The long-awaited Pokémon MOBA has finally come out! Some people might think it’s a few years too late to catch the trend… So how is it?
Pokémon Unite was first announced back in a Pokémon Presents presentation back on June 24th last year.
The initial reveal of the game was met with some negative reception, mostly due to people expecting a Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remake news.
With that being said, after multiple beta and testing phases – the game is now available Worldwide! It’s out now on the Nintendo Switch but will be available on Android and iOS come September.
Unite is free-to-play but features monetisation similar to other MOBA games for monetisation. It has skins and accessories for microtransactions along with a battle pass.
So let’s delve into the gameplay, is this just a shallow League of Legends clone? Many people were worried as Unite is also being developed by Tencent.
I’m happy to say the game is a breath of fresh air to LoL’s gameplay formula. Pokémon Unite is a fresh spin on the MOBA-genre and not comparable to the other titles.
Unite features snappy matches with a 10-minute timer. The main focus of the game has you collecting Pokeballs from Wild Pokémon and then “dunking” the balls basketball style to earn points.
Instead of turrets, the game has Goal Zones which you use to score points. Each team has five Goal Zones. Whichever team earns the highest amount of points at the end of the game wins.
The only way to score points is through the Goal Zones. Killing the enemy team doesn’t score you any – which is refreshing.
The game is 5v5 like your typical MOBA, but instead the game is split into two lanes and then a “Central Area” which acts as a jungle.
Pokémon Unite is incredibly fun, and the gameplay is very well-thought out. There’s just something about dunking the Pokeballs into hoops that’s addicting.
The game also features a Baron-equivalent, which is a Zapdos in the centre of the map – the Legendary Pit.
I’ve found that the game loop is about 7-8 minutes of preparation and then the last two minutes is about whichever team defeats Zapdos. The last two minutes of a match means you score double points.
Defeating Zapdos gives you a buff and temporarily makes it possible to instantly score a goal (usually you have to wait X amount of time). It’s quite literally a game changer.
If you were on the fence about trying this game out – it’s like what Splatoon is to shooter games. If you don’t enjoy League of Legends, I think you could still love Pokémon Unite!
The game turnover is also quite quick, and queues are near instant. Maybe it’s because the game just released? Hopefully it can keep that up!
That being said, now let’s jump into the bad about the gameplay. Pokémon Unite features next to nothing when it comes to in-game communication.
There is a quick chat option but… None of the options are actually useful. It makes it incredibly hard to tell your teammates when enemies go missing, or to coordinate Wild Pokemon.
Which is incredibly interesting considering this game is developed by one of Tencent’s Studios? Who have years of experiencing developing MOBAs which also do have good in-game communication systems.
There is nothing in the way of pings, and the short message options are somewhat useless. Hopefully this gets better in future updates, or they give us options to customise the Quick Chat options.
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to tell a teammate to dunk his points or set-up a Zapdos in ranked and not being able to actually communicate.
As mentioned earlier, in the way of monetisation it’s similar to other MOBA games. Just like League of Legends you can spend money on unlocking champions earlier, and skins/cosmetics.
The game also has a Battle Pass system. It also has a Rune system similar to League, known as Held Items. These items can also be upgraded using in-game currency or real-life money.
Before you jump to Pay-2-Win! It’s really not like that. Although the Held Items can be upgraded using premium gems, the game gives you more than enough tickets to upgrade them through just playing.
In about two days I was able to max out 2 out of the 3 Held Items I was using. The main part of the microtransactions lie with Pokemon Skins and Trainer customization.
I’d say this game overall has fair monetisation, I just wish it laid off with the amount of currencies. There are four? different currencies you can collect.
The game is also pretty generous right now in terms of Pokemon. They gave out Zeraora for free, and then several as part of the daily login rewards. It’s also easy to earn Aeos Coins to buy them.
In terms of controls and user interface, this game feels great. Controls aren’t confusing and feel really natural. The developers did a great job with Pokémon Unite. It probably helps they also worked on Arena of Valor.
There are also plenty of in-game settings to customize the controls to what suit you best. Whether you want to change button mapping, or even how the aiming works on your abilities.
The in-game main menu is also easy to navigate. It looks clean and you can also personalize it. It’s also fast and easy to join a lobby with you friends.
The game has both a lobby number system and in-game friend system. You can invite friends to join or just give out the lobby number!
Pokémon Unite looks gorgeous too, visually the map is well-designed. The game doesn’t feel like its cluttered and there’s too much going on. I’m curious to see how it looks on mobile.
The effects and animations are also hype worthy. Also, each Pokemon feels unique and distinct.
The game currently features a roster of 20 Pokemon, which are split into different categories. Such as Attacker (DPS), Defense (Tank), Speedster (Jungle), etc. You can check out the full list and categories here.
The cast of Pokemon they have so far are pretty diverse. They’re trying to aim for representation from all the generations.
They include some iconic and popular picks- Like Pikachu, Charizard, Greninja and Lucario. And then some also out in the field picks like Eldegoss, Talonflame, and Cramorant.
It’s nice that they didn’t just go with the most popular Pokemon from each generation. The devs have also confirmed Gardevoir and Blastioise for post-launch.
Whilst there isn’t as many abilities as League of Legends, each Pokemon has four different abilities you can choose from, and then you also get Battle Items (Summoner Spells) and Held Items (Runes) to personalize them.
Anyways, overall Pokémon Unite has left an amazing first impression (so far). I have high hopes that the game will stick around as long as the developers have good post-launch support.
No doubt the mobile release in a few months time will give it some good attention too. There’s nothing quite like it in the MOBA field and it’s great to have a more casual option.
There are a few downfalls, but it’s nothing the developers can’t work on. Like in-game communication options. Either way, it’s free-to-play so it doesn’t hurt trying! I’ll also do a more in-depth review in the future (when I’m not grinding ranked).
Pokemon Unite is free and available for download now on the Nintendo Switch! You can learn more about it over on their official website.