This review is a tad late as I wanted to get knee deep in the game before reviewing. I’m over 50 hours in now so it’s time for my first gaming review!
Pokemon: Sword and Shield is the 8th generation of Pokemon games and is set in the fictional region of Galar, which is based on the UK. A few changes have been made for this game, and while a lot of hate is being given to Pokemon and Game Freak , I honestly think most of the changes are a breath of fresh air.
**Mild Spoilers throughout the review**
Sword and Shield’s plot plays out like most of the main Pokemon games before it. Growing up in the village of Postwick with your best friend and rival Hop, you want to follow in Hop’s brother’s steps and become Galar’s Champion. You choose between fire-type Scorbunny, water-type Sobble or grass-type Grookey and head off to face each of the eight gym leaders. Other rivals for the championship include Bede and Marnie, with the latter having her own gang of loyal fans called Team Yell. I chose Sobble this time round as I’ve been on a roll with water-type starters since X & Y and I like that Sobble is an anxiety ridden lizard.. I relate.
Galar’s Towns and Cities:
As you all know I’m a born and bred UK girl, I’ve lived here all my life and I will probably still do so when I’m old and grey. So the concept that a game is solely based off of the place that I live fascinated me from the start. Game Freak definitely didn’t disappoint with this region, they really did their home work on the little things that make us British. The first villages encountered in the game are called Postwick and Wedgehurst, both are designed brilliantly and actually look like villages around the UK, even the designs of the bricks and the houses are similar. The first big city encountered is Motostoke, an industrial city near the middle of Galar. It is very steampunk, with big steel contractions which take you to different levels of the town and it’s big red brick buildings. Turffield and Hulbury remind me of Weymouth, a real life sea side town in the south of England. Hulbury has the port docks and sea side feel of a real sea side town. Whereas Turffield is full of ancient artefacts that take inspiration from Stonehenge and the Hill Figures cut out of chalk all over the country. Hammerlocke has a real historian feel to it, similar to cities and towns like Edinburgh and Dorchester. Circhester is inspired by Bath as they both hold old, Roman baths known for rejuvenating visitors. Glimwood Tangle forest and Ballonlea seem to be inspired by The New Forest and the witchy town of Burley. Wyndon is basically the fictional version of London with it’s Big Ben, London Eye and skyscraper towers.
Instead of gyms being a lonely activity, gym battles are treated like a sport in Galar. A personalised football style gym outfit if given to you before each gym battle and you walk out to an actual stadium full of fans of Pokemon battles. I really love this new mechanic, makes me feel like I am truly there. Pokemon battles are similar to previous generations, except at the end of each battle when the opponents last Pokemon is brought out, it has the power to Dynamax and Gigantamax.
Dynamaxing is this generation Z-Moves and Mega Evolutions, each Pokemon has the option to Dynamax to become bigger and stronger, however this only lasts three turns. A selection of Pokemon have the option to Gigantamax which is the same as Dynamaxing except their form changes and they can use special moves, e.g Alcreamie becomes a giant birthday cake, Pikachu looks more like the fat version we grew up loving from Season 1 of the anime and Grimmsnarl turns into a thing of nightmares. Dynamaxing can also be used in the Wild Area while participating in raids. Honestly, I quite like Dynamaxing, maybe not quite as much as I loved Mega Evolutions but it’s still surreal to see your tiny Eeevee become a giant, fluffy monster 100ft tall.
Similar to Amie in X & Y, Sword/Shield has introduced camps where you can play, feed and heal your Pokemon. You aren’t able to pet them which is a bummer but you can play toys with them and actually talk to them which is pretty cool. The best thing about camps is that you can use the berries and food items you collect to cook curries for you and your Pokemon. Not only does it make your Pokes friendlier towards you, it also heals them so there’s no need to keep going back and forth to the nearest Poke Centre. You can camp pretty much anywhere as long as it’s not inside a building or during an interaction with another character.
Y-Comm is the new online system on this game, it has it’s own menu which is super handy. All your friend’s who are online and random players around the globe pop up on it. You can see what Pokemon they’ve caught recently, Pokemon they have evolved and also it’s easy to trade and participate in raids. I hope they keep this for all the games now, it’s so simple to use.
Pokemon can also gain a massive load of EXP and pick up items by participating in Jobs through the computer at all Poke Centres. A list of jobs you can send Pokemon to are in this menu of the computer, with each job easy to work out what the client need, e.g fire Pokemon to keep elderly folk warm or water Pokemon to work with the local firefighters to put our fires. I felt that my Pokemon and I were part of the community and it also helped to train up the Pokemon you want to evolve for the Dex but not keep in your main party.
As gym battles are similar to football in Galar, each person in the Pokemon league have their own ‘league card’ including you. League cards are customisable cards that you give to other players which has all the details about your Pokemon journey on it including length of playtime, gym battles won, shiny Pokemon caught etc. You can also collect other players cards like gym leaders, rivals and even friends.
The Wild Area:
The fact that Game Freak removed the long routes from the game and replaced it with the Wild Area made the game much more interesting and it was nice to see Pokemon roaming around areas as they would if they were real animals. Even on the routes you can see Pokemon waking around and interacting with each other, but they did keep randomised encounters in too. The Wild Area is two huge areas with Motostoke in the middle which is split in to many sectors. Each sector has a name and a tonne of Pokemon can be found there depending on weather. Weather changes rapidly in the Wild Area, with it changing from blizzard, hail, rain and sun before you reach the end of the area.
Max raids are another new function introduced in to the Wild Area, where you and three other players can work together to catch rare and powerful Pokemon. All around the Wild Area are dens where Dynamaxed Pokemon are hiding, you and three other players can enter the den and catch the rare and powerful Pokemon.
This part of Galar has it’s own currency called Watts, you receive Watts from iteracting with dens and battling/catching Dynamaxed Pokemon. Watts can be traded with the various traders around the Wild Area, you can receive TMs, bike upgrades and even pay people to dig for rare items for you.
The Wild Area is honestly huge and so far is the closest thing we have to an open world Pokemon game, it’s breath taking. I really hope Game Freak keeps a similar mechanic on future releases, maybe even changing the routes so they are all open areas.
Customisation is back! Most of the towns around Galar have boutiques and salons, each town also stock different clothes than the others. In the Salon you can change hair colour and style, plus also change eye colour, eyebrow shape/colour and eyelash length. This makes the game more interactive and really makes you feel part of the game.
It’s in the details:
Galar is also covered in little details like red phone boxes, the rubbish bins (or trash cans) look exactly like the ones found in towns and cities around the UK and all residents say phrases like how we speak. NPCs will call you ‘mate’ and it’s finally nice to call your in game parent ‘Mum’ instead of the US styled English that most games have. Some of the music in the game even features bagpipes which is the musical instrument of Scotland. As a wrote about above, all the towns have a distinctive British feel about them and are inspired by the very towns we have in my country.
I honestly am really enjoying this game so far, I’ve completed the main part of the game and now trying to complete the dex and do post-story content. The wild area is breathtaking, you could loose hours in the vast expanse of land catching Pokemon and participating in raids. The story is interesting, I particularly like the history aspect of Galar and unlocking pieces of the history through every town. The gang in this story aren’t so much masterminds rather than a slightly annoying hindrance but it’s nice to see Game Freak trying something new. Introducing other championship competitors other than your main rival was a nice touch, made the competitions feel real. I hope the camps is something that is continued in future games, it was nice to take a break from catching and raiding to spend some 1-1 time with my Pokemon team.
The only downfalls of the game are that the Wild Area can lag slightly when online and sometimes background objects like trees can phase out when moving around and objects in the distance suddenly popping in to focus. It’s not too off putting luckily but hopefully Game Freak patch in a solution for this. The one other issue I have is the Gigatamax Pokemon, it would have been nice to be able to Gigantamax your own Gengar, Eevee, Alcreamie etc that you have a good bond with and use often, rather than having to go through raid after raid to find one that you won’t use as it’s not the one you have in your team.
Ultimately the game has so much life to it, there’s plenty to do and see and I’m a big fan of a lot of the new Pokemon announced.. especially Hatterene, Dragapault, Corviknight, Polteageist and Galarian Ponyta/Rapidash. The fact that there was a Ghost gym and a Fairy gym was super fun too, I hope they keep these options in the game in the future. I’m so glad I decided to get this game, 50 hours in and I’m still hooked!
What’s your verdict of the game? What starter did you choose?