Welcome trainers, to the Galar region, a region filled with new Pokémon, new rivals, new towns, and an entirely
new similar adventure to become the champion. Pokémon Sword and Shield’s premise is simple and familiar. You’re a young girl/boy about to begin a brand-new adventure across the region to take on eight gym leaders and challenge the current champion of the region. Unlike previous Pokémon titles though, Pokémon Sword and Shield doesn’t have a Professor to kick you off on your journey and present you with your first Pokémon. Instead, this task is presented to you by the champion himself. An unusual start to a Pokémon game, but a refreshing one.
The towns of Galar
Throughout my journey of Galar I began to realise that although the towns may appear to be quite large, they’re actually pretty small. Yet they do hold quite a charm within each of them. The metropolitan cities left me in awe at their architectural designs and monolith buildings, whilst the forest towns left me in wonder at their mystical appearances and fairy inhabitants. Sadly, as charming as they were, they were too small to really spend much time in and I often found myself passing through as quickly as I had discovered them. In some cases, the story forces you to travel back to certain towns quite a number of times, whereas other towns I passed by once and never again. One thing is certain though and that is that Pokémon on the Switch and in turn on the big screen looks absolutely gorgeous. Of course, if you’re more into the appearance of your character and not so much the towns, most towns host boutiques that stock a variety of clothing items such as shoes, hats, glasses and even different backpacks. Since every gym challenge will eventually take place within a stadium with thousands of fans watching, you want to look your best.
Pokémon on the Switch and in turn on the big screen looks absolutely gorgeous.
Its all about them gains
A very welcoming aspect of the gym challenges is that players not only have to battle gym members but also complete certain tasks/games within the gyms. The games themselves could be a little more challenging but I suspect that the developers were going for entertainment rather than challenging. Some gyms have players herding a flock of sheep through an area whilst trying to avoid having your flock split by a ‘shepherd dog’. While other gyms offered players a light puzzle mechanic of activating switches to stop or start water flowing from Super Mario looking pipes, that clears a pathway to the exit. Each gym possessed its own challenges which always led up to a fierce battle with the gym leader in the middle of a stadium. It was quite the showcase.
A large part of the Galar region and Pokémon Sword and Shield for many players, especially after the story has been completed, is the wild area. This area houses Pokémon that wander around in the open world and can be seen by the players from a distance. Much like the Let’s Go Pokémon titles. It also possesses a multitude of areas affected by weather conditions such as snow rain and sun. Of course, these conditions mean that you’ll discover the same elemental type Pokémon. I enjoyed this area quite a bit as it allows players to focus on capturing or training with the Pokémon they want. For instance, if you’re training your fire-type Pokémon, going after only steel Pokémon due to their weakness to fire will allow you to train a lot faster. It’s also a joy to see Pokémon in their full-scale sizes in the wild. Seeing a Snorlax larger than my character in the field or a Gyarados swimming across the water creates a more immersive experience.
The fact that gym leaders didn’t utilise this Dynamax randomly made battles a little too predictable and easy.
Of course, the wild doesn’t only house Pokémon of all levels for you to capture but also possesses raid events with the new Dynamax ‘evolution’. This form increases Pokémon’s size, health, defense, and even attack stats. For players, your Pokémon will only be able to remain in this form for three turns, which is the same for gym leaders. However, for Dynamax Raids, Pokémon remain in this form until defeated. Although this feature of Sword and Shield is fun at first, it can become quite the norm quite fast. Especially during gym battles, the fact that gym leaders didn’t utilise this opportunity randomly made battles a little too predictable and easy.
As easy as taking on the gym leaders may be, the Dynamax Raids may just be a little bit more challenging. Thankfully, players will be able to do these with friends. Sword and Shield have truly incorporated more of a multiplayer aspect than ever before. You’ll be able to see friends and strangers within your game exploring the wild area right beside you. What’s more, is that you’ll be able to take on the Dynamax Raids along with three others. Don’t fear though, because if you don’t like online much, the game does offer the ability to take on the Dynamax Raids with three AI players. Remember though, each Raid will be ranked differently, so you may just want to call a friend for those tougher battles.
Let’s go camping
Another entertaining but optional feature is camping. Players are able to set up camp in nature. Camping allows players to interact with their Pokémon parties the same way the characters interact with their Pokémon in the anime. You’ll get to play with your Pokémon, allowing them to like you more. As well as cook curries and have a meal with your team that grants not only an increase in EXP similar to what you’d receive in battle but also heal up your entire party. This is perfect for those not wanting to travel back to the Pokémon Centre. Keep in mind though that you’ll need ingredients such as berries if you’d like to cook.
All in all, Pokémon Sword and Shield are welcome additions to the Pokémon franchise. It offers a unique raid experience not seen before in the Pokémon mainline titles, while still retaining the charm that veteran Pokémon fans have become accustomed to. Of course, it was quite sad at times knowing that not all Pokémon made it into the line-up and that I won’t be able to bring in my favourites. However, the number of new Pokémon available is quite a treat, and this excludes the Galar region variants.
I felt the story was a tad too short, with a big chunk of it focusing only on your quest to become the next champion, and also a bit of drama with your rivals. The main plot, or the plot that usually turns the games into the movies, is something only experienced in the late hours of the game. It was quite entertaining but I fear that many newcomers to the series may fall off earlier on in the game due to this. Nevertheless, there is a number of new mechanics that’ll treat players to a more streamlined playthrough. Some of these offerings include the auto-saving function, the ability to withdraw and deposit Pokémon from anywhere in the game and not just the Pokémon Centre and one of my favourites, the Rotom bike which converts from a land vehicle into a water vehicle instantaneously allowing for a very streamlined adventure across the land. Pokémon Sword and Shield is definitely an enjoyable and wonderful new addition to the Pokémon main series.