I’ll never forgive Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs, for all but replacing the real-time strategy genre. As a long-time fan of games like StarCraft and Command & Conquer, the MOBA genre comes off as a weird, glorified mod. However, millions of people disagree. MOBA remains one of the most popular genres, so popular that now Pikachu and friends are getting in on the action. Pokemon Unite is a free-to-play Nintendo Switch game (eventually coming to mobile) that uses the “pocket monsters” to make the infamously complex genre far more accessible. While MOBA masters may want something prettier and with more depth, Pokemon Unite is a fine jumping on point for beginners.

Gotta Jungle ‘Em All

Pokemon Unite’s 5v5, team-based battles recall Dota 2, League of Legends, and other MOBAs that dominate the esports scene. In fact, Pokemon Unite’s formula tweaks make each match feel more like a lighthearted sport instead of an abstract clash of armies. Each player controls their own partner Pokemon. You roam the map, battling both wild Pokemon and Pokemon on the opposing team. You accrue energy with each small victory, and you earn points when you slam dunk that energy into an opponent’s goal zone. Whoever earns the most points wins. You don’t see scores until the very end, so you’ll never know exactly where you stand in the match. I like how this keeps tension high and encourages you to give it your all until the end.

By ditching MOBA gameplay mainstays, such as defensive towers and creep minions, Pokemon Unite sacrifices some of the genre’s strategic depth. Maybe the game’s meta needs more time to develop, but I found early battles incredibly straightforward and a bit repetitive. League of Legends: Wild Rift simplifies League of Legends for mobile, but still requires lots of strategizing. However, if you, like me, often find MOBAs needlessly complicated, Pokemon Unite’s simplicity becomes its strength. I appreciated being able to jump into a few ten-minute matches without watching hours of tutorial videos. 

That said, Pokemon Unite has many variables to consider. For example, you choose between multiple, three-lane maps. When you score enough points in an enemy goal zone, you destroy it, which forces you to move to a different target to keep up your offense. Destroying an enemy goal also lets you move faster in enemy territory, and during a match’s second half, you can use a Super Jump pad to more easily move around. Vanquishing an exceptionally powerful wild Pokemon, like the legendary Zapdos, empowers your team with a helpful buff. 

The Pokemon you and teammates pick dramatically change how you approach battle. Each monster comes with its own specialty and difficulty level. Cinderace is a beginner-friendly, ranged attacker who kicks fireballs at foes. Zeraora is a melee-focused speedster for experts. The game tells you if your team lacks a key role. I’m sure there’s already a tier list. 

Pokemon gain access to new…


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