Sorry Pokemon Unite, I Was Wrong About Zapdos
Zapdos and Articuno Aren’t as broken and unfair as I once though, my apologies to Pokemon Unite
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The end of the year is always a time of reflection for me. It’s good to look back on the past 12 months and evaluate what I contributed to the discourse, explore how my views have changed, and ask one very important question: Did I get anything wrong? For the last 20ish years (I’m not telling you my age) the answer has always been an emphatic ‘no’. I have never had a bad take in my life… until now. I’m a big enough man to admit when I made a mistake – even though it’s literally never happened before – so I’m here to set the record straight and issue a formal apology to Pokemon Unite. Zapdos/Articuno is not “a total fucking disaster” as I once claimed. In fact, Zapdos is the most important aspect of the game, and I hope it never changes.
I’ve learned a lot as I’ve climbed through the ranks in Unite, and I admit I may have had a knee-jerk reaction to the immense upset potential of Zapdos. In the early days of Pokemon Unite before many understood the flow and timing of a match, Zapdos made every match feel like it had a totally random outcome. It didn’t matter if your team was hundreds of points ahead and had broken all of the enemy’s goals because whoever killed Zapdos would automatically win the game. It was hard to take Unite seriously when winning or losing felt completely out of my control. When one Venusaur Solar Beam can kill Zapdos and decide the entire game, it doesn’t feel like there’s any point in trying.
What a fool I was, those many months ago, for now I see the genius of Zapdos. Controlling Zapdos/Articuno absolutely does win games, but now I can see how much balance Zapdos brings to the game.
In non-tournament Unite matches, particularly in solo queue, there’s a lot of potential to carry. Good Junglers like Tsareena, Dragonite, Lucario, and Talonflame can earn levels quickly and dominate lanes early. Once a powerful Pokemon starts to over-level the other team, there’s just no way to stop the snowball. Getting just two levels ahead of your enemies as Tsareena can make you feel practically invincible, and with the right items like a Score Shield and an Attack Weight, you can easily run around the map scoring goals without any way for the opponent to stop you. Without Zapdos, a single skilled player could single-handedly win most games. Try to take that same rockstar energy to Zapdos though, and you’ll quickly find yourself in big trouble.
Zapdos is designed to reward teamwork rather than individual skill. The team that shows up together at the right time and fights the best will almost always win the match, even if they were behind the entire time. This is the intended design, and I think it’s exactly how it should work. A team doesn’t deserve to win just because they have a cracked Lucario player. If you can’t unite, which is literally the name of the game here, you don’t deserve to win. Zapdos is the ultimate test of how well each player works together with the team, and more often than not, it rewards the more coordinated team.
That doesn’t mean that Zapdos is the only objective that matters, of course. Having a lead going into the final two minutes is still great because it forces your opponents to fight for Zapdos or lose. When you’re ahead, your team’s job is to show up for the Zapdos fight and defend it with your life. No one on either side should be trying to take Zapdos until the other team is dead, so winning the team fight usually leads to winning the game. That sounds fair to me.
There are plenty of Pokemon who can snipe the Zapdos and steal the kill, it’s true. But if your team shows up on time, properly leveled from prioritizing farm, and eliminates the other team before taking on Zapdos, does it really matter if a single sneaky Greninja steals the kill? At that point, you’ve got a full team gathered together ready to push the enemy goal while the opponent is still dead. It’s highly likely that you’ll still win the game even if the one Greninja runs off alone and scores for free. The team effort is always worth more than the solo hero – that’s what makes Zapdos so great.
There are still upsets from time to time, and it’s possible for the worse team to win, but this is true for any game. Removing and devaluing Zapdos would just give individual players more power to carry games by themselves, and that just isn’t what Unite is about. Zapdos is the great equalizer, and I’m sorry I didn’t realize that until now.
Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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