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Words: Michael Beckwith
Announced last year, Pokémon Unite is both the franchise and Nintendo's first foray into the MOBA genre. Teams of five players select a Pokémon and head into an arena to compete for points. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the allotted time limit wins the match.
For anyone unfamiliar with the genre, MOBA stands for multiplayer online battle arena. Have you heard of games like League of Legends and Dota 2? Those are MOBAs, games in which players choose from a wide selection of characters, each with distinct abilities and specific roles, and form teams to compete with one another.
Unlike most other MOBAs and even the mainline Pokémon games, your goal isn't to knock out the opposing team, but to earn the most points. To do this, you must gather Aeos Energy from either defeating opponents or the wild Pokémon that roam the arena.
Gathering the energy isn't enough, though. To actually score points, you must then approach one of your opponent's goal zones. Hold down the X button and your Pokémon will dunk the energy like a basketball and net you some points. The more energy you gathered beforehand, the more points you will earn.
Yes, Pokémon Unite released for Nintendo Switch on 21 July 2021. So, if you haven't downloaded it yet, chop chop. You're already falling behind.
Yes, but only for the time being. The game will also release for Android phones on 21 September 2021.
Pokémon Unite is developed by TiMi Studio Group, a subsidiary of Tencent, and published by Nintendo for Switch and The Pokémon Company for mobiles. If the name TiMi doesn't ring a bell, not to worry because you'll probably be familiar with some of its previous work. TiMi has plenty of expertise with mobile games, having made two other MOBAs - Honor of Kings and Arena of Valor - as well as Call of Duty Mobile.
Game Freak is currently busy working on Pokémon Legends: Arceus, an open-world entry set in the distant past that's releasing for Nintendo Switch in January 2022.
Nintendo rarely, if ever, actually shares what engine it uses for its games. But Pokémon Unite is confirmed to be using, appropriately enough, the Unity Engine (at least according to Wikipedia).
Naturally. It wouldn't be a MOBA if it wasn't. However, there is no option for local multiplayer so there's no point getting friends round to your place for a same-sofa play session.
Yes, the game is only playable online so you will need a constant internet connection. No internet, no Pokémon Unite.
Pokémon Unite takes place in a completely original locale called Aeos Island. With the Aeos Energy that permeates throughout the island, Trainers come from far and wide to use the energy for special Unite Battles.
At the time of writing, there are 21 playable Pokémon available. Those Pokémon are:
You'll only be allowed to choose one of five Pokémon when you start - Pikachu, Charizard, Snorlax, Talonflame, and Eldegoss - but you can unlock the rest.
To unlock more playable Pokémon, you'll need a Unite license for that specific Pokémon. These can either be acquired by raising your Trainer level (which increases as you play matches), through daily rewards, or they can be purchased from the shop using the in-game currency.
The only exception is Zeraora, who is being distributed as a launch bonus. Anyone who downloads Pokémon Unite before 31 August 2021 will be given Zeraora's license. Those of you waiting for the mobile version will get a chance to obtain Zeraora too at a later date, as confirmed on the game's Twitter page.
At this point, the only other confirmed post-launch Pokémon besides Gardevoir (who was added on July 28) are Blastoise and an as-of-yet unnamed Pokémon. But don't be surprised if even more are added to the game afterwards.
Besides more Pokémon, you can unlock customisation items for your Trainer avatar, and Holowear for your Pokémon, which are essentially alternate costumes.
They do, but it's handled a tad differently in Pokémon Unite. When a match starts, some Pokémon will revert to an earlier evolutionary stage - for example, Charizard turns into Charmander, and Venusaur turns into Bulbasaur etc. As you defeat other Pokémon throughout the match, your Pokémon will level up and can evolve if applicable. They'll also become stronger and unlock additional moves to use in battle.
There are, but they're currently limited to being boss battles. Towards the end of a match, one of these powerful Pokémon will appear and can be defeated for extra points. It's not known yet if any Legendary Pokémon will be made playable.
No, unlike the main games, type advantages aren't a thing. So, if you're playing as the Grass-type Venusaur, you don't need to worry about taking additional damage from Fire types like Charizard.
No, if you run out of health, you're only temporarily knocked out of the match. You'll respawn in your team's base after a certain amount of time has passed, but you'll have lost any Aeos Energy you were holding onto.
No, this is a MOBA through and through. While you have the option to play standard battles against the CPU, friends, and other players or ranked matches to climb the leaderboards, there are no other types of gameplay.
There is an option for quick battles, though, which shrink team sizes down to three or four players. These matches take less time to set up as a result, so they're perfect for those looking for a short and simple session.
Yes, you technically don't have to spend a single penny on Pokémon Unite in order to play it. However, there is an option to use real money to purchase new Pokémon and items.
There are five types of currency in Pokémon Unite and, yes, that is an awful lot of them. In fact, it's probably the biggest complaint players have with the game right now.
The first two are Aeos coins and Aeos tickets. The coins are earned through playing matches. However, you can only earn up 2,100 coins per week. The tickets are given as ranked match season rewards. Both the coins and tickets can also be acquired through events and other sources, but they can't be purchased with actual money.
The third type are Aeos gems. These can't be acquired in-game, meaning you'll need to fork over real cash for them. The final two are Fashion tickets and Holowear tickets. The former are exchanged exclusively for Trainer cosmetics and the latter are only for Holowear. They cannot be bought and are handed out either as rewards or other means.
There is. Reach Trainer rank five and you'll gain access to Energy Rewards. The Aeon Energy you collect during matches can be spent on Energy Rewards, which will provide you with random goodies like cosmetics and the aforementioned tickets.
Yes, just like games such as Fortnite and Apex Legends, there is a Battle Pass where you can unlock further rewards through completing missions. It becomes available at rank five and you have the choice between a standard Battle Pass, which is free, or a Premium Pass which does cost Aeos gems but offers extra content. You can even shell out more gems for a Premium Pass Plus that unlocks the first 10 levels immediately.
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