When it was announced that Pokémon, a beloved franchise spanning multiple generations of gamers, would dip its toes into the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre with Pokémon UNITE, it stirred varied reactions – absolute delight among some, suspicion among others. As a veteran Pokémon fan and a Dota 2 enthusiast, I too, joined the skeptics club. However, upon playing the game, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this mobile MOBA could be... albeit not without its caveats.
Plot Setting and Gameplay Fundamentals
Borrowing standard aspects of a classic 21st-century MOBA, Pokémon Unite sets two teams, each with five players, on symmetric lanes guarded by auto-defending towers. A scope of 21 well-known Pokémon characters like Garchomp and Greninja strut their stuff, leveling up as the match progresses. The goal, however, veers on a tangential path from MOBA norms. Instead of a spectacle of enemy base destruction upon triumph, this game lifts the victor based on points scored in a mere 10-minute timeline.
As Different as Night and Day
While the departure from classic MOBA is an endearing novelty, the limiting factor of these tangible objectives eventually lends to a repetitive gaming experience. Coupled with the Pokémon's limited command access compared to other MOBAs, it feels as if you are replaying the same scenario regardless of your chosen Pokémon. Yet, all is not drab as playing for a few hours unlocks item slots and a Battle Item that allow you to choose battle boosts and tweaks for your chosen character. This malleability salvages the otherwise monotonous gameplay and opens avenues for experimenting with unique builds.
A Tip of the Hat to Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm?
While the theme did bring back the memory of Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm, Pokémon Unite’s unique interpretation of the genre with trainer and Pokémon cosmetic skins is admirable. However, with some outfits priced in the ballpark of $10-$20, purchasing these becomes a splurge for many.
PvP Combat and the Dilemma of Aeos energy
Moving on to the much-anticipated Player versus Player (PvP) combat. Overall, it was immensely satisfying, with plenty of tactical maneuvering opportunities tolling a hefty satisfaction-feel of having outwitted your opponent. However, if you're gaming solo, the accumulation of Aeos energy (game points collected by defeating wild Pokémon) could generate a paradox. The more you gather, the longer the animation it takes to deposit it, potentially wasting precious match time.
Is it a Little too Beginner-friendly?
The game seemingly targets novices to the MOBA genre, with Instant queue times and smoother connectivity, apparent testaments. Yet, Pokémon Unite’s over dedication to simplicity can at times can prove baffling. Existing tutorials don’t sufficiently cover core concepts, leaving many newcomers underprepared.
- A delightful fusion of Pokémon and MOBA genre
- Novice-friendly approach
- Room for unique playstyle builds
- Highly responsive online experience
- Satisfying PvP combat scenarios
- Banal character customization options
- Pricey in-game purchases
- Simplified mechanics that may not captivate all players
- Ample scope of improvements in tutorials
- The stagnation of playing experience over time
Putting it all together, Pokémon Unite remains an interesting simplification of classic MOBA elements, successfully blending the fun of Pokémon with competitive brawling. Though it is shackled by a somewhat dubious microtransaction system and simplified gameplay, the charming presentation and the potential thrill of battling with friends may offset these for some players.
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