Truth be told, the Pokémon franchise has always been known for its unique and easy-to-digest approach to the role-playing genre. Players have been accustomed to the tried-and-tested adventure mechanic and turn-based battles the series has presented for more than two decades.
MOBA games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, on the other hand, are complex and daunting especially for newcomers of the genre. While there’s no denying how thrilling it is to fight against a team of five heroes in an epic smash, MOBA titles often require certain skills such as multitasking, macro awareness, and team synergy.
Thankfully, Pokémon Unite, the franchise’s first foray into the MOBA genre, strips away all the complexity of a MOBA title to showcase a game that can be played by virtually anyone, newbies and veterans alike.
Pokémon Unite is a 5v5 battler that leverages elements from MOBA titles such as League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm, but in a streamlined manner. Two teams of trainers will pick and deploy one Pokemon each during the match. Trainers may equip their respective Pokemon with battle items (e.g. potions, full heal items) and held items (e.g. rocky helmet, muscle band) to bolster their strength and bring advantage to their teams. Each match lasts for 10 minutes, with the ultimate objective of destroying the opposing team’s goal posts.
What’s interesting about the game is that it puts a unique spin to the MOBA genre’s tower mechanic. Instead of breaking off turrets one hit at a time, players will control their Pokémon to gather points dubbed as Aeos Energy and dunk at the goal posts, Space Jam-style. Players may acquire Aeos Energy by defeating enemy Pokemon and wild critters across the map.
Pokémon are divided into several categories: Attackers for ranged types, All-Rounders for balanced fighters, Defenders for tanks, Speedster for assassins, and Support for healer and debuff types. Each Pokemon has two basic skills and an ultimate attack dubbed as Unite Move. Unite Moves are reminiscent of Z-Attacks from Pokémon Sun and Moon and provide excellent offensive or defensive abilities on the battlefield.
The game also features special Pokémon sprawled across the battlefield. Defeating Bouffants will give Pokémon an orange buff, which allows players to slow down enemy Pokemon. Drednaw beatdowns provide the entire team a defensive buff, while snuffing Ludicolo rewards players with an increase in damage output. Rotom is a special Pokémon that functions similarly to LoL’s Rift Scuttler. Defeating Rotoms will charge enemy goals briefly, leaving them vulnerable for instant scores. Lastly, Zapdos is the strongest special Pokémon in the map and spawns near the end of every match. Beating Zapdos will give players huge amounts of Aeos Energy and will allow them to score instantly for 30 seconds.
Almost every Pokémon evolves as a match progresses. This introduces new moves your Pokémon can learn, slightly changing how they play. Each Pokémon starts with two basic moves that can be transformed into new moves as they level up. The moves also grow stronger in the late game, allowing players to deal significant damage.
Of course, a MOBA title wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of an aesthetic system into the game. Pokémon Unite provides players with plenty of options to customize not just their critters’ skins, but also their in-game clothing. The game’s character creation screen will enable players to choose how their trainer avatars will appear, from their hairstyle down to their skin tone. Players may also earn coins and tickets every game to purchase clothing such as shirts, jackets, pants, shorts, and even shoes.
There is also an option for players to top up to purchase exclusive skins for their Pokémon. As of writing, skins are limited only to a number of Pokémon, including Pikachu, Cinderace, and Snorlax.
To wrap it up, Pokémon Unite is an excellent addition to the Pokémon franchise and a refreshing title for both old fans and newcomers. The game managed to take every MOBA game trope and twist them into something new and fun. The MOBA genre fits the Pokémon franchise very well, and as more Pokémon are introduced, the metagame will likely continue to evolve and may introduce more fun opportunities to strategize.
Pokémon Unite is now available for free via the Nintendo eShop, with an upcoming smartphone release later in September.
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