Since the first release of Pokémon Red and Blue for the Game Boy, the Pokémon Company has consistently tried to bring its successful RPG monster collecting game through many different iterations, genres, and applications. Pokémon has made forays into genres such as digital / physical card games, the Mystery Dungeon series, and ventured into the life of what non-trainers do in a world with Ranger titles. We’ve even seen Pokémon interactions come to life with Pokéwalker and Pokémon Go’s augmented reality mechanics. This time with Pokémon Unite, Pokémon has joined the multiplayer online battle arena genre, better known as “MOBA”.
Pokémon Unite requires a smooth learning curve with no prior knowledge of MOBAs. From the start, the game teaches all the basic mechanics with the help of the prolific electric mouse Pikachu. However, despite the easy-to-understand tutorials, the game lacks more important clues, such as an explanation of the unprotected gate areas; these are goals that players can score immediately by holding down the button.
Unite follows a 5v5 online format – when there are 10 players connected to the game, each player chooses their Pokémon before the match. On the default Unite map, Remoat Stadium, 10-minute matches are split into three paths – top, bottom, and center. Both teams try to level up, gain experience, progress by battling wild Pokémon, and eventually engage in combat with enemy Pokémon in order to gain control of the map, as well as score points in each of the opposing targets that can be found on the top and bottom paths. The central path is mainly for dealing with wild Pokémon and Zapdos, with two minutes left in the match to score huge points.
Players need to constantly make decisions about approaching the goal. Is it better to score a few points quickly and then escape to safety, or score more points at the risk of being attacked by the enemy to thwart attempts?
If we talk about the starting lineup, then initially it is a maximum of 20 Pokémon, and in the future there will be even more. The game is relatively generous to the characters from the outset, as daily logins and missions allow you to accumulate Aeos Coins, an in-game currency that can be used to purchase certain Pokémon.
Each Pokémon is divided into two groups according to the main attacks: melee and ranged. Melee Pokémon like Machamp have high base health, incredible attack and can take more damage to explode up close, while ranged Pokémon like Sinderas are glass cannons with low base health but can deal great damage at a distance. You can also divide them into five groups. High mobility speeders, attackers that deal massive damage from a distance, defenders to protect teammates, supporters who heal or provide crowd control, and generalists who can outperform both at close and long range. There are definitely Pokémon for every type of player. Choose Pikachu and shock from the side by increasing the damage with the Electro Ball, or Zeraoru to hit enemies with a surprise attack and then escape with the Volt Switch?
Some Pokémon can use empowered attacks that have a cooldown; they have various special effects. In addition, there are special attacks; they are learned throughout the match upon reaching certain levels when the player chooses a special attack to start the match. The choice of these moves matches the player’s own style of play between the preset options, so it is possible to adapt to your own approach to battles.
To return to your goals in battle, defeating both wild and enemy Pokémon grants Aeos energy, which depends on the value of the knocked out Pokémon. Pokémon like Starter Lillipup and Aipom give you two points each, but tougher Pokémon like Wild Audino give you five Aeos Energy points. You need this Aeos energy to score points at the enemy’s goal, so it’s not just trying to rush straight to the target. Additionally, defeating powerful Wild Pokémon like Dreadno, Roth, and Zapdos will give the whole team various buffs and benefits – collaborating with teammates is vital.
As for the modes, the rating game opens at the 6th level of the trainer with several conditions, but the main obstacle is obtaining five “licenses”. The game does give some licenses in the first few days of play, but for free players, they can actually reach coach level 10 before being able to play ranked games. Ranked play continues throughout the season and players will receive rewards at the end of the season based on their ranks. Ranked games can be played with friends if the ranks are close enough for the game to consider it acceptable. The actual matches are 10 minutes long and the points are doubled in the last two minutes, which encourages players to return and discourages teams from giving up too early.
Quick Matches are opened at Coach Level 9. Quick Matches are five-minute matches that alternate between three different cards. Three quick maps: Shivre City, a cold, snow-covered 4v4 map; Auroma Park, a luscious 3v3 green card; Finally, Mer Stadium is similar to the standard Remoat Stadium 5 vs. 5 in rating / Standard, except that the region is smaller, allowing four players on each team. With a 5 minute duration, Quick Match gives Pokémon faster opportunities to level up and progress.
Leveling up is, unsurprisingly, the main focus. When Pokémon reach a certain level, they unlock Unite Move, which is extremely powerful. Evolution is also at the forefront of gameplay, which is another key to learning more powerful moves. Striving for the fastest possible development will tip the scales in favor of Pokémon when they fight opponents at an earlier stage of evolution. There are other aspects as well, such as hiding in the bushes in the classic Pokémon style and trying to teleport to safety. There are many strategies to master.
As you would expect from a genre, there are various factors designed to give you an edge. Held items can be obtained for a boost, but they also represent the beginning of some of Unite’s problems. Firstly, the game does not explain the advantages of various items well, so as a result, you can spend in-game currency in the form of coins and Aeos tickets. These items can also be upgraded and upgraded with Enhancers, which you can earn in daily or weekend missions. While you can earn key boosts for your time, balancing becomes as much of a challenge as – unsurprisingly in a free game – you can spend real money on gems or a Battle Pass to gain an edge and level up those items faster.
The benefits of a faster leveling up will certainly add to the pay-to-win process. It’s a shame that there is such a big gap between free and paid players. Players could spend hours working on upgrading a single held item to level 10 or 15 – or spend $ 100 from the start buying item boosters to make the most of multiple held items along with the purchase of characters. Of course, there is a danger that online competition will become extremely difficult for those trying to level up naturally without paying real money for a raise.
The Inevitable Battle Pass grants cosmetics, additional item boosters for stored items, and Aeos tickets that can be exchanged for useful items. This is the nature of the free-to-play model, but it seems that the game constantly forces players to spend money in different ways, fearing otherwise missing out on the optimal experience.
Your experience – especially in terms of free play – will likely vary; especially when you face increasingly powerful opponents online. Another notable drawback, especially for team play, is that Unite lacks ways to communicate with the team outside of the preset indicators, which can cause problems due to multiple notifications firing at the same time. The screen can get bogged down and it can be difficult to determine the tasks. Sometimes visually analyzing information becomes problematic, and this limited ability to communicate with teammates exacerbates the problem. If you play with friends, you can of course use a different chat service, but again, this is not a perfect solution.