Pokémon Unite is a free to play MOBA that draws upon the deep roster of Pokémon. The result is a (mostly) winning combination that we’d love to gush about, along with some complaints. Here are some things we love, and hate, about Pokémon Unite.
LOVE Pokémon MOBA
It’s such an obvious concept yet it took until 2021 to make it happen: take the online battles of a MOBA, with multiple lanes, neutral enemies, skill progression, etc, and infuse it with Pokémon’s charm and style. Unite is instantly appealing to Pokémon fans and kids, as well as MOBA veterans, with quick matches, easy controls, and clear roles, skills, and items.
HATE Pay to Win Elements
Pokémon Unite’s most egregious feature is the ability to purchase item enchancers using the real money currency. Held items provide stat boosts, and by purchasing them you can skip ahead hours of progression that would otherwise be required to earn through gameplay. It’s caused a lot of justifiable saltiness among the community, and it’s an unfortunate stain on Unite’s free to play gameplay.
LOVE Quick Matches
Standard and ranked matches last 10 minutes, which is far quicker than most MOBAs that tend toward 30 or 40 minute matches. The quicker time is much more kid-friendly (and parent-friendly), yet still feels like a complete MOBA match with leveling progression, unlocking skills, evolving, and even a late game boss fight. There’s even a Quick match option that features 5-minute 4v4 and 3v3 modes with unique maps.
HATE Only 20 Pokémon at Launch
Twenty characters may seem like a decent amount for an online battler, but for the MOBA genre, it’s actually quite tiny. MOBAs typically launch with dozens of heroes to choose from, then constantly add new ones to keep the game fresh and interesting. In the years since its release, League of Legends has over 140! After eight generations of Pokémon RPGs, there are nearly 900 Pokémon to choose from. We’re excited for future Pokémon Unite characters, but still bummed that we have to start from such a relatively low number (since launch, Unite has added its 21st Pokémon with Gardevoir).
LOVE Fun for Kids and Adults
It’s a rare game that we can enjoy with our kids, and even rarer when it’s an online competitive game. Unite keeps matches fast and friendly, with an emphasis on scoring points on opponents goals. Having previous MOBA skills will help understand the flow of matches and roles of characters, but it’s also easy enough that anyone can jump in and mess around and still have a fun time.
HATE Lame Trainer Customization
Unite has all the different progression bars and unlocks of every free to play game you’ve ever played. That wouldn’t be so bad if the unlocks were more exciting. Instead of unlocking new Pokémon skins, sprays, emotes, and voice announcers, about 90% of the unlocks are cosmetic clothing for our trainers. It’s incredibly lame to earn 100 Aeos energy from several battles, pull the lever on the gacha machine, and earn a pair of black dress socks or brown cargo pants. This is especially true for the purchasable Battle Pass. Hopefully we can get more interesting unlockables in the future.
LOVE Instant Match-making
For anyone who’s waited in an online que for several minutes for a match, having nearly instantaneous match-making is a huge plus. Wait times are literally only several seconds for standard, ranked, and quick matches, and rarely do we see any problems with AFKs or leavers, which can quickly ruin a match. The community for Unite is healthy and robust, with lots of players at all skill levels, and hopefully it stays that way.
HATE Weekly Cap on Aeos Coins
Aoes Coins are one of three in-game currencies used to purchase most things in Unite, including new Pokémon Licenses. Coins are earned by playing online matches and completing daily missions and other challenges. However, players are limited to earning 2,100 coins per week through matches (not including daily missions). Pokémon cost between 6,000 and 10,000 coins, meaning you’ll need to save up for a few weeks to purchase a single new character. Or shell out some real money.
LOVE Earning Free Pokémon
Unite does a great job easing new players into the game by unlocking large amounts of Aeos coins and several Unite licenses early on. Aside from choosing your stater ‘mon, you also quickly earn a free Slowbro and Alolan Ninetails, both strong Pokémon in their respective classes. By playing over the next week or two and completing some challenges, you can also earn the following characters for free: Venusaur, Cinderace, Crustle, and Greninja. And if you play before August 31, you’ll also earn Zeraora. Given the relatively small pool of Pokémon at launch, that’s a huge number to get you started.
HATE Boring Daily Missions
Daily missions help motivate players to log in each day and play some matches to earn free Aeos Coins. Unfortunately Unite has the same missions every single day: log in, participate in three battles, win one battle, and win two battles. Each mission earns tickets and coins, but it would be a lot more interesting if Unite featured random rotating missions as in other MOBAs, such as playing three games as a defender, or scoring a certain amount of points.