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Community Review - Pokémon Unite

Written by Adam Williams

Pokemon Unite is a fast paced MOBA which focuses mainly on teams of up to five working together to level up their pokemon, collect Aeos energy from battling then catching wild pokemon and eventually scoring the energy in the enemy zones. Enemy zones have a limit of energy on them except for the one right by the enemy base so aim to destroy those zones to have an advantage over the opposing team.The team that has scored the most Aeos energy by the end of the 10 minute timer wins. 

 

Neonulqui - Veteran Rank Player

I have never usually been a fan of MOBA games, except for SMITE, however the moment I saw a Pokémon one coming to the Nintendo Switch, I knew I wanted to at least give it a go. Now I have sunk in many hours into it playing all three modes:  ranked, standard and quick battle.

Pokémon Unite is what I would describe as child’s first MOBA. It’s a lot simpler than others out there and has fewer things to focus on, however it allows the games to not overrun for too long and makes games fast paced. The game is offering constant balancing updates and, with the major survey done, I can see it having community feedback taken into account in the future.

One of the biggest scares the game has is the “pay to win” mechanics that use actual money to increase all your items to max level. As much as this almost put me off, I have not encountered any players in my games that made me feel like they have done this or that I was at a disadvantage. If you own the battle pass getting your items to level 20 happens at a reasonable pace and I would recommend playing the game with the pass.

Playing with friends in UNITE can be incredibly fun. I have stacked with team mates and being able to communicate efficiently and having tactics play off feels very rewarding. My favourite picks in the game so far are Cinderace, Snorlax and Zeraora!

 

NGSMark- Great Rank Player

As someone who was initially not too bothered about Unite as a game, once it released, I have been hooked ever since. I am regularly using Talonflame, Alolan Ninetales and Crustle, gotta love the Shell Smash and X-Scissor combo! I prefer to play Quick Battle, mainly for the speed of matches but also because there's map variety. Ranked and standard currently only have the one map, and it gets a bit stale after a while so hopefully more variety will come in the future!

Sabrewoif- Master Rank Player

I love that the game is quick and dynamic, games don’t drag on very long and it’s easy to jump in and have a good time. There are some balancing issues but that’s a MOBA staple at this point, and hopefully the development team will keep a close eye on the game and how it plays. My biggest personal change I’d consider is reworking how the double points scoring works because I feel that Zapdos’ mechanics make things too swingy at the final stages of the game. Though comeback factors and accessibility is the primary focus, it’s perhaps a bit much at times. It can feel like it completely invalidates the first 8 minutes of the game – particularly when teams aren’t as coordinated

The game has amazing potential however, and I’m excited to see how it and it’s meta develops with the addition of more Pokémon over time. The game is named very fittingly, you get the most from Unite when you have a united team to communicate with properly. That’s perhaps the game’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. That’s not to say the solo experience is bad per-se, but it just doesn’t stack up to being united with a team.

Im2fluxxed- Master Rank Player

I am a recently promoted master player and this is my take. The game has a good starting base; some tweaks, and it could be even better. I will probably explain my suggestions in more detail than the good, despite that, I think the game is good. However, improvements should always be justified in as much detail as possible. So without further ado, let's jump in.

To start with the good, the time limit is extremely friendly in that you can manage your time effectively. If you only have 15 minutes, you can play a game. UNITE also doesn’t have the issue of other MOBA games where you spend 20-30 minutes killing neutral monsters for exp and gold to then join a couple of fights and then the game ends. Having played League of Legends since the beginning of season 2, this put me off playing ranked games since it was so mentally draining to play more than a couple of games, especially if the games take too long (since there’s no time limit, the games can be upwards of an hour). In UNITE, that time could be spent on 5 or 6 games. Since each game is 10 minutes, there is very little downtime, especially in higher rank games and games are constantly about fighting for objectives all around the map.

Another good thing about UNITE is its ease of entry. The game is simplistic, yet complex at the same time. You go around, capturing neutral Pokémon before the other team does, so that you build up an advantage, and score your points in the opposition goals. However, the game is so much more than that. Knowing when to go for neutral Pokémon, when to contest neutral Pokémon, when to fight for objectives are all staples in the MOBA genre and UNITE does this very well. Having set timings for each spawn allows teams to set up for the neutral Pokémon and objectives. This makes the game user friendly since you always have the same timings to go for. This also makes it easier for the most practiced teams since each game’s objective timings are the same (outside of capturing Rotom or Drednaw, but these spawn at set times after capture, so teams can set up for the next one with a fixed timing). So, in short, the game is fun and easy to pick up and play, but it also has its complexities.

However, there are definitely some balance issues that should be looked at in terms of both general gameplay, and Pokémon viability. The 2x scoring at 2 minutes needs to be removed. This has swung a large quantity of games I have played in combination with capturing Zapdos. If all 5 members of a team are alive after capturing Zapdos, that team can very easily score 400-500 points, swinging the game based off whoever got the last hit on one objective. It doesn’t matter if you have been losing all game, one good fight is all it takes to win a game. Those wins (and losses) don’t feel deserved, and the game feels way too focused on the final 2 minutes, making all the previous 8 minutes a non-factor. If a team is losing by over 350 points before Zapdos, they haven’t played well enough to win the game in my opinion. Once the enemy team captures Zapdos, most games in high ranks end with a surrender. This needs fixing.

When more Pokémon are added to the roster, draft mode with a pick and ban phase should absolutely be considered since this is a vital part of team strategy, especially in a competitive setting. Having only 1 team be able to pick strong picks right now such as Zeraora, Gengar, Snorlax, Cinderace, Eldegoss will see more variety in Pokémon selection, making the meta healthier. Ideally, at least another Pokémon of each role should be added (besides those which have already been announced as of 30/07).

A final note is about the “pay to win” aspect of the game, where item enhancers can be bought to upgrade items that give stats to your Pokémon. It definitely exists, and to pretend it doesn’t is missing the point. The fact you can spend gems on item enhancers at a 1:1 rate is poor planning, since people can get to high ranks, just based on the stats their items give them and not through skill. This can make the matchmaking a bit unbalanced in both directions. That being said, it is absolutely possible to reach master rank without having level 30 items (my max level item is 20). Level 20 seems to be the sweet spot that free to play players and those unwilling to spend money on enhancers will go, since you get the fully upgraded passive and you only lose 33% of the possible stats that you get through upgrading the item. Therefore, it's not as bad as some people on the internet have made it out to be. Noticeable, yes. Game-breaking, no. Despite that, the pay to win part of the game and the caps on both energy and coin gain per week will inevitably make some people quit the game because the progression is too slow. Removing the caps and lowering the number of enhancers required for levelling up will prevent some of these people from leaving. A MOBA is dependent on its player base; if there’s barely anyone playing anymore, there’s little revenue coming in.

In summary, the game is a good entry-level game in the MOBA genre that has the potential to be an exciting game to both play and watch. However, it is not there yet. Given time and regular updates, this could change.