Pokémon Unite offers a great take on MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre. The game starts by explaining the concept of different roles act during the 5 vs 5 matches. The players are required to fill different gameplay positions to form a competitive team. All the playable characters are differentiated into different roles: defenders, attackers, supporters, speedsters, and all-rounders. Not only does the role selection introduce complexity, but the character selection is also colored by the different Pokémon’s. This creates a common challenge of the genre, as to have a chance at winning players can’t always choose their favorite roles and characters.
Different roles aside the gameplay itself is fairly simple. Teams collect points by beating wild Pokémon’s -or by stealing the opposing team’s points- and aim to score these points at the opponent’s score zones. Matches are short for a MOBA, but the light mechanics suit the 10-minute encounters well. Dying is not as punishing as it is in other games of the genre and the respawn times are short, so the action is almost non-stop!
MOBA -games emphasize communicating with your team and performing strategic moves to gain a footing over the opposing team. More traditional examples such as Dota 2 and League of Legends rely on voice and text chat with some quick chat commands. These tools allow effective communication, but also some negative nuances that can lead to your bad gaming experience becoming a horribly traumatizing one. Pokémon Unite differentiates itself from these games by not allowing anything but the use of premade quick chat commands. This leads to a surprisingly positive social atmosphere, -as there is zero screaming and cursing- but also limits the way the players are supposed to strategize with their team. Looking at the wide target audience of the game the communication tools provide a good fit that gives each match a positive ending whether your team wins or loses.
Success revolves around how well the individuals understand and fill their specific roles in the game. Matches go well as everyone usually has a good concept of what to do with each Pokemon. Even if there are some misunderstandings, the game mechanics are forgiving, and winning is possible if the team hits synergy at some point in a match. Unfortunately, Pokémon unite has some pay to win elements that offer the player ability to boost certain items’ stats, and by giving that item to a Pokemon it receives a small stat boost. Boosts as well as new playable characters can also be purchased with a currency that the player earns by completing matches. These elements can affect the balance between skillful teamwork and individual skill, but in my experience, notable encounters of someone’s massive credit card bill are usually in the form of aesthetic extras.
Pokémon Unite is a wonderful pickup and play MOBA. The bulletproof concept of short matches, limited communication tools, and known characters make it a nice breeze inside a highly competitive genre. Having clocked around 20-hours in I can recommend trying this free-to-play game to anyone interested in casual multiplayer fun on the Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: The Pokemon Company
Developer: TiMi Studio Group, The Pokemon Company
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (tested on), Android, iOS
Release Date: 21.07.2021 (Nintendo Switch)
Pictures: Screenshots from the game, taken by the author.
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