Massively on the Go: How to actually have fun in Pokemon Unite as a new player

    
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The mobile version of Pokemon Unite has landed as of today, and those of you who do not have a Nintendo Switch but wish to play will finally be able to do so. Thanks to crossplay, you Switch-less folks can play with the rest of us, but you may be a tad underpowered at first. No, please don’t spend a lot of cash to catch up power-wise; instead, we’ll give you a few free tips for new players, especially those who don’t often do MOBAs.

The game is quite forgiving, despite what some gamers might claim, so hang in there. It’ll be frustrating since it’s a team-based game and many folks don’t have a gaming partner to play with 24/7, but the game can be quite fun to pick up even when you’re gaming alone. While ranked play may bring out the worst in people, there are a few ways to not only manage your expectations, but increase your skills beyond checking some guides.

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Work on you

This goes without saying for most things in life, but truly, if you want things to get better, you have to work on yourself first. Especially because PU chat is limited pre-set phrases, it can be hard to teach randoms in-game how to get better. You can, however, learn how to adapt to situations with problem people and make the best of those situations.

Real story: I was stuck on a rank because for every game I won, I lost one too. Most of my wins were thanks to Zapdos, in the rare event my team didn’t surrender before then. This was because I had taken up jungling, my traditional weak point, and used Garchomp, who practically eats bosses if left alone for only a few seconds.

Then, while playing with a friend who also started jungling, I asked why Drednaw was vital to the current meta more so than Rotom, as I couldn’t find a good explanation at the time. It turned out that Drednaw gives your team about a level’s worth of XP, helping everyone either catch up or surpass the other team in overall strength, which can help in the team fights that may occur over Zapdos.

The problem was, I was suddenly getting paired up with junglers on teams with no defenders. While I predominately used Snorlax, who is great at soaking up damage, I’d be unable to kill any boss mobs myself. However, I switched to Blastoise, who isn’t great at taking hits but can damage and CC well enough to make up for it. This ensured I could still play defender, a role my teams often needed, but also push Drednaw if my teammates refused to help.

While I could have blamed my teammates in numerous ways, it’s best to just assume that other folks are playing for themselves whenever you’re playing with strangers. Once I learned my weak points, such as better knowledge of meta strategies and unfamiliar roles, it was easier for me to adapt to the field. I may prefer to be a defender or even a jungler now, but I can jump into other roles. If my team is being slaughtered at our base, I can use that time to escape and possibly hit an objective that’s not only being ignored but could potentially change the tide of the battle.

Bring friends

Yes, this sounds obvious for any multiplayer game. Yes, MOBAs can challenge those friendships as well, so keep in mind that you need to adapt your expectations to those of the group unless others share your game goals. PU is best with people you know and/or can voice chat with, but you can also make “friends” in-game.

About half my friend’s list is people who stomped on me during a match. Having them on my side once in a while, especially in ranked play, is nice. I can pick up some tricks just by sharing a lane with them. Similarly, you may notice someone on the losing side really stood out as a good player and needs a good partner. Maybe you can be that partner.

The lack of chat does make it hard to make true friends in the game, though you can open up free-chat if you’ve played with them enough. Sadly, most people on my friend’s list just do a few matches and log for the day or have already quit, but even just playing with someone you’re semi-familiar with can make matches a lot more fun.

Be flexible

This has a lot to do with the “work on you” part, but it’s more specific. You can swim against the current and lose all your energy or swim parallel to it to escape it. As I mentioned before, I’m traditionally not a jungler. I’ve hated it since League of Legends and loved Solstice Arena because it killed it. It just hasn’t been a role for me. But whether it’s because of the pokemon (I was big on Greninja and Garchomp before PU) or the game’s mechanics, I’ve seriously warmed up to the role in this game.

Being able to play not just other characters but whole roles really makes matches less frustrating. Instead of butting my head against another defender who may not be as good as I am, I can grab an attacker to make use of him or maybe use a supporter to help him survive more. Once I decided that I’d be responsible for my own fun and literally go with the flow (of PUG battles), I stopped getting so angry at my battles. Even wins before could be frustrating if someone who took “my” role became liabilities that nearly cost us the game.

I highly suggest that people find at least one all-arounder they enjoy, as they do actually help round things out, often being slightly tanky while offering good DPS. Many of them can handle laning or jungling at some point, so they have great flow. They also help you stand out, since acting as a tank or jungler in a pinch can grab people’s attention, and at least for me, that makes a match more memorable. It’s actually how I got into jungling myself, and now it’s one of my favorite roles, even more so than support, which is typically my other go-to role.

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Communicate on and off the field, even without voice chat

This is a big one. Again, the game lacks custom chat, and you won’t hear many people on voice. While you can press the up key on the D-Pad and use the right control stick to select from a circle of options, try hitting the “-” key to bring up the map and calling stuff  by moving your cursor over it and press “A.” 9/22 Update: On mobile, the there’s an “expand” icon near the mini-map. Simply tap that and tap on the area you wish to call attention to.

Maybe these are “secret call-outs,” but they’re vital. For example, you could just spam “I held assistance!” while soloing Drednaw, or you could hover over it on the minimap and press to to specifically call out that you need help. Or if someone else is in that same situation and you’re across the field, you can hover over him, press A, and call out “Play [X] needs assistance!” You can even use this to call out players to target.

However, sometimes the problems become obvious even before the match starts. Maybe there need to be other mechanics to assist here, but there are still ways to communicate with other people, and the character selection screen is actually one of the most crucial times to do so, but it’s often ignored.

Let’s take character selection as an example. Pikachu, which is actually one of the better and more flexible Attackers, could go into any lane, including the Jungle. Similarly, Blastoise is a defender, but I’ve heard people make arguments about it being a good jungler, and I’ve seen a trusted tier list that currently agrees with that. That makes it hard for the rest of the team to plan around those players, especially if that player isn’t flexible and intends to want to stick to a single role no matter what.

By selecting which lane you’re going into at the character select screen, other players have an idea of what the team may need in terms of composition. While oddball teams like all attackers may work, especially against unskilled opponents and/or a full pre-made group on voice chat, that’s not the norm. If everyone announces a lane/role, it gives your teammates an opportunity to be, well, team players. Don’t expect them to do it, but it’s hard for them to, say, choose a defender if you’re actually using Blastoise as a center lane jungler.

Again, though, be flexible. Even if you called jungler, there’s going to be that one guy who ignores everyone’s attempts to communicate with the team and refuses to accept that you called dibs. Whatever. Be the bigger person, adapt, and then block them so maybe you never have to play with him again.

Don’t worry about bringing a healer

I know this will ruffle some feathers, especially among the support people, but hear me out for a moment. In low Elo and unranked play, support classes can’t shine quite as well as they would with a non-PUG. At least at the moment, (anti-)CC feels more important than heals.

If you’re a support player, play it when you want to. Find a way to make it work if you must. But even in your flexibility, if you see a hole in your team, most of the time, I’d say fill it with an all-arounder or other role you’re comfortable in. Maybe this will change one day, but for now, I’d argue that a character with good CC or anti-CC will help your team more than just adding a few heals, especially if your character can’t fight back well. In layman MMO terms, this game doesn’t accept Holy Priests well. Best to do Shadow or Disc, if you go heals at all.

Experiment outside of ranked play

This comes up a lot in reference to people’s dailies. Need to be MVP? Don’t sacrifice your ranked team to play selfishly and grab it. Gotta play speedsters and you’re still learning them? Maybe avoid ranked play again.

Any quest that you want to actively work on should be done in Quick Play when possible. Not only is it unranked, but the matches are shorter, meaning it’s far quicker to get through them and often easier for you to achieve. You also won’t hurt your own rank, which will probably piss you off too.

Leave when you’re tilted

This one should be obvious, but not always. I actually used to have a sticky note by my computer for ranked play that said, “Tilted? Go work out.” While you don’t need to lift weights between games, you should consider taking a break when you know your losses have caused you to make more errors.

If you can catch yourself, say, rez-rushing the enemy into a loss, switch gears and get back into the field to complete the objectives needed for the win, great. Do that. But if you rez-rush to a loss and you know you’re making a mistake while it happens, that’s when you should give yourself a timeout. Maybe go into quick play for some easy wins, or switch to your MMO for some auctions or something. Playing badly sucks, but playing badly and knowing it’s because you’re lost your mojo is bad for everyone, especially you. Do something to get back into the groove before jumping back in.

Play the pokemon you like

This may seem obvious, but one thing Pokemon Unite does extremely well is getting the general theme of a pokemon down. Maybe even moreso than the main games do.

Take Greninja, for example. While its kit in the main games does give it some pretty ninja-esque tools, it can often take awhile to set up. In PU, you’ll swiftly become a watery shadow warrior. Serious mascot Pikachu is always OP, but is generally underwhelming in the main games except when The Pokemon Company makes devs give it ways to be OP. Its PU form feels more Pikachu anime than pre-evolved-punching bag we often deal with in-game.

Even if the moves don’t appeal to you, give them a try. When I saw that Blastoise would get my least favorite ability, Torrent, translated into the game, I was worried it just wouldn’t be for me. But after reading a few guides and looking over some of my options, I took the plunge and haven’t looked back. While it’s never been a top-tier pokemon in the main series, its general feel goes along with how it’s presented in various media, including its weird speed issue recently displayed in New Pokemon Snap. Even if you lose, there are few things as fun for a pokemon fan than seeing your favorite pokemon live up to its lore presentation. You may not master your fav, but you may at least have new respect for it.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!

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