’m a total novice to the genre, and I wonder if Pokemon Unite is a good gateway into these kinds of games?
I’ve played a few matches (won them all so far, thanks!) and I have a rough idea of what’s going on. So, this is very much a quick-look to hopefully give people an idea of what to expect.
What’s it all about?
Pokemon Unite is, as far as I can tell, the same at it’s core, as other MOBA’s. You have two teams of 5 in an arena, that start at either end, and then the goal is to either kill AI-controlled enemies (wild Pokemon in this case) for points. You also have the opposing team, and vary levels of wild Pokemon to net you higher points.
Take those points and use them in what is essentially the opposing teams’ tower. In Pokemon Unite, you dunk the points through a hoop. The more points you have, the longer it takes to pop them in. You can be attacked whilst doing this, which cancels the animation, so you need to be clear of the opposing team if possible.
Each “tower” can only have so many point dunked before they get destroyed. Meaning you have to push further into enemy territory as a match progresses.
So…….fight, earn points/energy, try to score against the enemy team. That’s the very basic run-down.
Of course, Pokemon Unite maintains the expected roles of attacker, defender, ranged-attacker, melee-attacker etc. So you choose Pokemon based on their role (Snorlax for life!).
The arenas are split into 3 “lanes” a top lane, a middle lane, and a bottom lane. The top and bottom lanes have your towers (they need to be defended!) and the enemy towers (they need to be attacked!). The middle is host to occasional powerful Pokemon that you can use to score high points, and it’s a thoroughfare for attackers to get to where they want to be.
All MOBA’s are much more than this, but I think it’s a reasonable break-down of what’s going on at it’s most basic level. Pokemon Unite, along with others in the genre have depth added to them by the other systems at play. Characters, movement, attacks, items, evolution etc.
The Pokemon spin
Pokemon Unite is of course unique in that it’s a Pokemon twist on the genre. What does that mean?
Well, in general, the heroes/characters are Pokemon and the way that they power-up throughout a match can be through evolution. I love this element.
If you start as say a Charmander. As you earn points during the match, you evolve to Charmeleon and add a new move. Then as things progress further, you evolve again into Charizard. Such a cool way to integrate Pokemon evolutions and powering-up throughout a match.
Of course, not all Pokemon have evolution chains. That’s fine though. You still get new and improved moves as you go, and become more powerful. It’s just not as visual!
All of your items are Pokemon-themed. Held items that you would give to your Pokemon in the classic series, are here and used in the same way, to provide specific stat buffs. You have potions etc, too. Pokemon Unite really just makes it all work very seamlessly.
Standard matches take 10 minutes, and I think that’s what helps Pokemon Unite stand-out from the crowd. My understanding of League of Legends and DOTA is that games can be upwards of 40 minutes, frequently. Here, you have a 10 minute timer and that “oh, just one more” mindset.
I’m sure MOBA purists will have issues with the depth and the casual take on the genre, but the Pokemon licence is a great addition to it, particularly for beginners like me.
Free to play…..
Pokemon Unite is actually free on the Nintendo Switch, too! So there’s no cost as a barrier to entry. If you always wanted to try a MOBA, this is an easy place to start.
Of course, “free to play” comes with the usual baggage of currencies, a battle pass, premium items and the problem of pay-to-win.
Sadly, Pokemon Unite is packed-full with different currencies and tokens required for all kinds of items. Ranging from cosmetics for your avatar or your Pokemon, to actually owning Pokemon (licences are required) or upgrading items that your Pokemon use.
Add to that a battle pass, with very poor free tiers. It’s a little excessive, and being so focused on the Nintendo Switch market, I suspect a lot of children playing the “new free Pokemon” game, will end up spending a lot of money here. Don’t get me wrong, speeding-up the purchases of powerful Pokemon to use over and over, is cool. It’s just the rest. Particularly being able to essentially pay to upgrade your items and give you an advantage in-game.
I don’t disagree with paying for stuff, especially when a game is free. But it needs to be managed better and needs to be more generous in what you pay for, whilst not affording people an opportunity to actually have an advantage by using real-life money.
Of course, you’re not forced or required to pay for anything. But, we all know people love this stuff, that’s where the real money is.
That aside, though. Pokemon Unite is fun, quick and free!
As it stands, I’ve been having genuine fun in Pokemon Unite. It’s a pleasant entry into the genres, it’s got all these things I’ve loved about the Pokemon series for years, and it hasn’t cost me a penny.
With daily challenges and rewards, you feel like you’re making progress, even by only playing maybe 10 minutes a day. The training does a good job of teaching you the basics, and I’m looking forward to getting more in-depth with it as I progress!
This is just a quick-look so I won’t rate it, but I can confidently say, you’ll get a couple of hours of fun from this with no financial outlay. That’s no bad thing! And who knows, it might make a MOBA fan out of me, or you, further down the line.
Definitely give it a chance if you’re MOBD-curious or a Pokemon fan.