Pokémon Unite turns monster battles into a team sport

Games like League of Legends and Dota 2 are massively popular, and have been for the better part of a decade. But they can also be impenetrable to new players and viewers: there are so many characters and strategies that figuring out what’s happening on-screen is a huge challenge. The just-launched Pokémon Unite aims to fix that. It doesn’t just add cute monsters to the genre, but also some clever fixes to streamline it and make things more approachable. It’s kind of like a mashup of a strategy game and basketball, but with a Gengar thrown in.

For the uninitiated, a MOBA — or multiplayer online battle arena, to use the genre’s unnecessarily long full name — is a five-on-five competition where the goal, usually, is to destroy the opposing team’s base. You do this by forming a squad of characters, each with their own unique abilities, which you use to steadily destroy towers and level up so you can push your way into your opponent’s territory. It’s often slow and methodical, a genre that rewards smart decisions as well as quick reflexes.

Unite has many of these elements, including a varied cast of monsters to choose from. Charmander is a good all-around melee fighter, for instance, while Venasaur is better for ranged attacks. There are support characters and ones designed for defense. In a nice twist, many of the creatures will evolve over the course of the match. It’s fun starting out as a squat little Gible and ending the match as an imposing Garchomp.

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