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Pokémon Unite is the console MOBA you never knew you needed

A fun game made more fun by playing with friends.

Image: Josh Knowles / KnowTechie

Last month, Nintendo stealthily dropped its newest Pokémon title, Pokemon Unite, into the Nintendo eShop. Pokémon Unite is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game for Nintendo Switch that pits a team of up to five players against another team.

What is a little different with Pokémon Unite is that progression in a match is tied to scoring Pokeballs by dunking them in enemy zones. It’s a bit of a departure from the standard and allows for a different playstyle.

Nintendo has gold on their hands with Pokémon Unite. The game is fun and fast-paced. Matches are timed, so even the toughest matches will never go beyond 10 minutes. Pokémon fill set roles that are traditional to MOBA, but also are flexible enough to be used outside of traditional setups.

There are ranged characters, which find a natural home in the bottom and top lanes. Defensive characters, which are fantastic backups to range options and excel at protecting softer Pokémon and their team goals. Speedster characters thrive in the center “jungle” area and are best used to ambush the enemy team or disrupting targets. The best teams are an amalgamation of the right roles, but it’s not written in stone either.

Pokemon Unite is a slow content drip

pokemon unite character screen
Image: Josh Knowles / KnowTechie

Progression is absolutely moderately time-gated in Pokémon Unite. This is good and bad. There’s an initial amount of Pokémon that are available to every player. These Pokemon are generally entry-level for each role, which a few that allow more technical usage. As you log in daily and complete different tasks. The game actually gives you free unlocks for one of each role and also a few abilities as well.

These Pokemon are more detailed and the abilities can be used to synergize with unlocked Pokemon. You can also spend your way out of the time gate and unlock Pokemon that aren’t offered for free, or just earlier. I think this time gate is meant to allow players to learn, before having to rely on much more difficult Pokemon.

The bad part of this time gate system is that the skills and items you unlock are more or less essential for some Pokémon. It definitely does encourage spending the limited currency you can earn weekly, but as that is a finite resource, I’ve seen many players already spend their wad.

With tuning, this has already rendered Pokémon and items useless and their investments wasted. I’m holding onto what I have for now, but even I’ve felt the twinge of the call to buy premium currency to get some out-of-reach things.

As with all things, Pokemon Unite is better when using that friends list

Playing with friends is the best way to go. There are a series of different game modes that range from competitive ranked, standard normal games, and a variety of quicker, smaller maps. Unfortunately (or fortunately), without any voice options and a limited communication menu, it’s really hard to call out directions while playing.

Communication takes the game from frustrating to incredibly fun. Get some buddies on a Discord call and you can really roll some teams. Ranked offers a lot of competitive fun and will do well if it borrows from other games. For one, eventually adding Pokémon bans as the roster grows.

pokemon unite battle
Image: Josh Knowles / KnowTechie

Pokémon’s robust catalog of monsters will really allow this game to grow. We’ve already had one Pokémon introduced into the game and the team is promising many more on a regular basis. It’ll be interesting to see what comes from the history of the franchise. I really do expect to see the only OG starter (Blastoise) not in the game as our next ‘Mon.

Have you been able to play this new Switch game yet? If so, what are your thoughts on it? It sets the stage to see other MOBA on consoles. We will really see how Pokémon Unite thrives after the honeymoon period.

Pokémon Unite is currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop.

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