Pokemon Unite is The Simplified MOBA for Everyone (Switch Review)

Is Pokemon Unite just another 5v5 MOBA? It's actually simpler than that.
Pokemon Unite Logo

Dunking into Pokemon Unite

Pokemon Unite is a free-to-play MOBA that has really simplified mechanics. While it may be fun for casuals, some people have been calling out its pay-to-win mechanics. Despite this and other flaws, you can still have a fun experience as you dunk on your opponents and clash during team fights.

And also, seeing Snorlax dunk goals with his belly was something I never thought would be animated. 

First Impressions

Pokemon Unite Loading Screen

My first impression was it felt like I was playing a reskinned Mobile Legends–though Moonton and Tencent are different companies. The UI felt familiar, and the battle pass and in-app purchases really gave it that free-to-play vibe. If this wasn’t Pokemon themed, I wouldn’t know the difference by looking at it.

Pokemon Unite surprised me with how easy it was to dive into a MOBA. Getting into MOBA games usually takes a ton of effort to learn all the different mechanics, but Tencent managed to keep things friendly for everyone and still have that familiar MOBA feel. 

I played Pokemon Unite on the Switch and it’s alright performance-wise. The game runs smoothly at 60 frames per second when docked and undocked, though you might feel some performance issues as you navigate through the menus. You can’t use the touch screen as of writing this post–not like you’ll be using it since you got Joy-cons. 

Pokemon Unite Keeps Things Simple

A lot of MOBA mechanics have been simplified here; Pokemon Unite kept core mechanics and a few other things to keep it true to the genre. 

No need to conserve mana, because there isn’t any. No creep waves and towers, so no need to stay in the lane and worry about towers firing at you. If you’re getting stomped in a game, you can’t buy items because there’s no shop. No item shop means that your attention goes to adapting to your opponent instead.

Before every match, you have to pick your Battle Items and Held Items. If you’ve played League of Legends, these are your Summoner Spells and Runes. These items help you in various ways–especially when you get your hands on upgraded Held Items, which I’ll mention later. Setting these up before heading into a game is the most preparation you’re going to do aside from choosing moves.

Pokemon Unite Snorlax

Pokemon Roles and Gameplay

The Pokemon here all have different roles to fill out in your team. It’s nothing new compared to other MOBAs; team compositions are always important in games like these–though everyone keeps auto-picking Gengar and Zeraora in my experience.

Gameplay is fast-paced because the map is pretty small. Going around the map is made easy with the Super Jump Pad and the Flux Lanes. You won’t be returning to base often because the goal zones heal you when you’re injured.

Scoring goals is your main objective in this game. It feels satisfying to dunk a lot of points, but equally frustrating to lose all of them if you get knocked out. Compared to destroying towers like in other games, scoring goals is faster because there are no creeps in your way, and the zones don’t fire at you when you get too close.

Since there’s no shop, choosing two moves as you level up was probably Tencent’s way of replacing it. You have the option of picking two moves as you level up, but your Unite Move remains the same. With no mana bar to worry about, all you think about is the cooldown of your moves–and cooldowns are short because one game lasts ten minutes.

Pokemon Unite Snorlax Dunk
Snorlax dunks on everyone, including the goal zone

I used Snorlax for most of my games. He’s a defender, so he isn’t the most damaging Pokemon. But he makes it up by diving into his opponents, knocking them up for follow-up attacks. Also, Snorlax reminds me of working on Nemui Blog… Sleeping on the job. I recommend Snorlax for people who just want to bump people with the shield, or for those who just like to yawn at others.

The Same MOBA Community

If you’re expecting a better community compared to other games, it really isn’t anything new. From my experience, I still ended up with a lot of AFK players, smurf accounts, and teammates who think that getting KO’s is more important than scoring points.

The only reason I could think why it feels better is because people don’t have a way to trash talk you. The quickest way to communicate with your team is by using the ping options the game provides; Sometimes that’s already enough if you’re fed up with toxic chat messages from other games. 

“We’re REALLY Struggling!”

As of now, one of my criticisms is that they decided to hide how much your team has scored until the end. There’s no way to tell if you’re doing a good job, you’ll only find out through the pop-ups telling you that you either have a lead or if you’re struggling. I guess that’s enough to keep you informed, but if you’re having an intense battle, you wouldn’t know how many points are left to clutch the game.

“Held Items” are Pay-To-Win?

Pokemon Unite Gems
One Hundred Dollars for Gems? Even if it’s a Free-To-Play game, that’s too much.

Another thing that bothered me was that “Held Items” get Pay-To-Win. The issue is that you have to play a ton of games to earn enough points to buy and upgrade Held Items. This could take days–even weeks–for those who want to play without spending.

But… you can also just bring out your wallet and buy all the items and not go through any of the tedious grinding. 

Things like these may not always affect your games, but it gives an advantage to those who are willing to pay cash for items.You will run into people who have better items than you, and the only way to be on the same playing field as them is to either grind out for items, or cough up the cash. In the hands of a good player–or even a bad one–any advantage over an opponent makes a difference during fights, no matter how little they seem.

Final Thoughts

The biggest problem with Pokemon Unite is the Pay-to-Win Held Items. Monetization should have been focused on cosmetics instead of ruining the game’s balance with paid items and upgrades. Also, it’s baffling that the game takes away information you need like your team’s score and number stats for Pokemon. MOBA veterans know that these things matter as you climb the ranks, which is why players are taking second-guesses before deciding to jump into the game. 

Pokemon Unite took steps forward by making things easier, but also a few steps backwards while they were at it.

Even with those flaws, you’re still left with a game that can introduce people to the MOBA genre. Pokemon Unite stands out by being one of the most friendly out of the bunch. You’re not frantically looking for extensive builds and neither are you going to sit there for ten minutes hitting minions. It’s a game that was designed to lower the entry barrier to competitive MOBAs. 

Should you play the game? Yes, I think it’s worth the shot. The game is free-to-play and one match is ten minutes, so it’s perfect for people who don’t want to invest too much time in another game. If you’re coming from different MOBAs, this game is a breeze because everything is simplified. And if you’re new to the genre, it’s a good way to learn the basic mechanics and see if MOBAs are your thing.

Play Pokemon Unite now on Nintendo Switch, and on Android and iOS devices.