I didn’t love Pokemon Unite’s Halloween event, but I was at least willing to give its altered mode a few more shots before heading back into the safety of the MOBA’s standard battles. I can’t say the same for the game’s Holiday Festivities twist, because after one match in which players turn into stationary snowmen after being knocked out, the entire thing feels so inherently busted that not even the novelty of it can save it.
The first thing that should have signaled danger was the entire opposing team was made up of tanky defender Pokemon that could both dish out and take a lot of damage. Games like Pokemon Unite are built upon teamwork and team composition. The goal is to have different characters that can complement each other and help the team accomplish goals while filling different roles. So before me and my team really understood the mode, the decision for our opposing team to forego a balanced team composition and just opt to play as this massive wall of HP was odd. However, once we really understood how Pokemon Unite’s Snowball Battle worked, it made sense. They were taking advantage of a broken mode.
Snowball Battle’s primary alteration is what happens to characters when they’re beaten. In most Pokemon Unite modes, a player would respawn at the spawn point, but in Snowball Battle, they’re instead transformed into a snowman that can’t do anything but cheer on their teammates. It’s a cute nod to the seasonal theme, but it gave our opposing team of unstoppable tanks an opening to take us out once and then…snowball…on top of us for an entire match. As we lost one team fight, instead of respawning to safety and being able to regroup, the tanks just stayed on top of us and were able to take us out with little effort when we returned to our Pokemon forms. All while scoring as we helplessly watched from inside our frozen prisons. This went on and on until the clock hit zero.
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If I were to go back and play Snowball Battle again, will everyone I ever get matched up against use an unstoppable wall of tanks? Probably not. But this first impression showed all the frustrating ways it could be exploitable. Respawns are integral to how most games that use them work. That movement to a safe area where players can be out of the line of fire is important because it not only acts as a pseudo punishment for dying, but it gives players a reprieve to regroup and reassess. Now the best we can do is vibe and wave to each other as snowmen while these nerds dunk on us. So, I think I’m just gonna stick to regular matches during Pokemon Unite’s latest seasonal event. At least in those, I’ll always be showing off my Santa Claus Pikachu holowear instead of being a fucking snowman.
[Disclaimer: Fanbyte is owned by Tencent, which also co-developed Pokemon Unite. Though the company has no editorial oversight with Fanbyte Media. Nor have any of its representatives had direct contact with this writer.]