Pokemon fans have already had lots of intense emotions when it comes to Pokemon Unite but now they actually get the chance to play the game.
The Pokemon MOBA created by the parent company of League of Legends has officially launched on the Nintendo eShop and it looks to be as good as fans could’ve hoped. At least, for the most part.
Pokemon Unite’s core gameplay experience is generally strong but has a few annoying factors that detract from the experience. And for better or worse, it also has a very similar monetization system to its sister MOBA, LoL.
The actual gameplay of Pokemon Unite is very solid. The game features the five-on-five arena format of Dota 2 and LoL but instead of knocking over towers it has teams competing to capture as many Pokemon as possible within the time limit.
Wild Pokemon roam around the map and are worth varying numbers of points. Players can defeat the Pokemon, collect the points, and bring them into an enemy-controlled “goal” area in order to secure them. If a player is defeated by an enemy player or wild Pokemon before they secure the points, the enemy team can steal them.
This Electric-type Mythical Pokémon is fast as lightning, catching opponents and dealing massive damage in the blink of an eye.
— Pokémon UNITE (@PokemonUnite) July 15, 2021
As with any other MOBA, the learning curve for Pokemon Unite is steep. There are many Pokemon to choose from, each of which has a unique moveset that players can change as the game progresses and items that can be equipped in the pre-game menus with various effects.
Each Pokemon has a basic attack, two special attacks, and the ultimate “Unite Move.” Special attacks are replaced with stronger moves as the game progresses. For example, Slowpoke starts with Water Gun at level one. At level four, Water Gun can be upgraded into either the long-range AOE attack Scald or Surf, which lets the Pokemon ride a wave forward that deals damage and makes it more mobile. Knowing how to level up one’s own Pokemon is a challenge unto itself, never mind knowing how to best approach an entire enemy team.
The Held Item system allows Pokémon to improve their stats in a Unite Battle! With the ability to hold up to three held items, you can create combinations that complement your playstyle and strengths! #PokemonUNITE pic.twitter.com/FcBRkFgl8k
— Pokémon UNITE (@PokemonUnite) July 19, 2021
Nintendo Switch players will be happy to know that Pokemon Unite runs very smoothly for the most part. The actual game runs smoothly with a steady 60 frames per second. For whatever reason, the menus are where the game struggles the most with noticeable input delay and even issues where the screen will flash black when choosing different Pokemon. Odds are that this will be sorted out in the coming days with patches, but it’s still frustrating.
Controls are fairly intuitive but there is a bit of awkwardness when it comes to aiming attacks and knowing which targets will be fired upon when there is more than one within range. Though this isn’t a bug or UI issue, players’ movement speed is effectively halved in the “lane” area of the enemy half of the map. This is amazingly frustrating and while it was likely done for balance issues, it’s something that needs to be thrown out as soon as possible for sanity’s sake.
Pokemon Unite is made by League of Legends’ parent company and that’s most obvious when looking at how the game is monetized. The character and cosmetic unlocking system is effectively a streamlined version of the one seen in the leading game in the genre. Meanwhile, Dota 2 players will be left frustrated by the various hoops that need to be jumped through to play as new Pokemon.
There is a long list of currencies in Pokemon Unite. The most commonly used ones are Aeos coins are obtained by playing the game and completing missions. Aeos Gems are purchased with cash. There are also Aeos Tickets that can be obtained by playing and Holowear Tickets that need to be purchased.
Each currency can be used to obtain different types of items, including new playable Pokemon, cosmetic items for both Pokemon and the player character, and held items that have different effects in battle.
Players are able to obtain some of these currencies and a wide variety of other rewards through daily, weekly, seasonal, and event-based challenges.
Pokemon Unite is definitely worth trying for essentially anyone. Pokemon Unite offers a strong entry point to the MOBA genre for those who were intimidated by League of Legends and Dota 2. It’s also a fun, new take on the series that is worth exploring.
The game is free to play and doesn’t require much space on the Nintendo Switch, so the stakes are very low if someone doesn’t like it. Though the sheer number of microtransaction options is off-putting, the core gameplay is strong enough to make up for it.
Whether Pokemon Unite becomes a jaunt over a few hours or a daily affair will vary from player to player. There’s no reason not to try this one out, though.