We tested Pokémon Unite, a combination of MOBA and Pokémon that has turned out to be a much more fun, technical and dynamic game than you might expect, even though it is riddled with micro-payments.
Anyone who has ever predicted the end of MOBAs has been completely disarmed, not only by the constant success of heavyweights like League of Legends or DOTA 2 , but by the appearance of new names that jump on the bandwagon of what many they thought it was just a passing fad. This is the case of Pokémon Unite , a free, fast, accessible and competitive proposal that TiMi Studios has developed in collaboration with The Pokémon Company to offer it for free first on Nintendo Switch and then, in September , on iOS and Android devices.
It is true that the MOBA was not a passing trend, or at least it is not one that has lost steam yet, but neither can we ignore the fact that it is a genre almost limited to the large companies and video game franchises. It takes experience, money and time to create one of these competitive multiplayer, something that TiMi Studios, a subsidiary of the Chinese giant Tencent , has plenty: Pokémon Unite is not the first game from this developer, whose name we have seen preceding other phenomena such as Arena of Valor or Call of Duty Mobile , and that background is evident in the final result of this free-to-play to which the most we can attribute is the strong presence of micropayments.
Accessibility and speed by flag
Probably what we can highlight the most in Pokémon Unite is its strong commitment to accessibility , in every way. From the controls, completely adapted to Nintendo Switch (perhaps too much, the possibility of playing or moving through the menus, only available in English, by touching the touch screen is missing), and because of the speed of their games , which do not last longer 10 minutes. In front of other MOBAs that require a lot of time both outside and inside the games, learning the details of each character and betting on encounters that last around an hour, Pokémon Unite It proposes short and dynamic battles: there is no time to get bored and they fit in any dead time that we have in our day to day.
How do you get that? With a hybrid between the more traditional MOBA , in which two teams of five players face each other on a symmetrical three-lane map, and a new dynamic that replaces the bases with goals in which to score goals after obtaining orbs that are obtained both by kill enemy Pokémon such as those that swarm the stages. There are several ways to win a game, but with this Pokémon Unite format it is ensured that when the timer reaches zero there will always be one team that has managed to score more points than the other and that, after all, is what it gives the victory.
Pokémon with multiple evolutions start the game in the first one and evolve as they gain experience.
That is its normal mode , the one we learn to play in the tutorial and the one played in the ranked games , but there is also a quick mode available with even shorter games in which teams of three or four players face off. The maps change, the rules change, and in general everything has a much simpler and more fun look, becoming the type of game you play when you just feel like hanging out. Here Pokémon Unite not only demonstrates its commitment to speed, but also the versatility it may have in the future, when the inherent evolution of this game as a service ends up leading it to explore new game modes.
Fun and competition all in one
The interesting thing is that even with that instant formula that can make you succeed among people with a more casual approach , Pokémon Unite also has a competitive facet thanks to its Ranked games and a strategic depth that those who are more interested in that type of experience will know to enjoy. It is necessary to know the characters, know their roles, their special powers and their weaknesses to face them or to get the most out of your Pokémon, from which you have to know their abilities well to choose the right set in each game, the lane for which you are going to fight or the companion that suits you best.
The traditional MOBA towers here become goals. At the end of the game, all the points are added up and the one who has scored the most goals wins, regardless of the number of deaths and bases destroyed.
It is also essential to know how to jungle properly, to know when to go for the Zapdos that appears in the center of the map near the end of the game, to know why it is important to defeat the Drewnaw and Rotom that spawn in the upper and lower lanes, and a lot more details hidden in the most hardcore layer of the game. By this we mean that although it is not a particularly demanding game at a strategic level in the early stages, or for those looking for a more relaxed approach, but people who are looking for that competitive facet, will find it.
Of course, it is inevitable that there are people who are not attracted to the structure of this MOBA and prefer more traditional games. The truth is that those most versed in the genre can find certain shortcomings in Pokémon Unite , such as the absolute lack of order in the skirmishes, which end up being a hodgepodge on most occasions and which are resolved, almost always, by a matter of numerical superiority. Likewise, the most staunch Pokémon fans may feel expelled from this title for not prioritizing such basic aspects of the franchise as its traditional and iconic affinity for types: tanks and supports matter here , not water or fire types , for example.
Each Pokémon has its role and set of abilities, of which we will have to choose two to improve during the game.
Micropayments, Copperajah in the room
Pokémon Unite has many, many micropayments . Not in the sense that it requires payment to play or that you have purchases necessary if we want to be competitive in the multiplayer scene, but it literally has a ridiculous amount of different currencies to buy anything you can imagine: from character licenses to cosmetic add-ons for our trainer, going through costumes for the Pokémon, improvement items that we can use during the games and some more things that we can find rummaging through the menus.
The available Pokémon are rotating and new characters are being added. We can try some temporarily, but if we want to keep them we will have to buy their license.
Is it necessary to pay to enjoy Pokémon Unite ? To a large extent no . In fact, after playing for the three weeks that the game has been available on Nintendo Switch, we have not yet felt the need to checkout, and it is only now that we are beginning to understand what each coin is for, how to get them and what. way we can get them without paying. The game has mechanisms that invite you to buy, but it also has daily missions and challenges that reward us just for playing. Accessing all these improvements is much easier if we are willing to scratch our pockets, obviously, although that does not mean that it is essential.
All these cosmetic accessories take advantage, obviously, of the peculiar artistic design of Pokémon . Seeing these creatures in three dimensions is always a pleasure , and here it would not be less despite having a design perhaps not as detailed as in other recent games (they do not have the level of detail of the New Pokémon Snap models, obviously ). Putting funny costumes on them, seeing how they move and evolve on stage, dressing with them and, in general, controlling them in a direct action genre away from the usual turn-based combat is one of the strong points of this title, without a doubt; TiMi Studios knows this and, of course, takes advantage of it.
Who wouldn’t want Snorlax’s ‘skin’ with float and sunglasses?
Even so, with this facet, however elusive it may be, Pokémon Unite carries the conceptual essence that could have turned it into a portentous game. We said that speed and accessibility were the key to this MOBA, right? Well, micro-payment systems are the opposite: they are difficult to understand at first, they are unnecessarily convoluted and they create a game cycle that keeps us artificially hooked just to get objects that do not add much to the experience. In addition, the fact that there is no need to pay for these improvements does not mean that whale players will not arrive willing to buy so many items that, now, they create an inequality during the games.
Despite the doubts that it could raise at first , Pokémon Unitehas proven to be a more than solvent MOBA within a genre with very established heavyweights over the years. Mainly, it seems that its commitment to more dynamic action, short games and accessible gameplay has played a very good role in this title, becoming a more than valid alternative for those people little versed in the genre who simply want to enter, play 10 minutes, and leave. It achieves this without giving up the competitive facet, with a deep strategic system that will give the most experienced players everything they need to be attracted to this proposal. However, the amount of micropayments takes advantage of the franchise’s iconic artistic direction to blur a fun and enjoyable experience. which, for the rest, is worthy of remaining installed on any Nintendo Switch.