to everyone’s surprise, the Pokmon license decided to enter the MOBA genre with Pokmon Unite. What can we expect from this free-to-play? Here is our verdict after playing it on Nintendo Switch.
No, the first game in the “Game as a Service” (GaaS) model of the Pokmon license on Nintendo Switch will not have been an MMO but, against all expectations, a MOBA. Pokmon Unite released on July 21 for the Nintendo Switch. In free-to-play, there is exceptionally no need to have the Nintendo Online subscription to play it, which makes it particularly accessible. The objective: to offer fans of the Pokmon license a new game on which collect little creatures, on a more competitive playing background than the main titles.
The most accessible MOBA ever
To play it, it’s very simple: just download it from the eShop, choose the appearance of your trainer after a nice introductory cinematic, then launch a tutorial that presents the basics of MOBA in a few minutes. The menu is a bit confusing at first, with notifications and rewards on almost every tab, like in a mobile game.
By entering a classic game, in 5v5 in an arena, the game takes us to the usual phase of selecting characters and their equipment. It is possible to change two items with special effects, a permanent and a consumable, as well as the two basic attacks of the Pokmon. Some rudimentary dialogues allow to say on which line each one wants to play, by following the advice of the system according to the chosen Pokmon and the needs to obtain a balanced composition.
Classic mode arena features 2 lanes and a jungle, with goals that take the place of turrets on the lanes. Each game lasts 10 minutes, during which you have to score as many points as possible in the goals of the map, or until the team surrenders. To get points, you have to eliminate enemies, whether they are opponents or wild Pokmon from the jungle. The characters are easy to play, since they only have two different basic attacks, as well as an auto and an ultimate. In short, no need to know the MOBA genre to get by.
In terms of graphics and performance, Pokmon Unite is well illustrated, especially considering its free-to-play model. There are certainly some problems with fluidity in the menus, but otherwise, it remains very beautiful. It can run at 60fps, without consuming the Switch’s battery. The online part is also functional; no server lag issues, no overload or long queues.
Gameplay-wise, the jungle might lose the uninitiated of the MOBA genre, but its Pokmon aren’t difficult to take down. The battle for the last hit sometimes creates intense moments in part, as for a Zapdos or Rotom which offer essential bonuses. At the end of the game, the elimination of a Zapdos for a scoring can alone change the outcome of the match because the points count double during the last 2 minutes. So there is an interesting comeback potential.
Otherwise, unless you are in the jungle, the game may have a few lengths. As on a lane, you can spend several minutes having to stay in your goal to prevent enemies from scoring, which is also almost impossible when they store few points: the fewer points to score, the less the animation. is long. The jungle is the most fun position since you can go to any lane whenever you want, less playing with a friend on a lane.
The main originality of Pokmon Unite is that, for the two basic attacks, it is possible to choose one out of two in order to adapt his style of play. The idea is interesting, but in fact, these choices are not always very useful: some prove to be too unbalanced and others do not change much in terms of gameplay.
A casual MOBA
The game is easy to learn and there are a few elements of strategy that add a welcome depth of gameplay.. However, there are still many aspects to improve: on the side of classified games, it is very easy to move up in rank (you gain points even if you lose) but excessively difficult to stay at the top of the ranking, for the best. The notion of MMR even seems to be mapped out, to retain another ranking system based on points and grind.
In view of the current state of play, Pokmon Unite seems to appeal more to a young community and fans of the license, but not particularly fans of the MOBA genre. There is a certain strategic dimension, but compared to other games of the genre, whether on PC (League of Legends, DotA 2) or on mobile (Arena of Valor, Wild Rift …), it remains light. The Meta is also very unbalanced, as some Pokmon dominate much more than other good level ones. Certainly, it is difficult to compete with …