Pokémon’s transformation in the last five years has been nothing short of phenomenal as the universe has moved from the classic RPG style of games that it was known for.
The games no longer exclusively begin from tiny picturesque towns (Pallet, New Bark, Littleroot etc.) where certain Professors (Oak, Elm, Ivy, Birch etc) entrust you with “gottacatch’em all” quests. We have seen Pokémon Go experiment with augmented reality, Masters experiment with trainers and synchronized Pokémon battles; Unite goes one step further by focusing on the battles and nothing else.
Unite is a MOBA – a massively online battlefield arena where players combat other players in battles. The battles are generally 5v5 where two teams of five square off against each other, Unite though also experiments with 3v3 and 4v4 modes. Designed by Tencent and Timi, two developers who have perfected the mobile gaming space, the amount of effort put in to make various Pokémon suit classical MOBA roles is evident.
Not all Pokémon are available to play with (yet!) but the current roster of 21 is neatly divided into all-rounder (Machamp, Lucario), attacker (Venusaur, Cinderace, Greninja), defender (Snorlax, Slowbro), speedster (Gengar, Absol), and support roles (Eldegloss, Wigglytuff). In my experience, Unite felt so much like League of Legends and Dota that it is surprising it didn’t come sooner. Everything from evolution and signature moves are unlocked on how you level-up, the quicker you farm the more powerful you are. The longer you stay alive, the more time to level-up, farming the right way is key. If you can reach level 14 and above by the endgame stage you are doing it right.
As with most MOBA games, team balance and strategy are key but the 5-minute format means, losses don’t bother you as much and frustration with underperforming teammates doesn’t build over time. However, at the highest level, there is very little time to mount comebacks.
In terms of communication, Nintendo has always been wary of chat in the lobby and here it uses a pre-set dialogue roster like in Clash Royale which means this is suddenly one of the least aggressive MOBA’s in recent years. I liked that, as it allowed me to judge what to do and when.
Unite is a great game to experience the MOBA genre for first-timers, it can be both casual and hardcore depending on how you play. However, it is a sight to behold when a Cinderaceshoots a flaming ball of fire and you skedaddle for cover. This is live Pokémon combat and it is breath-taking!
One of the best mobile games of the year, mark my words.
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