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Is Pokémon Sword and Shield worth playing?

The Nintendo Switch gets its first original Pokémon game, but is Sword and Shield an evolution for the series? Here’s our review roundup.

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Pokemon Sword and Shield review
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The Nintendo Switch gets its first original Pokémon game, but is Sword and Shield an evolution for the series? Here’s our review roundup.

Pokémon Sword and Shield comes to the Nintendo Switch with a slew of new features for the franchise. There’s a new Wild Area to explore at leisure, spectacular Dynamax and Gigantamax powers, and it’s all set in a picturesque region based on Great Britain.

Reviews for the game are mostly positive. The consensus is that Pokémon Sword and Shield is a step forward for the franchise, although not the evolution some hoped for. The new gameplay additions receive praise, and the slimmed-down Pokédex and lack of HMs are not the problems many players feared.

If you’re a fan of the series, it seems unlikely you’ll be too disappointed. Here’s our pick of the game’s reviews.

Pokémon Sword and Shield review roundup

Polygon

“Even after completing the main story, which took around 30 hours, I was still able to find new ingredients in the Wild Area, as well as new place and Pokémon I hadn’t encountered before — which is to say that despite the national ’dex controversy, Sword and Shield feels full with the 400 pocket monsters that are in the game.

There’s a real wonder in wandering into an area you’ve pored over for hours already, only to find something new each time you return. Sometimes those surprises are small, like an apple you can make a new curry with. Other times, it’s a previously hidden location, an island in the middle of a lake with a half-dozen Bewear roaming around.”

Recommended – Review by Nicole Carpenter

Gamespot

“The Wild Area is the show-stopping feature of this generation. Pokemon roam the fields and lakes, changing with the day’s weather. They pop up as you walk by, and you can even identify Pokemon out of your direct line of vision by their cries. It’s all too easy to set out for one destination only to be distracted by a Pokemon you haven’t caught yet, an item glittering on the ground in the distance, or even an evolved form of a Pokemon that you didn’t realize you could catch in the wild. There’s constantly something new to do or discover, and it’s there to engage you right out of the gate.”

9/10 – Review by Kallie Plagge

Kotaku

“There are legitimate critiques to make about Pokémon Sword and Shield. The game is challenging, sure, but it never kept me up at night. The plot is pretty lackluster; for example, nothing reaches the narrative heights of Black and White. The environments outside of cities and towns not exactly awe-inspiring, and anyone hoping for a very specific Pokémon in this game from previous entries will more likely than not be disappointed. There are times that the game holds your hand that will feel irritating if you’re an adult, especially in its earliest hours. Yet after the credits rolled, I couldn’t stop myself from reopening my save file. I wanted more adventure.”

Not scored – Review by Gita Jackson

GamesRadar

“It’s just a shame that it doesn’t always look like a new generation game. The cutscenes are slick, and the ability to control the camera freely in the Wild Area are definitely the makings of a true Switch game, and on the whole the game looks fantastic. It’s easily the best-looking Pokemon game to date, but isn’t anywhere near on par with the likes of Breath of the Wild, Luigi’s Mansion 3, or even Super Mario Odyssey in terms of graphical fidelity. The fact that there’s no voice acting also jars a little, especially when there’s a character who’s all about singing, but ends up just mouthing silently while the text beats underneath.”

4.5/5 – Review by Sam Loveridge

Eurogamer

Pokémon Sword and Shield is entirely dungeonless. There is no route or cave or building or wood more complex than Red, Blue and Yellow’s Viridian Forest, the tutorial pseudo-dungeon at the start of generation one. Nothing in the game comes close to even Mt. Moon or Rock Tunnel, let alone the twelve floors of warp-pad mayhem in Silph Co. – all first-generation locations that were fully realised in Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, both ostensibly remade versions of the classic games, but for children. It might seem inconsequential to say these games are dungeonless – Breath of the Wild did away with traditional ones, after all – but I can assure you it isn’t. Dungeons, in every generation until now, are the very essence of Pokémon games. They’re where you find the most trainers, the most items, the most puzzles and the most interesting, mysterious nuggets of lore. In Sword and Shield all of that is gone, and there is no replacement.”

No scored – Review by Chris Tapsell

IGN

“Experiencing the avalanche of improvements made me realize just how complacent I’d become with Pokemon mechanics that were, in hindsight, less than ideal. While this series has always been great about introducing new players with thorough tutorials, it seems crazy that experienced players have never been able to skip them until now. Just tell the NPC you know what’s up and they’ll get out of the way and let you get down to the business of catching and training – you can even catch Pokemon without being told how, and doing so automatically skips the tutorial. Likewise, travel across the map has been made fast and convenient, and even connecting with other people is as simple as pressing the Y button. And perhaps most overdue of all, Sword and Shield have killed the sacred cow of the traditional random encounters that have all too often made exploring feel like a slog. All throughout, Sword and Shield feels like it respects your time.”

9.3/10 – Review by Casey De Freitas

Ars Technica

“Like most Switch games, Sword and Shield deploy some graphical trickery to keep things running smoothly—shadows lose resolution quickly as you move away from objects, for instance, and far-off objects can often pop into existence (the way that Pokémon actually spring up as they pop in makes this graphical artifact more playful and intentional-looking). These aren’t the best-looking games on the Switch, or even the best-looking RPGs (Dragon Quest XI running on the Switch manages better draw distance and more detailed environments, for instance, though the resolution is often visibly lower). Still, the monster designs, environments, and big, colorful character models all look good. This is definitely the look that Sun and Moon were going for but executed more successfully on new hardware.”

Not scored – Review by Andrew Cunningham


Title: Pokémon Sword and Shield
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon Company/Nintendo
Release date: November 15, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch


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Thumbsticks editor, and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Fire Emblem Three Houses, Skyrim (still), and Grid.