Pokémon Sword and Shield have been out for about three months now and in that time I’ve managed to beat the game, played through the post-game story line and am well on my way to completing the pokedex. I wrote a post on my first impressions of the game back in November and, now that I’ve fully experienced what the game has to offer, I feel that I’m ready to give a more thorough review.
The version I played was Pokémon Shield; I haven’t played Pokémon Sword but, like with past Pokémon games, the differences between versions are small enough that my review can be considered to cover both versions. I also purchased a Pokémon Home subscription and have been using that to transfer around pokémon from past games, something that has been a great boon in my quest to fill up the Galar pokedex, so I will cover some of my thoughts on that service in this review as well.
Let’s start with the good.
Top Pros of Pokémon Sword and Shield:
- The Region: If you’ve read my First Impressions post then most of what I’m about to say will be a recap of what I wrote there. The Galar region has a unique flavour to it that helps to make the game seem fresh and vibrant, even when it’s retreading some well worn ground. Based on the United Kingdom, the Galar region treats pokemon battles like a beloved sport, with each Gym having their own jerseys and the battles against the gym leaders taking place in packed stadiums full of adoring fans. The Champion of the League even wears a cape covered in sponsor logos! This is a really fun take on pokémon battles that added extra excitement to the gym challenge. The new pokemon introduced in this game were also great. I especially loved all of the regional variants of older pokémon, a concept that had been introduced in the previous generation of games and one that I’m happy to see is being continued.
- Max Raid Battles: While I personally think Dynamax and Gigantamax forms are pretty gimmicky and not particularly well integrated into regular gameplay, I must admit that I do really enjoy Max Raid Battles. These Raid Battles are a new form of cooperative play where you connect your game with your friends’, or team up with other players online, in order to take on and capture powerful dynamax or gigantamax pokémon in a team battle. I’ve had a lot of fun taking on these difficult foes and the Pokémon company has been regularly switching up which pokemon are more readily available, so I am regularly inspired to connect online and see if I can join in on a raid for a rare pokemon.
- The Wild Area: A large open area in the middle of the Galar region inhabited by all sorts of pokemon, the Wild Area is Pokémon’s first flirtation with the idea of an open world style game. There are lots of places to explore, tons of different pokemon to catch and danger around every corner, as the levels of said pokemon vary greatly depending on which area you wander into. It’s an exciting feature to the game and I’m hoping that future additions to the franchise will take this idea and run with it.
Top Cons of Pokémon Sword and Shield:
- Clunky Online Functionality: While I’ve been enjoying online trading and Max Raid battles, I’ve found that the functionality of the online play in these games is lacking in intuitiveness. Half the time my attempts to join in on a raid will fail because the request has expired and there isn’t really a convenient way to refresh the requests that are available for you to view. Sometimes the option to load new ones will be there and sometimes it won’t be. It can be quite infuriating.
- Weak Story: There’s no two ways about it, the story in Pokémon Sword and Shield is weak. While pokemon is not a franchise that it particularly known for having deep storylines, this one stands out as one of the worst, as it’s close to being non-existent. Not much of anything happens pertaining to the main conflict for the majority of the game, aside from a bit of hinting that something nefarious is going on with the characters that wind up being the main villains. There are a few subplots related to some of the side-characters that are pretty fun, but I would have liked to have seen more of the antagonists and learnt more about their motivations. When the action does finally get started and we have our big battle with the main bad guy, it feels anticlimactic because there wasn’t much building up to it. I’m not even sure that I really understand why they did what they did. I mean, Pokémon villains in past games have had some pretty stupid plans over the years (like expanding the oceans or land mass of the region), but at least I understood what it was they were trying to accomplish. Not sure I could explain to you what the villain of Sword and Shield was trying do.
- No GTS in the Actual Games: The GTS, or Global Trading System, is a feature that allows you to post specific trade requests online and it’s an invaluable feature if you’re trying to complete the pokedex. Online trading is available in Pokémon Sword and Shield, you can connect with friends or send out a trade request and connect with strangers or you can do a surprise trade where you select a pokemon to trade and receive a random one in return, but the GTS feature is missing. The GTS is included in Pokémon Home, a cloud service that allows you to connect with older games and with your Pokémon Go account and move your pokemon in between games or store them all in one place. The trading features are only part of the paid subscription, but I was willing to pay for the ability to use the GTS again… except even with the paid subscription I’m not able to use it. See, Pokémon Home includes an app, which makes sense, as it needs to be able to connect to Pokémon Go. What doesn’t make sense to me is that all of the trading features are only accessible on the app… which isn’t compatible with my cell phone. This is extremely frustrating to me, especially since I have no clue why it would be set up this way. Wouldn’t it be easy to have trading on both the app and on the switch? Why limit it to just one?
With all that said, overall I enjoyed playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. I wouldn’t place them among my top three Pokémon games of all time or anything like that, but the games have a lot of fun features and endearing qualities that allowed me to look past their flaws. I’ve pre-purchased the DLC content for the games, which will be released later this year, and am eagerly awaiting the chance to explore new areas and catch even more pokemon.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
Well, that’s what I thought of Pokémon Sword and Shield. What are your thoughts? What are your favourites amongst the new pokemon? Let me know in the comments.