Review – Pokémon Unite

It’s been a bit of time since Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield released on the Switch. It was a fun new generation, complete with some actually interesting DLC and a lot of anger about the Pokédex. So naturally, the next step for The Pokémon Company was to team up with TiMi and Tencent to release a MOBA, right? Well, it’s not exactly what we wanted, but we got it anyway, so let’s see if Pokémon Unite is worth our time.

To no one’s surprise, there’s a battlepass full of cosmetics.

Let’s get his obvious issue out of the way as it will forever be considered a point of controversy in here. At the time of launch, Pokémon Unite has a lethargic batch of monsters at your disposal. Keep in mind, the pokémon in here do evolve (for the most part, at least), but only counting the options available, there are twenty different “units” to choose from. Some of them are pretty odd choices as well.

Sure, there are some staples like Pikachu, Venusaur, and Charzard. There are even some newer favourites, like Super Smash Bros. contestant Greninja, or Sword and Shield starter, Cinderace. Then there are competitors like Gossifleur and Crustle. Some fan favourites, like good old Blastoise, are nowhere to be seen, at least for the time being. As previously mentioned, odd, to say the least.

Least you don’t have to worry about a K/D

Just like other MOBAs, there are units to dispose of to help level your pokémon of choice, or to collect Unite Balls, which is how you attack your opponent’s “tower.” Obviously, this means there are some pokémon who are unlikely to ever be playable. Zapdos and Regigigas, for example, are boss pokémon that will give you effects on the opponent’s towers. The same goes for some of the smaller mobs that you’ll fight early on, such as Abra, Aipom, and Corphish.

That being said, it’s absolutely possible for other monsters like Alakazam to come to the game as playable characters in the future. The rules about what characters are available to play, and who evolves, is mostly up in the air. While Gengar, Greninja, and Charzard will all start at their base forms, evolving along the way as you level, some won’t. Pikachu, as an example, neither starts off as Pichu, or evolves into Raichu. Snorlax doesn’t evolve from Munchlax either, and while Slowpoke does evolve into Slowbro, Slowking isn’t an option. Which would be a neat addition in the future, having the ability to choose between different evolutions.

Sometimes, Zapdos can make all the difference.

The pokémon you choose to go in with is only half the battle. Unlike other MOBAs, there’s no gear to buy in a match, but there is gear to buy outside of the match. Your pokémon are able to hold items, EXP. Shares, Shell Bells, Leftovers, all the traditional hold items from the main series, and each works in sort of the same way. Leftovers will give you HP as you play, and even boost your base HP, for instance. Held items can be leveled up to be stronger, again, outside of battle. So the strength of the item you walk in with can differ based on time played, or money spent. This is where an issue has started to rise for some players, saying that the items are giving way too big of an advantage to people willing to spend money. The items are available to all, and nothing is locked behind a paywall, except for cosmetics.

Flawless Victory.

Once inside a game, Unite plays fairly similarly to other MOBAs. There are some key differences, though. First of all, there are only two lanes. Given that this is still 5v5 for Standard and Ranked battles, that usually means that it can be easy to overrun, or be overrun in a lane. Quick Mode does offer 4v4 and 3v3 battles depending on the map though. Instead of minions spawning for each team and rushing a tower, there are simply wild pokémon scattered around the field. Defeating wild and opposing pokémon, will reward the player with Unite Balls, which are used to attack the towers. The towers aren’t “towers” in the normal sense. Instead of having a physical tower to attack and destroy, it’s just a space that, once passing, will slow your pokémon down drastically. It will also heal your opponent and grant a shield if they stand on it, making it a good spot to drop back to if things get a bit messy.

Be careful of your held items, make sure they work for your gangsta Pikachu

There are wild pokémon that grant abilities, like additional damage to other wild allies, or a boost to depositing Unite Balls into towers, making it worth your time to team up and take down some of the stronger ones, like Zadpos. The overall aim is to deposit as many Unite Balls as possible, with each team having a total amount of five towers to deposit at. There are two in each lane, and one right in front of spawn. After depositing a certain amount in each of the towers in the lanes, this will only leave the one in front of spawn, which will never be destroyed. The winner is decided by which team deposited the most at the end of the time limit, or if a team surrenders.

Overall, Pokémon Unite is actually a ton of fun, way more than expected at the very least. While the roster could definitely use a good injection of new monsters, there’s enough variety in the base game to keep you busy for a while. Plus, the sprites look great, so it is hard to moan too much about it. The different maps are great as well, all having their own wild pokémon and legendaries to defeat as you battle. Hopefully the player base sticks around, as with the right amount of love and care, Pokémon Unite could be a huge boost for the franchise as a whole.


Graphics: 8.5

The sprites and maps look great. With that being said, the game would have profited from having more variety when it comes to attacking animations.

Gameplay: 9.0

A more streamlined approach to the classic MOBA gameplay loop with some neat elements to help the game stand out.

Sound: 7.5

While Pokémon games are known for their catchy soundtracks, there’s nothing in Pokémon Unite‘s soundtrack that feels new or exceptional.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Whether you’re competitive, or just want something quick to play while you wait for your food to cook, there’s always something available.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Pokemon Unite is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.