Pokémon Sword and Shield represent the first new main series Pokémon games on a home console, and the results are mixed.
Instead of playing it safe, the series boldly introduces many new mechanics and features, such as the free roaming Wild Area, co-op Raid Battles, and Dynamax. But these new features come with some annoying growing pains. We’ve listed below everything we love – and hate, about Pokémon Sword and Shield.
LOVE The Wild Area
The wild area is the single biggest defining feature of Pokémon Sword and Shield. This area is like a mini-MMO as we’re free to wander around and get into battles with stronger Pokémon. Each area within has its own weather and native Pokémon, making it worthwhile to check back in, not to mention hunting for items and finding Max Raid Battles.
HATE Everywhere Else
As cool as the Wild Area is, it makes the other routes feel archaic in comparison. Snapping back to a fixed camera and linear paths is how Pokémon always plays, which now feels like a step backwards. We’d love future Pokémon games to fully embrace the more open-ended Wild Area regions going forward.
LOVE New Pokémon
Every generation adds new Pokémon, and Gen 8 has some of the best designs we’ve seen in awhile, like the punk-rock Electric/Poison Toxtricity, the Rock/Fire mine cart pokémon Carkol, and the epic mustachioed Fire/Bug Centiskorch.
HATE Missing Pokémon
The big controversy leading up to Gen 8’s release was the lack of a National Dex, meaning we would not be able to, you know, Catch ‘Em All. While 400 Pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield are plenty to enjoy the game, it’s a major bummer that another 400+ were left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully they’ll be added in future Switch releases.
LOVE Swapping Pokémon
One of the best new quality of life improvements from last year’s Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee was the ability to quickly swap Pokémon between our active party and our storage boxes anywhere in the field. It’s a much-needed feature, and we’re motivated to use many more Pokémon than ever before.
HATE Very Easy Difficulty
Pokémon games are still designed for kids and rarely present a challenge to anyone who has experience playing them. But the games have been getting steadily easier over the years. We were annoyed to see the party-wide EXP Share (added in Gen 6) built into Gen 8, and no longer an option we could turn off. That combined with getting XP when catching pokémon make it almost impossible to not become over-leveled for the majority of the campaign, where we continue to battle trainers with only one or two pokémon, and easily exploitable single-type gyms.
LOVE Max Raid Battles
A neat concept from Pokémon GO were raid battles, co-op events where multiple trainers came together to defeat super-powerful pokémon. In Gen 8, that means extra large dynamax (or unique Gigantamax) pokémon. Finding dens with limited time raid battles give a fun excuse to travel around The Wild Area, and they remain enjoyable through harrowing post-game fights. Thankfully you can play them offline as well, though NPC allies often leave a lot to be desired (Magikarp – seriously?).
HATE Online Multiplayer
The online multiplayer integration is an excellent example of a good idea that’s poorly executed. We love the idea of being able to seamlessly log on and seeing other trainers around us in the world. But the framerate suffers, trainers teleport around, and joining raid battles or trade requests is a convoluted nightmare. We’d love to see more online multiplayer features in future Pokémon games but it needs serious work.
LOVE Seeing Pokémon in the World
One of our favorite features from Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee/Pikachu was seeing Pokémon wandering around in the grass. It brings the games to life like nothing before, and we’re thrilled to see that becoming the new normal with Gen 8. Sword and Shield actually use both methods to hide rarer pokémon behind exclamation points, giving us a good reason to root around in the grass while avoiding (or seeking) wandering pokémon.
Gigantamax is another good idea that’s horribly executed. Certain pokémon can transform into more powerful unique forms when dynamaxing, called Gigantamax. But the horrible catch (pun intended) is that you have to find these specific pokémon from Max Raid Battles. That awesome Centiskorch that’s been with you since Route 3? Kick her to the curb if you want to get a special Gigantamax version. The best solution would have been to make it a rare item, like the Z-Max, or have it ingrained in all versions of that pokémon, like Mega Evolutions.
LOVE Sports Theme
The Galar Region is based on the United Kingdom,home to big FIFA sports fans, which translates nicely to the world of Pokémon. Instead of tiny buildings where trainers battle gym leaders in a back room, Galar Gym battles are a major sporting event, with gigantic stadiums and various mini-games leading up to a final showdown, with cheering crowds and epic dynamaxing pokémon.
HATE Team Yell
We get it – the sports theme means the antagonistic group in Sword and Shield are a bunch of soccer hooligans. Upset sports fans are a far cry from organized crime syndicates who want to control the world through severe climate change, or an underground resistance who want to free pokémon from their trainers, as in previous Pokémon games.
LOVE Poké Jobs
Thanks to the new Poké Jobs system, all those pokémon languishing in our storage boxes can be put to good to use. By visiting any Pokémon Center, we can see a list of jobs that require certain types of pokémon. Sending pokémon off for hours or even a full day lets them earn a significant amount of experience and generate items and money, while we enjoy catching more pokémon to feed our burgeoning business empire. Whatcha need done? I gotta pokémon for that.