As always I’m never on time with anything and missed the boat by a long way but I thought I would still review Pokémon Sword now that I’ve finally finished it.
I’ll start by saying I’m a life long Pokémon fan. I’ve played all the games and a bunch of the side games in my long, long life. I didn’t go into this game wanting to hate it, I didn’t even bother keeping up with news on the development. Not the kind of fan who likes to horde old Pokémon or even complete a Pokédex, in fact I haven’t even completed a game properly for a few generations.
So I went into this game the way I go into ALL Pokémon games.
With high hopes that it would keep my interest until the bitter end.
For what it is worth it is probably the first Pokémon game I’ve played all the way through in a long time so I have to say that it probably is one of my favourites of recent times.
That being said there are some negatives even I can’t look over.
As I said I’m not the kind of person who cared about Pokémon being able to be transferred from other games or even the fact that a ton of Pokémon including a whole host of Gen 1 favourites were cut from the game.
I got the point very fast that this game isn’t really designed with the hardcore fanbase in mind and in a way that is fine. Pokémon if nothing else is a very simple game and it has always been aimed at a wide demographic and whilst other games haven’t really kept my interest for long this one managed to do so but boy was it a slug getting through the hand holding.
This game has so much hand holding it is unbelievable at times.
For me it made the game a little harder to get through then the originals where you just simply walked around and did the things. I didn’t want people asking me if I wanted to be escorted to the building directly next to the one we were in, I didn’t need Hop or Leon or anyone else explaining everything in detail to me a million times. Gone are the days where a Snorlax is blocking your way and you use your own brain to just find another path and here are the days where your rival does this for you.
That in itself isn’t enough to hate the game. It really isn’t enough for some of the overly dramatic opinions on the game either. It is simply something that to be honest a whole bunch of games with such big demographics now tend to do.
I also didn’t like the EXP share and felt it odd that it wasn’t a simple enough thing that you could have a option for it to be turned off. Neither do I like the Pokémon wandering around in the grass if I’m honest. Don’t get me wrong I love the concept of being able to see Pokémon going about their business but it stopped me from caring about actually exploring the grass areas to find the Pokémon that don’t show up. Specially in small patches that are infested with the same Pokémon wandering around making random encounters harder.
Then again these things don’t ruin the game for me either.
It stopped me caring about team building a little bit and whilst I wanted to hunt for a Farfetch’d I’m not ever that interested in catching every Pokémon the game has to offer but I can see why others would be annoyed by both.
This game, like most of the recent ones, came with some new concepts and game play elements and whilst some worked others I feel need more work but as the games seem to be aiming themselves more towards having different regions with various different game mechanics to make them more interesting and unique I feel it is a shame that we might not see many return.
One that I felt I really liked that could do with work was camping.
It was a simple enough thing to put into the game, give us a little space where we can see and play with our Pokémon and then cook and feed them curries. I loved it but it got boring very fast. I felt there weren’t enough toys and that the interactions felt incomplete. I wanted a bit more from it but as a mechanic in the games it was a whole bunch of fun and made more sense then anything else. Specially with the addition of a “Wild Zone” which basically was a lazy map making way of sticking a bunch of routes in one place, changing up the weather in each section and therefore what Pokémon can be caught at various different times/days in each area.
I mean at some point if you are running around in this giant area you’ll need to camp right?
I’m not sure I’d like to see the Wild Zone return as I did feel it was a cheap way of building the map, maybe if they separated the Wild Zones truly instead of having one giant one that spanned most of the map I wouldn’t mind but it made the region feel tiny compared to others.
Personally though I would love them to bring back and evolve the camping mechanic as I feel like I do enjoy being able to interact with my Pokémon and whilst it might be too much for something like what they had with Pokémon Let’s Go! where you have them on your shoulder and are able to interact I feel like some extra little bits and bobs in the camping mechanic could be added to scratch that itch of wanting to be able to play with your Pokémon.
Then we have the story.
In Sword/Shield you enter the Gym Challenge which is exactly like Gym battles everywhere just they don’t have a Pokémon league as such and you actually gain fans throughout the game as well as watching as the challengers slowly fade out.
Story wise it was weak but then I feel like most people never truly play Pokémon just for the story. I liked the Dynamaxing story and Chairman Rose, it felt very different that the bad guys weren’t really ever bad guys in this game but people either trying to do the right thing or getting carried away with stuff. Raiding was fun too and was one of the best parts of the Wild Zone.
It felt though like there was such a interesting story they were trying to tell but somehow even though the game is very wordy and at times super heavy on the story telling it never actually really laid down the roots of the story well enough. You can get what they are going on about. Normal British Legend type things just adding in Pokémon to it but it would have been nice seeing they worked so hard it seems on that story that we actually got it fleshed out and told in such a way that it didn’t just feel like a waste of a few hours being dragged to look at random things all the time.
Overall though I liked it.
Honestly it was probably the story that kept me going. Hop was annoying but I kind of enjoyed his company, the other challengers we got to know didn’t do enough but were fun. Team Yell were great, the gym leaders were pretty awesome and as I’ve already said Rose was a nice change of pace from the big bads I can remember, because boy can I not remember the last few games very well.
It was very difficult for me seeing how the world thinks we sound when we talk. This game was based in the UK and there was a whole bunch of “how you doing mate?” kind of interactions that made me ponder how I talk myself but that actually added to watching streamers play it as they asked Brits in their chat to tell them what the heck some of our slang meant that had been sloppily added in for fun.
For me this is a game I feel like I would come back to just to hang out in which I can’t say I’ve wanted to do in a Pokémon game in forever.
What I will say is that some people actively went out of their way to hate this game. They acted like people who brought the game on day one and didn’t share their upset or annoyance over small things were giving Game Freak a pass for being lazy or a terrible company.
Those people have sat there acting like this game is some horrific beast that people have just allowed Game Freak to get away with creating when in reality it is a pretty fun Pokémon game and the first this life long fan has completed in a good few iterations because the others haven’t been that fun for me.
Is it too easy? Maybe.
Are all the features great? Of course not.
Other then the original few games I honestly think the continuous addition of all sorts of gimmicks has been off putting at times but they are always trying new things and that is something I enjoy with Pokémon even if it never usually settles with me. Dynamaxing was fun, something I didn’t talk about in this review that I loved was jobs where you can send your Pokémon out to work and gain EXP plus I have mentioned how much I liked camping even if I didn’t feel it felt complete.
Should they maybe take time away and not push to get a Pokémon game out every year?
I mean sure but they make money and that is just the nature of the beast.
People who don’t want to look past their own anger at their favourite features being taken away or the fact we didn’t get the greatest graphical and biggest Pokémon game ever don’t have to look past that. Maybe this Pokémon game isn’t for you and the next one might just be the one you love the most.
At the same time it doesn’t stop Pokémon Sword/Shield from being fun. It was still a Pokémon game and the first in a long time I felt was worth the money.