Pokemon Unite never felt so bad to play

Year 2 of Pokemon Unite is in full swing with a new map, Theia Sky Ruins, as well as major changes to Unite Moves, a slew of new Pokemon to try, new Boost decals, and a few major tweaks to underperforming ‘mons. While these big changes were exciting at first, it didn’t take long for the community to realize that the overall impact on the game wasn’t very positive. In fact, the balance right now is further off than ever before – so much so that many similarities seem predetermined on the character selection screen.

In addition, changes to the new map have created significantly more opportunities to snowball your opponents and fewer opportunities to overtake from behind. While the game has undeniably shifted to a more skill-focused and team-oriented position – a boon to the competitive scene – the lack of improvements in matchmaking has left players in the leaderboards with the lowest quality we’ve ever seen. Unless you’re playing with a full team of five, Pokemon Unite now feels awful to play.


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Unbalanced characters have created an oppressive meta on the ranked ladder, and for the first time ever, it’s not just the newest character that has been overpowered. The reworking of Mr. Mime has turned him into a powerhouse that can hold out just as well as a Defender and can deal damage and stun better than most all-rounders. Even without team support, Mr. Mime up against almost any level opponent, and even after a minor nerf early in the season, the Pokemon is still dominant.

We see similar performance from Glaceon, Gengar and to a lesser extent Mew. Those four are so much more viable than any other Pokemon that it’s common to see at least three (or often all four) on each team. If the opponent is a Glaceon, Gengar and Mr. Mime and your team has not, the match is almost certainly lost before it even started. This imbalance forces people to play a small selection of Pokemon if they want to stand any chance of winning and puts anyone who doesn’t have (or can’t afford) these characters at a disadvantage. Three weeks into the season, it is clear that the developers are in no rush to address the situation. Pokemon Unite has never been so unbalanced.

There will be balance changes and hopefully Pokemon like Mr. Mime and Glaceon are reduced to a more even power level. That’s an easy problem to solve, but there’s another, more complex problem that Unite is facing right now: the skill gap. Poor matchmaking and an easy-to-climb ladder have always been an issue for Unite, but the layout and gameplay changes on the new map have accentuated those issues to an untenable extent. Simply put, you need a coordinated team to win, but unless you bring four of your own friends, the chances of having a competent team to play with are close to zero.

Theia Sky Ruins is a much better card than Remoat Stadium for a number of reasons. It’s much bigger and contains more XP to farm, so teams have a lot more options about where to go, what to focus on, and even what items to bring into battle. The Rayquaza changes also mean that, unlike Zapdos, the team that snips this end goal doesn’t automatically win, so scoring and defending goals is much more important. The skill ceiling has been raised significantly on the new map, and from a competitive standpoint, the game is much better for it.

Unfortunately, the exact things that make Theia Sky Ruins a superior card are also the things that ruin the game for regular players. Without real skill-based matchmaking, matches are filled with a mix of players at every skill level. It’s nearly impossible to make randos appear for team fights, defend goals, and play for goals, and the aforementioned map changes make it much harder for a single skilled player to carry their teams. A lot of Unite players just don’t know how to win games, and the matchmaking system makes no effort to group those players together to give those of us playing a better experience. Games are won and lost by a single dunk on the new map, and it’s endlessly frustrating to watch your unwitting teammates wander the map as the enemy scores on the target they’re supposed to be defending – especially at the highest levels of the arranged ladder.

Players are generally unwilling to learn the intricacies of the card to be successful, and unfortunately there is a lot to learn. One of the most annoying scenarios involves the highest and lowest objectives. Where previously the bottom Dreadnaw target was essential, the bottom targets on the new map are virtually useless – and in Regice’s case, literally useless. Alternatively, the once-forgotten top lane Rotom (Regieleki on the new map) is of particular interest. Achieving this goal is often a prerequisite to winning, and seeing your teammates wandering as you fight tooth and nail to achieve this goal is enough to get your blood boiling. Everyone I know has played countless games where their jungler is busy soloing the Regice while the top lane suffers, and there’s no reason this should happen consistently in Master-ranked games.

Until significant changes come to matchmaking, Unite cannot improve. It’s always been a huge problem, but at the Remoat Stadium at least it felt like a sufficiently skilled player could drag his team kicking and screaming to victory. That is not the case on Theia Sky Ruins. Players have to fulfill their roles and team up with their team if they want to win, and that’s overwhelmingly not happening right now, no matter what rank you manage to climb. Tightening the ranks and removing the security that allows players with negative win rates to continue climbing the ladder is the only solution. It means fewer players overall reaching Master, but it’s the only way to create a healthy playing environment for the people who really want to compete, coordinate and win games together. It only takes so long that people will bear to play with ignorant, selfish teammates.

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