REVIEW: ‘Pokemon Unite’ Is a Fun and Streamlined MOBA (Switch)

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Pokemon Unite - But Why Tho

Pokemon Unite is a free-to-play 5v5 competitive multiplayer online battle arena(MOBA) developed by TiMi Studio Group and published on the Switch by Nintendo.  On the island of Aeos, a new kind of Pokemon competition is happening. Trainers are gathering to test their Pokemon in a new 5v5 arena where teams battle to once more see who will be there best there ever was!

As someone who only recently took their first forays into the MOBA genre, the concept of a new take on the formula of team battles was instantly appealing. While I’ve enjoyed my time with League of Legends: Wild Rift, the game is a lot. Between the high number of characters and a near-infinite number of builds and strategies present in the game, it requires a real commitment to keep up with. While the inspiration is clearly present between Pokemon Unite and its MOBA forebearers, it brings a more streamlined experience that keeps many of the genre staples, while adding its own twist.

The ultimate objective of the game is to score points. Players do this by defeating wild Pokemon that are scattered throughout the arena. Whenever a wild Pokemon is defeated, the player who beat it gains an amount of Aeos energy that can be scored for points at one of several goals on the opponent’s side of the map. However, If the player is beaten before scoring their points some of those points will be lost, and nearby players can collect them for themselves.

Along with the generic wild Pokemon, special Pokemon types will appear in predetermined spots on the map at certain times. If a team defeats these Pokemon they are rewarded with a temporary advantage. These advantages can range from protective shields to faster scoring speeds. They are important, but also challenging, with the biggest one generally requiring virtually the entire team to gather to defeat it.

As players defeat enemies and wild Pokemon, their Pokemon will level up. Leveling up unlocks new, or upgraded abilities that increase your Pokemon ability to win fights, or support your team. With several different classes of Pokemon available, there are options to cater to several different playstyles.

During much of my time with Pokemon Unite, I focused on the support of Pokemon Eldegoss. Providing armor and bursts of healing allowed me to tip the scales of many fights in my team’s favor. And the match recap screen even recognized my contributions, awarding me MVP of the match multiple times, despite my points scored being lower than others on my team. Overlooking support plays for offensive attacks is common in competitive games. It was nice to see this one buck the trend. Hopefully, it’ll help encourage people to play all the roles for well-balanced teams and games.

The other major game element of Pokemon Unite is equipment. Pokemon can be sent into battle with two different types of equipment available to them. One is useable and the other is worn. The useable equipment are things like healing potions that run on a cool down and can allow your Pokemon an added short-term boost to get through a fight. While worn equipment provides a static bonus throughout the course of a match. Worn equipment can also be leveled up to increase its potency.

Pokemon Unite - But Why Tho

The visuals for the game are the classic top-down isometric view that most games in the genre adhere to. And the visual design itself is the standard bright, high-energy design that has been the visual calling card of the franchise for decades now. Since Pokemon is one of the most recognized brands in the world, I won’t dive deep into the look since if you are reading this, you almost certainly can picture the style already.

Now as the opening stated, Pokemon Unite is a free-to-play game, which as we all know means microtransactions. I’m happy to report however that nothing here is at all egregious or “pay-to-win”. All Pokemon can be unlocked with an in-game currency you earn just by playing, and many cosmetics for your avatar can also be acquired without real-world cost. The only major element of the game that must be purchased is alternate looks for the Pokemon.

So, when all is said and done I think Pokemon Unite is a fun, streamlined entry in the MOBA genre. It has something to offer both long-time franchise fans, as well as MOBA players who may be looking for something fun and rewarding, while not demanding their all to keep up with. And since it’s free, if what you have read sounds at all enticing why not give it a try. You don’t even need the Nintendo Switch Online service to play!

Pokemon Unite is available for digital download now on Nintendo Switch and is coming to Andoird and iOS in September.

 

Pokemon Unite
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Pokemon Unite is a fun, streamlined entry in the MOBA genre. It has something to offer both long-time franchise fans, as well as MOBA players who may be looking for something fun and rewarding, while not demanding their all to keep up with. And since it’s free, if what you have read sounds at all enticing why not give it a try. You don’t even need the Nintendo Switch Online service to play!