Pokémon Unite is finally playable in western regions and not only on the Asian market. The popular pocket monsters have received many spin-offs in the past. Now the time has finally come for a MOBA in which Pokémon compete against each other in teams. But Pokémon Unite does a lot differently than other genre representatives such as League of Legends, Dota, Heros of the Storm and Arena of Valor. Tencent Games, which were also involved in the development of Arena of Valor, laid the foundation for a successful MOBA concept with new creative ideas.
Basically, Pokémon Unite works like any other MOBA, but it does many things very differently than its genre counterparts. If you are a die-hard MOBA veteran, it will not be particularly difficult for you to get started, despite all the things that are unfamiliar. If you want to learn a few tips & tricks, you are welcome to drop by here.
There are three different game modes at launch: Ranked, Standard and Quick Matches. With the latter, you can expect three different cards for smaller teams and a few players. Standard and Ranked are both played in the same arena, Remoat Stadium, and two teams of five compete against each other. The map consists of two lanes and an area in between. This is known as a jungle. The teams’ point fields are distributed along the lanes – two per team in each lane and one in the base. That makes a total of five point fields per team. All fields except the one in the base dissolve when a certain point limit is reached. Only the first space on each lane can be used. Only when this disappears can you score in the next area.
The game is played in ten-minute matches. The team with the most points when the time runs out wins. As simple as it sounds, it actually is. Pokémon Unite is not even remotely as complex as other representatives of the genre and therefore extremely beginner-friendly. You get points by defeating wild Pokémon, thereby obtaining Eros balls and then converting them into points with a slam dunk in the goal zone. The more balls you have, the longer it will take for your Pokémon to lash out to throw. Of course, the opposing team also tries to score points, so you defend your goal zone and interrupt opposing players when they try to score points on their part. If you defeat a Pokémon of the opposing team in battle, you will receive part of its balls.
But let’s also talk about the cute pocket monsters. So far there are 20 of them that can be played. On the one hand, fan favorites such as Glurak or Knackrack and surprises such as Urgl are included – or their English-named copies, because German texts do not yet exist. There are no type weaknesses in Unite like in the games in the main series. So brush it out of your head to be able to defeat water Pokémon with your Pikachu without further ado. Instead, the Pokémon are divided into different classes in Unite.
The so-called Defenders are tanks that are designed to take as much as possible and throw opponents off balance. Attackers are the damage dealers. They just want to give in the face in the shortest possible time. But they lack the necessary defense and are easy prey for other Pokémon. That’s why it’s best to be on the road with a defender or supporter in a team. All-rounders, on the other hand, are very balanced Pokémon and have no real weaknesses. Hence, they are good 1v1 characters. Speedsters, on the other hand, are very nimble and, thanks to their speed, are particularly threatening for attackers. In addition, they are particularly good at dunking, meaning they can score points in the opposing zone, as they can then quickly run away. Supporters are there to support the team with buffs and healing.
The wild Pokémon also offer a lot of variety. From weak to legendary critters like Zapdos, everything is included. Depending on the strength of the wild Pokémon, the player gets more or fewer balls and experience when defeating. In addition to the Aeos balls, some defeated monsters also have special effects as a reward for the catcher. Especially the Zapdos, which appears in the middle of the arena when there are only two minutes left to play, is a real game changer. The team that defeats it can dunk without delay. As if that weren’t enough, you also get double points for dunking. Even rounds in which a team dominates can be torn around in the last minute.
So your goal is to get balls to score points for your team. At the same time you have to collect experience points in order to be ahead of the opponent in the level. Because with every level-up you get stronger and unlock new skills. In Unite, every Pokémon has two normal Skill slots and a particularly powerful Unite Move. Here, too, Pokémon Unite does a lot differently than its industry colleagues. Skills change dynamically as the game progresses. As in the main games, your Pokémon learns new attacks as you level up. You have the choice between two different variants per skill slot. In this way you can optimally adapt your skills to the situation during a round. For example, you can play a charizard with a fire fist or flamethrower and thus choose between long-range and close-range combat. Some Pokémon can evolve as they level up.
Will Free 2 Play and Pay 2 Win break the game?
In one respect, Unite is very similar to other MOBAs, namely in terms of the in-game shop. Here you can get all kinds of skins for Pokémon and outfits for trainers. There is already a battle pass. Some elements of the pass are also available to players who are not willing to pay, but of course you should be made to spend money. Pokémon, for example, have to be bought with real money or a huge amount of in-game currency. Wearable items can also be purchased in the shop. Your Pokémon can equip up to three of them for battle.
The in-game shop naturally causes a lot of controversial discussions among players. It takes an incredibly long time to get enough coins to buy a new Pokémon. Since you can get a maximum of almost 2000 coins a week just by playing, it takes a full five weeks to buy one of the more expensive Pokémon with effective grinding. This is extremely long and should motivate people to rather take the credit card out of mum’s wallet. At the moment you get some Pokémon for free through events and also a large pile of coins extra. But as soon as these initial events expire, frustration is in sight. In addition, the item system basically relies on Pay 2 Win, as you can simply buy upgrades with real money. The well-known Youtuber Cr1TiKaL showed what that does with the game shortly after the launch. With 100 dollars and the items he bought with it, he took on an entire opposing team in a field test alone.
Game freaks cuddly monsters make everything better
But can the overall package consisting of the combat system, the Pokémon and the innovative game design convince despite these nasty rip-off methods? Fortunately, yes, because Pokémon Unite plays great nonetheless. The short laps are exciting from start to finish. Other MOBAs have no time limit and thus stretch like chewing gum. In Unite, on the other hand, there is no frustration or boredom, because matches only last ten minutes. That’s why you can overlook it if you lose. The design of the Pokémon is also well done, even prettier than in the current games in the main series. The iconic pocket monsters sweeten the entertaining arena fights. In addition, the level-up system with the changing skills brings more playful depth to the genre than you might think. An item shop within the matches, as you know it from other MOBAs, does not exist and in turn gives the game a pleasant simplicity.
So Unite remains beginner-friendly despite interesting gameplay ideas and shifts the focus to the fights. And they also put you in a good mood. On a technical level, you can’t complain. The game runs mostly smoothly on the Switch and stuttering is a real rarity. The soundtrack is typical of Pokémon, matches the action and conveys the right mood. The only really big point of criticism is the very invasive Free2Play model, but it has it all. It remains to be seen whether Pokémon Unite will continue to develop into what it already is in a certain way – namely a Pay2Win title – or whether the game will continue to make it possible to access the necessary materials through events in the future come to unlock new Pokémon and to upgrade the wearable items.
Pokémon Unite is currently only available for the Nintendo Switch, and implementation for mobile will follow in the foreseeable future.
Pokémon Unite: The slightly different MOBA in the test (3) [Quelle: PCGames]
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