Pokémon Unite! – The Latest Pokémon Game

Table of Contents

Pokémon Unite has recently launched on Nintendo Switch – a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena game (“MOBA”). I wasn’t aware of the release till my friend told me to download and play together after work. Apparently this game was first announced in a Pokémon Presents presentation last year on 24 June 2020.

Pokémon Unite

MOBA games are not something new. You’ve probably heard of popular PC MOBA game titles such as League of Legends, Dota 2, etc.; or mobile MOBA games such as Mobile Legends, League of Legends: Wild Rift, etc. A Pokémon MOBA would have been great if it were launched earlier, but still, better late than never.

MOBA is a subgenre of strategy video games in which two teams of players compete against each other on a predefined battlefield. Each player controls a single character with a set of distinctive abilities that improves over the course of a game and which contribute to the team’s overall strategy.
Wikipedia – Multiplayer online battle arena

Pokémon is a brand that has a long history. It is now a household name for gaming for both younger and older generations alike. If you’ve played any of their games before, you know that their games always come with a story. Ever since the first Pokémon games were released – Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green on 27 Feb 1996 on the Nintendo’s Game Boy; you know you’re in for an adventure that will take you on a journey to discover new Pokémons with Pikachu, Charizard, Squirtle and friends.

So when my friend told me about the game, naturally, I was eager to try it out.

Pokémon Unite Verdict: Not really the slam dunk I expected

ProsCons
✓ Unique scoring system
✓ Easy to learn
✓ Nice combat gameplay
✓ Short game rounds
✘ Complicated and oppressive micro transactions
✘ Limited communication
✘ Lag issues
✘ UI that I wished were included

Pokémon Unite is set on Aeos Island. Professor Phorus is investigating the area and informs us that the area contains high concentrations of Aeos energy. All Pokémons living within the island possess a small amount of Aeos energy, which can be harvested by knocking them unconscious in a battle. Thus, Pokémon Unite was born! It’s a tangent from their usual structure of capturing Pokémon companions and travelling through regions to tackle gym challengers and battle antagonist NPCs.

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Unlike complicated titles like Mobile Legends or Dota 2, Pokémon Unite is more manageable and easier to learn for beginners to MOBA. It’s light, fun and gives players new journeys with their favourite pocket monsters. Here’s why.

Why I like Pokémon Unite

✓ Unique Scoring System

Unlike the other MOBA games in the market, the scoring system is pretty unique. I have never seen such a scoring system. It’s a mix of brawling and basketball. You dunk Aeos (balls) into opposing goals to score points. The most points wins!

Pokémon Unite - Dunking a Goal
Dunking a goal!

How do you collect Aeos? You collect them by taking out neutral creeps and enemy players (who drop some of their Aeos on hand). If you get knocked out, or your entire team gets knocked out in a team fight, you’d be sure that the opponent will capitalise on that and dunk the Aeos in your goal since you are defenceless. So like any MOBA, staying alive is paramount.

✓ Easy to learn – A battle for all ages

Is it hard to learn? Not really. The basics were pretty easy to grasp. The tutorials were surprisingly easy to go through. They managed to teach the basics rather quickly and concisely, without forcing you into too much tedium. The tutorial basically covered the basic combat moves and scoring system.

Pokémon can spam basic attacks with “A”, and as your Pokémon levels up and evolve, they will learn better skills, of which you can use to better manage your opponents.

Each Pokémon has their own unique strength, be it a tank like Snorlax or speeders like Gengar chasing down for kills and stealthy goals. This is like any MOBA games out there where you have roaster choices for the roles of attacker, defender, supporter, speedster and all-rounder.

There’s also enough room for players to come out with their own strategies, whether is it best to lane or farm neutral camps. The team fights can get frustrating at times, but still it’s fun when you team up and defeat the opponents together.

✓ Nice combat gameplay

The graphics are pretty decent. And as you level up, your Pokémon evolves. So for example, if you pick Charmander as your character, as you gain experience and level up, you will see your character grows and evolves into Charmeleon and ultimately to Charizard. The studio has nailed the fantasy of each Pokémon fan.

Pokémon Unite - Fighting Creeps
Slowbro farming some creeps (Audino) with Machamp

✓ Short game rounds

One thing great about Pokémon Unite is that a game doesn’t take up a chunk of your time. Ranked matches (5 vs 5) are set at 10 minutes per game, and quick matches (3 vs 3 or 4 vs 4) are 5 minutes per game. So a bad game doesn’t ruin your entire day.

I also like the option where you can surrender (didn’t know till about 10+ games later), when you are being dominated by your opponent and can’t leave your base. It can cut down your frustration of a really bad game.

Things that I wished Pokémon Unite did better

✘ Complicated and oppressive micro transactions

Unfortunately, the game has to be able to monetise to sustain it. And it can get rather complicated. They have 5 types of currencies! And the game has been structured in a way that the more you spend (actual money), the better your chances are to win.

In the beginning your journey in Pokémon Unite, you are offered one Pokémon from a small selection of beginner Pokémon (similar to the start of every Pokémon journey). Subsequent Pokémon (or rather Unite Licences) can be unlocked by grinding the coins through daily login bonuses, levelling-up your character, completing missions and events, or you could, of course buy them straightaway through cold hard micro-transactions.

The five kinds of currencies in Pokémon Unite:

CurrencyHow to Obtain Them
(1) Aeos Coin
Complete battles and reward for completing Missions, Events and Battle Pass targets.
(2) Aeos Ticket
Pokémon Unite - Aeos Ticket
Reward for completing Missions, Events, and Battle Pass targets.
(3) Fashion Ticket
Pokémon Unite - Fashion Ticket
Reward for completing Missions, Events, and Battle Pass targets.
(4) Holowear Ticket
Pokémon Unite - Holowear Ticket
Reward for completing Missions, Events, and Battle Pass targets.
(5) Gems (paid currency)
Pokémon Unite - Gem
Purchase with money.

There are three shops that you can spend your currency on:

ShopCurrencyItems for Sale
(1) Unite Battle CommitteeAeos Coins / GemsUnite Licenses for various Pokémon in Unite Battles.
(2) Aeos EmporiumAeos Coins / Aeos Tickets / Fashion Tickets / GemsThree different products are sold here:
(1) Fashion items (Aeos Tickets / Gems)
(2) Items used in battle (that boost your Pokémon stats), item enhancers, items to temporarily boost your Battle Points / Aeons Coins earned from playing matches (Aeos Coins / Aeos Tickets / Gems)
(3) Fashion items (Fashion Tickets)
(3) Zirco TradingHolowear Tickets / GemsHolowear (Holowear tickets / Gems)

As you can see above, your Pokémon can equip up to 3 items that can boost your Pokémon stats. And these items can be upgraded as well by using Item Enhancers, which can be bought at the store for 10 Aeos tickets (complicated, uh?). That brings us to the question whether the difference in the items are really that large?

Pokémon Unite - Held Items
Pokémon can equip up to 3 items that boosts your Pokémon stats

Take these three items – Rocky Helmet, Leftovers and Buddy Barrier – all booster items to your HP.

At Level 1, they grant: 20 + 18 + 16 = 54 health
At Level 10, they grant: 200 + 90 + 80 = 370 health
At Level 20, they grant: 400 + 180 + 160 = 740 health
At Level 30, they grant: 600 + 270 + 240 = 1080 health

This is completely ignoring their passive effects and secondary stats by the way. So the difference in reality is significantly more drastic. So if you pay for upgrades, you’d definitely have an inherent advantage and makes winning easier as compared to someone who doesn’t pay for upgrades.

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Having a mechanism that favours people who pay over others is not excusable. It makes the gameplay less about having fun and more about completing missions for currency. A lot of free-to-play games in the market, like Fortnite and Call of Duty focus only on cosmetic-only micro-transactions, and yet they are still successful. Pokémon Unite should take a cue from them to give the same experience for those who do pay and don’t.

✘ Limited communication

Communication in-game is pretty limited. All you have is a small variety of pre-set phrases that you can use to communicate with others. When you’re in the heat of battle it’s pretty hard to actually use the chat function.

There’s voice chat in-game, but only when you attach a Switch-compatible headset.

✘ Lag issues

I’m not whether there are server limitations from Nintendo’s end, or it was my internet, but during certain times of the day, the game play can get pretty laggy.

Pokémon Unite - Loading Screen
Pokémon Unite – Loading Screen (Quick Match – 4 vs 4)

Furthermore, I’ve experienced menu lag when selecting a Pokémon before a match, and also clicking to see the respective players’ avatar card when the ranked game loads.

UI that I wished were included

One this that is odd about this game is that there’s no way to see what the actual game score is, other than the few automated messages throughout the game to tell you whether your team is winning or losing. I guess it’s a good way to keep people in the game, especially when your team is being dominated by your opponents.

I also wish there are more transparent with the damage output, as well as actual amount of skill damage.

Overall

It’s a refreshing and fun experience. But due to the oppressive micro-transactions, it has made this game a little more difficult to recommend. Nonetheless, Pokémon Unite is a quick and free-to-play game, that all Pokémon fans can enjoy.

Release date: July 21, 2021
No. of players: Up to 10 players
Category: MOBA
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Developer: TiMi Studios, Tencent
Cost: Free (*with micro-transactions)

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