Games like League of Legends and Dota 2 are massively popular, and have been for most of the decade. But they can also be impenetrable to new players and spectators: there are so many characters and strategies that figuring out what’s happening on screen is a huge challenge. Just launched Pokémon Unite the goal is to fix it. It not only adds cute monsters to the genre, but also some smart fixes to streamline and make it easier. It’s kind of like a strategy game and a basketball mashup, but thrown in by Gengar.
For the novice MOBA – or multiplayer online battle arena, the genre uses an unnecessarily long full name, there is a five to five competition where the goal is usually to destroy the opponent’s team. You do this by forming a set of characters, each with their own unique abilities that allow you to destroy towers evenly and rise upwards so you can push your way into your opponent’s territory. It’s often a slow and systematic, genre that rewards smart decisions and quick reflexes.
Compound There are many of these elements, including a diverse set of monsters to choose from. Charmander, for example, is a good melee fighter, while Venasaur is better at ranged attacks. There are support characters and those designed for defense. In a nice twist, many creatures evolve during the match. It’s fun to start squatting as a small Gible and end the match with the mighty Garchomp.
But the most interesting aspects Compound where it differs from the traditional MOBA. First, instead of trying to destroy your opponents base, you score. To do this, you must defeat a wild pokemon that spawns throughout the arena to earn points, which you then take together from your opponent’s goal circles for scoring. Drop enough points to destroy the circle and you can move on to the next one. It’s similar to MOBAs in general, but it’s also much simpler to understand. And the system also adds a new drama: if you’re killed, you lose a lot of your points, which makes things very tense if you have a lot stacked.
Another nice thing about the game is that it has a strict time limit. A League of Legends a match can stretch for nearly an hour if it is tightly contested by one Pokémon Unite the match lasts exactly 10 minutes. When the timer runs out, the team with the most points wins. (Some matches may be shorter; I’ve already played a few where the other team lost early due to the wrong score.) The time limit and points system make Compound feels a little more like a virtual species, albeit with experience points and spawning monsters.
This idea of streamlining the MOBA is not entirely new. Blizzard tried it The heroes of the storm, and Riot did something similar when it brought League of Legends to mobile with spinoff Wild rupture. But at least from what I’ve repeated so far, Compound seems most approachable. The rules are easy to understand, the matches are short and intense, and the world is already known and loved by millions of people. So far, the only real thing I’ve come across is the abundant amount of virtual currency you can earn or buy. It gets weirdly complicated, to the point that you can spend as much time messing up in the combat pass menus as you do playing the game yourself. It doesn’t feel like you own buy anything, but some fashion options are quite attractive.
Right now, Pokémon Unite is available for free download to the Nintendo Switch, but is set to grow further when it debuts on the mobile device in September (with cross-game and cross-progress at release). Developer TiMi, Tencent’s in-house studio, already runs two of the world’s biggest games Call of Duty: Mobile and The glory of the kings. Combination Pokémon and MOBA could soon add a third.