Pokémon Unite is a free-to-play MOBA game developed by TiMi Studios, the company behind Call of Duty Mobile. We were very curious when Nintendo announced Pokémon Unite, frankly we did not think we would have a good time with a Pokémon MOBA game, there are already established great MOBAs like League of Legends, DOTA 2. How can a Pokémon MOBA game compete with the likes of these?
Last week we installed Pokémon Unite on our Nintendo Switch, mostly out of curiosity. Surprisingly, we found ourselves having a really good time with this game.
The Aeos Island
The Aeos Island is basically the Summoner’s Rift for Pokémon Unite. The island consists of three lanes: top, center, bot. Players are divided into two teams, consisting of five Pokémon each team. The goal of each game is to defeat Pokémon from the opposing teams, collect their Aeos energy and use them to destroy the opposing team’s goal points. Each match is 10 minutes long and at the end of the 10 minutes the team with the most points win the game. It is pretty straightforward and simple, and if you are someone who’s familiar with MOBA games this should be a breeze. And if you are not, then this is a great start.
The playable Pokémon have various classes, for instance Charizard is an all-rounder, melee class Pokémon who can do a good amount of damage 1 v 1 and AOE in team fights. While Snorlax is a tanky Pokémon who is useful in team fights and can soak in a good amount of damage and shield teammates from incoming attacks. This is all pretty standard stuff with MOBAs but one thing that Pokémon Unite does is that as you progress throughout the battle your Pokémon will evolve and learn moves. It’s pretty fun.
What we love about Unite is that each game is 10 minutes long, not too long but still very enjoyable nonetheless.
The Looks and the Price
Pokémon Unite has a lot of character customization options. There are many options for you to change the clothing of your character and also a lot of cosmetics for your Pokémon. This is not something we really mind and it can be fun unlocking these different kinds of cosmetic items by playing the game and leveling up your character. And then comes the in-game microtransactions. Also, are actually five different types of currency available in this game, currency such as Aeos Coins, Tickets and Fashion Tickets can be earned by grinding. Then comes the premium currency Aeos Gems, these can only be purchased by using real money. It gets even worse, even if you are heavily grinding on the free currency, like other free-to-play games there is a limit to how much you can do this meanwhile spending Aoes Gems is more incentivized.
Unlike other MOBA games like League of Legends where the items are purchased in battle using the currency you make from farming each battle, Pokémon Unite has a feature where each Pokémon can hold a certain item that can buff various stats. These items can be leveled up using things called Item Enhancers. So the higher level the Held Item is, the stronger that Pokémon is going to be in battle. Players who spend real money to buy these items through Battle Passes will have a significant advantage over the players who are grinding the free in game currency to level up these items and these players will take significantly more time to level up these items compared to the players who are spending real money to get them. This honestly really ruins the game for us, it is one thing to have cosmetics items that can be obtained by spending real money. But a pay to win mechanic in a MOBA game? That is honestly a deal breaker.
The thing about Pokémon Unite is that even though it is a very enjoyable game there are some issues. For starters sometimes there are noticeable frame rate drops, and this will cost you if it happens in mid battle. Another time the game completely crashed on us, luckily this did not happen in the middle of a game, even though it happened just once, we felt like it is worth mentioning.
One other issue we have with the game is that it is quite difficult to communicate with your team members. There is an overlay that allows you to send out certain commands like “withdraw” and “defend” but options such as surrender and voting are hidden behind unnecessarily difficult button combinations with no HUD indication. These issues could prevent your team from performing their best since communication really is the key to winning some of these games. But since Pokémon Unite just came out we can expect more feature updates and improvements to the game down the road. Unite is also getting a release on mobile devices this September.
We had a good time with Pokémon Unite. However, there are some hard to ignore issues with the game such as framerate drops and the almost non-existent communication system. The pay to win mechanics in the game is also one of the reasons why we cannot recommend this game as of now.