Pokémon Sword & Shield Review

sword and shield

Pokémon Sword and Shield have been out for about three months now and in that time I’ve managed to beat 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: 

  1.  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 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.
  2.  Max Raid Battles: While I personally think Dynamax and Gigantamax forms are gigantamaxpretty 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.
  3.  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.

pokemon-sword-shield-starters

Top Cons of Pokémon Sword and Shield:

  1. 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 your to view. Sometimes the option to load new ones will be there and sometimes it won’t be. It can be quite infuriating.
  2.  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.
  3. 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 pokemon homeconnect 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.

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16 thoughts on “Pokémon Sword & Shield Review

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  1. I lost track of Pokemon ages ago, but it’s good to know that they have still been putting effort in the video games. That was a good review of the newest games.

    Funny enough when it comes to Pokemon, I actually saw a Pokemon cosplay wrestling match on YouTube a few months ago. That was a trip. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, right? Hahaha! It was an unexpected nostalgia boost. Everyone was so funny in their roles in the match. I would’ve never expected Eddie Dennis to do any of this when I reviewed that documentary in late 2018. He even thought my review of it was great and thanked me which was pretty cool. I wonder if any of his former students saw that Pokemon cosplay match (he was a former head teacher at a boarding school before wrestling full-time a couple of years ago).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I just spent my morning playing Shield and I’m still trying to complete my pokedex but overall I could say I def agree with a lot of what you’re saying.

    The clunky online functionalities, as you put it, though I didn’t think the same as you at first. I immediately thought about how the game slows down sometimes when I’m playing online or how it would be nice to have a more communicative aspect. Like in link trades for instance. It would be nice to able to say “hey I want this pokemon do you have it”, instead of only running into ppl who want shinies and instantly end the trade when you try to suggest something else. (Mini rant about how annoyed I am with people and link trades).

    Frankly, this is my first pokemon game and I’ve only owned my switch for four months (also basically my whole experience as a gamer), but I have to say I agree about the weak story but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this game because I was basically just interested in the pokemon part, like catching, battling, evolving…

    At the moment I think I’ve overcome the GTS problem a bit by just searching exchange codes online. These are all over forums and even articles and yeah, that’s how I’m getting the other version pokemon.

    Speaking of the pokemon themselves, I’m a bit disappointed not to get more new ones, or even some of the classic ones, though I’ve heard the expansion is bringing a lot of those. (like bulbasaur which I’m super excited about)
    Are you interested in getting the expansions?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m definitely getting the expansions, they look super fun!

      Yeah, link trades can be really hit or miss. I’ve managed to score some great pokemon that way in the past but there are also a lot of trades that just go nowhere, as you mentioned. That’s why the GTS was so useful. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but it truly is a handy feature. You can make a request for the specific pokemon you want and, as long as you’re offering a pokemon of equivalent or greater value, in my experience it’s pretty easy to get what you’re looking for. Looking for exchange codes might be a worth trying as an alternative however. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very solid review. While I do rate it a bit higher myself I definatly get your points. The lack of Global Trade has not been an issue for me I completed the game without much effort and trhough a few connections trough discord , twitter and youtube I did manage to get the dex complete. It kinda felt more rewarding to trade with friends .. or friends of friends. I do agree with the weak story and how online stuff could be more streamlined. But I rarely had massive issues with my net.

    I do dislike how they made all online matches timed though. It makes switching a lot harder and hazard teams less viable. Which is a bit of a shame.. but overall I love this game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’ll focus on link trades and try and get the last couple pokemon I’m missing that way. I’m sure that will work out fine, but I remain annoyed about the GTS.

      I don’t really battle online much, as I’m terrible at it, but that does sound annoying.

      Despite my complaints, I did enjoy the game overall and am still having fun playing it. I’m looking forward the DLC, it looks like it will be pretty cool.

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  4. honestly pretty much everything you said and I’m not particularly mad over the controversies this game has had mostly cause I love playing these games but I don’t really see them as something to take seriously where I wish nintendo would lighten up or at least remove the whole idea of EV stuff due to how introducing is part of what gives pokemon most of it’s negatives these days. but yeah since I’m not one to take it seriously I can’t even be that upset over reused or lack of certain animations mostly cause I don’t really expect anything from gamefreak when it comes to these games. I’m honestly more impressed we got as much as we did at all.

    the story is definitely the weakest of pokemon stories especially when you consider black and white and their sequels along with ruby and sapphire and diamond and pearl giving the series certain story elements that are interesting and even oddly dark. lol but depending on if the coming DLC will enhance the story to fix the issues we’ll see if opinions change or not.

    the Kaiju modes cause let’s face that’s exactly what these giant forms are no matter what you call them probably made due to the monsterverse and attack on titan’s popularity, I have to agree that it does feel more gimmicky than Z moves and Mega Evolutions where those 2 concepts tied into the lore of their stories. I do want them to eventually put all these concepts in one game since it’s not like every pokemon can do a z or mega evolution. which is part of where I do find going kaiju a bit boring and hardly used it much in the main game. there’s a good idea in there I just think they could’ve used more time to polish it up more honestly and rather from what I can tell every pokemon getting to do this they should’ve stuck to how Z and Mega Evolutions only had a select number of pokemon who could pull this off. I guess what also didn’t interest me about it is just in the fact you can literally just stay normal size and you can still one hit KO kaiju size pokemon depending on your pokemon’s stats and level overall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t get too worked up over the game’s controversies either. I am actually pretty happy with the graphics, I think the game looks good. And you’re right, the DLC might end up enhancing the story and I would certainly be happy if that turns out to be the case. I’m looking forward to playing it and seeing what it has to offer.

      I hope Mega-Evolutions come back at some point, I really enjoyed those. A pokemon game where you could mega-evolve, use Z-moves AND dynamax would be pretty crazy! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All 3 in one game at first will be separate but maybe not way once you are introduced to all 3 you learn or allowed to used all 3 together for the most OP attacks and animations but like I said I think only a certain number of them should be able to do these as opposed to all of them that way it puts the players in a spot to think carefully on who they bring and use. I also would not mind if these ideas and a lot darker ones were at the forefront in the same way we got in the Pokemon colosseum games lol that way we get a Pokemon game for older audiences that want a bit more but doesn’t impact the main title releases

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That does sound like it would be fun and a pokemon spinoff title that’s aimed at a bit of an older audience would be pretty cool. I certainly would enjoy a title with a more complex storyline.

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      3. Heck it could take a few inspirations from the anime where training and raising Pokemon is a bit more literal. Not tomogachi literal but more on the lines of if you want pikachu to learn iron tail then you need to use let’s say a Pokemon center training area focusing on build specific stats so pikachu can learn iron tail and maybe a bit of a extra mechanic where training specific stats is beneficial to your Pokemons attacks in how strong they star and how strong they can potentially get.

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