If Nintendo didn’t make it clear that Pokémon games are coming into a new era with the announcement trailer for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, they certainly are hammering in the point with Pokémon Unite, the series’ upcoming first foray into the free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre. We’ve gotten glimpses of what a Pokémon game focused around fighting could look like with Pokken Tournament DX and the Pokémon characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but this is a whole new world.
Has Nintendo studied the MOBA genre enough to pull in veteran players from League of Legends or DOTA 2? Or will this game be a good access point for MOBAs for Pokémon fans who have never explored the genre? We’ll have to wait and see!
Until then, here’s everything we know about the upcoming Pokémon MOBA Pokémon Unite.
Pokémon Unite is the very first MOBA-style Pokémon title, developed by The Pokémon Company International and TiMi Studio Group.
The game will center around 5 vs 5 Unite Battle tournaments on Aeos Island, a mythical island said to be on the ocean’s unexplored frontier. Teams of Pokémon will face off and battle, competing to see which team can gather the most Aeos energy, scoring points and claiming victory for their squad.
Like any Pokémon title, players will get to pick and choose their favorite Pokémon and battle it out. It’ll just be a different style than we’re used to.
Pokémon Unite will release in July 2021 on Nintendo Switch systems and in September 2021 on mobile devices. We haven’t been given an exact date for either release. Now that we’re into July, it’s safe to say we won’t get much of a warning before the game drops for Switch.
Nintendo released a trailer for Pokémon Unite in mid-June to give us a taste of what that game has in store. While the trailer didn’t include any gameplay footage, instead opting for a more cinematic style, we were able to get a good feel for how intense gameplay will be and a look at some of the Pokémon fights we can expect to see.
Gameplay in Pokémon Unite appears to look similar to the most popular MOBAs out there. Teams of five Pokémon, each with different strengths, attacks, and passive abilities, will take the field and compete to see which party can gather the most Aeos energy. Points are earned through catching wild Pokémon, which appear across the map and need defeating to capture. Players deposit that Aeos energy earned from catching wild Pokémon or defeating opponents into one of their opponents’ goal zones to score points for their team. If catching Pokémon was the only task, this would be a breeze — we’ve all been to the Safari Zone and hucked as many Pokéballs as we can — but opposing teams can get in the way, sniping wild Pokémon, defending scoring zones, and ultimately just causing chaos.
The playable Pokémon are divided up into a few classes: Attacker, Defender, Speedster, Supporter, and All-Rounder. Players will need to experiment to find out which role best suits them (although many will have a hunch based on prior MOBA experiences). Team composition will always be key, although it doesn’t look like there are any team restrictions like there are in Overwatch. Each Pokémon will start off a match at level 1, gaining experience throughout the game, evolving, learning new moves, and becoming a lot more powerful. It doesn’t look like Type effectiveness will play a role in the game. Each Pokémon also has a Unite Move, essentially its ultimate ability, which can really change the flow of a game.
At launch, the game will feature several maps, each differently sized with special environmental elements.
The game will be free to start, with optional in-game purchases available, including the paid Aeos gems currency. Players can unlock cosmetics for their Pokémon through purchase or seasonal battle passes.
Multiplayer is the name of the game! It doesn’t look like there will be a single-player game mode for Pokémon Unite, aside from a potential tutorial level to kick things off. Cross-platform play between Nintendo Switch and mobile devices is planned, although there hasn’t been confirmation that the feature will be ready to roll when the game launches on mobile in September.
Below is a list of all the confirmed playable Pokémon evolutionary lines in Pokémon Unite at launch:
- Mr. Mime
- Alolan Ninetales
More Pokémon will be added to the game post-launch. With nearly 900 Pokémon out there, it’d be a bummer to only get to play with 19. Nintendo has already confirmed that Blastoise, Gardevoir, and at least one other unnamed Pokémon will be added to the game post-launch.
Wild Pokémon that have been spotted in Pokémon Unite footage (and leaked footage) so far include:
- Vespiquen (plus Combee)