Nintendo announces Pokémon Unite! A new Pokémon MOBA

It’s been a while since the MOBA craze hit it big, but better late than never. Nintendo is entering the MOBA arena with its brand new game Pokémon Unite!

This was the mysterious big announcement from last week’s Pokémon Direct. We didn’t see much about the game, but we do know that it is a 5v5 team-based battler, similar to DOTA and LOL. The map seems vastly simplified from other MOBAS. Instead of three lanes, players will only battle down two. The middle and far edges of the map will include objectives for each team to chase after, including legendary Pokémon appearances in the middle. One can assume that beating these independent objectives will have them push down a lane with your team.

There are a few things we can tell from the trailer. First, we can see that team members do not necessarily all have to be at the same level. That means players will level up individually, more like DOTA than HOTS. In addition, it appears as if players are attempting to play to a point total. Players seem to be able to carry points, as shown in the hexagon next to their name. In this case, killing a player will likely nab you their points. It’s unclear how one earns these points, but objectives will likely be involved.

There does not appear to be MP or any other similar resource in this game. Instead, all abilities are based on cooldown only. We get to see the control interface in some shots. With icons for four abilities, one of which is presumably an ultimate ability. There’s also an icon for simply attacking and an icon for warping to the starting area, presumably for healing.

Players will each control a Pokémon and a few options were shown off in the trailer including:

  • Venusaur
  • Charizard
  • Blastoise
  • Clefable
  • Machamp
  • Gengar
  • Lucario
  • Snorlax
  • Pikachu
  • Talonflame

Pokémon do seem to evolve over the course of the game. We see a Charmeleon evolve into a Charizard mid-match after reaching level 9. Players will also be able to choose the moves they learn as they level up, allowing them to “build” their Pokémon in different ways each match.

The points along the map appear to be control points of a sort, rather than towers. We see a shot of the blue team standing on one as a blue circle encompasses it. We also see their point total slowly increasing as they stand there before getting the notification that they won.

We then get to see a showcase of ultimate style abilities. One thing worth noting is that damage numbers are very high in this game. We also do, in fact, get to see one team battling against another team’s Zapdos. There will also be a “catch wild Pokémon” mechanic that presumably also adds them to your side as NPC forces.

Pokémon Unite will release for the Switch and mobile platforms and will have full cross-platform capability. Its pay model is described as “free to start” which means it will likely gate characters behind microtransactions. The game will be developed by Tencent’s TiMi Studios, the same studio behind games like Honor of Kings and Call of Duty: Mobile. A release date was not yet given.

UPDATE

Since, the time of writing, the Pokémon Company has gone live with a Pokémon Direct explaining more about Pokemon Unite. Here’s what we learned about it.

First of all, the battlefield will always be situated such that your team will be on the left while your opponent’s team is on the right.

Catching wild Pokémon gives your character XP, along with points, the number shown in the hexagon. By walking to an opponent’s goal, one of the control point areas we mentioned before, you can cash in these points and add them to your team’s point total. Cashing in point also grants your character XP. Going to one of your own goal points will heal your character HP over time, and getting attacked while cashing in points will stop the cash-in process. Scoring enough points will destroy goals, forcing you to push in closer to the enemy’s base in order to score points.

Games are played to a time limit, not a point total, and the team with the most points at the end of the time limit wins. Points scored in the last two minutes of the game are doubled. Killing an opponent steals some of their points. It also appears that the more points you turn in, the longer you have to wait on a goal, so banking up too many might leave you vulnerable.

As your Pokemon levels up it will learn new moves that will replace moves that they already knew. This is how you’ll create character builds. Moves have vastly different capabilities, so you’ll end up choosing between say, fire blast and flare blitz, a close-range melee attack, and a long-range AOE.

Ultimate moves are called “unite moves” in this game, but they operate the same way as ults do in any other MOBA.

There are no type advantages in Pokémon Unite.