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Honest thoughts on Sword and Shield?

May 5, 2010
Now that Sword and Shield have been out for a while, what are your honest thoughts on it? For me personally, I never got those games. Mainly because of the controversy surrounding them when they were about to drop. I've been considering to pick them up for a while now but what keeps me from getting the games is the content locked behind the paywalls. For those who got them, what are your honest thoughts? Should I grab a copy or wait?
This is from a blog I wrote. I haven't and will not play the DLC so these are my thoughts on the base game.

Pokemon Shield review

Pokemon Shield is the most apathetic Pokemon game I have ever played, if not one of the most apathetic games period.

I have no idea why the national Dex was cut because the excuses Game Freak gave just are not true. Not that having every Pokemon in this game would have made it any better…

Let's start at the beginning.

Shield makes a wonky first impression; we're given a cutscene of Chairman Rose introducing the world of Pokemon to us. The one thing I took from this opening cutscene is that it's time for voice acting in Pokemon, not for the Pokemon themselves but for the human characters, especially since the human characters have taken to running their mouths in battle, chiming in after type-advantage and critical hits.

Once Chairman Rose's preamble is done we're given control.

The graphics in Shield are half and half, the texture mapping across the board is terrible, but this is somewhat negated by the scenery being rather busy to ensure you're not focusing on one thing for too long.

The character models are okay too but their animations are wonky, we all know of Hop's Hau animations, but if you look closely at Sonia when she twirls her hair she isn't actually touching it (this is just one of a great many examples).

The opening few hours suffer from the Sun and Moon syndrome of people not shutting the hell up and interrupting you at every turn, this only let up for me around the five hour mark. It was insufferable. The opening is hand-holdy as hell and gives you no free agency for quite some time.

One thing that can be said for Shield is that it did make the familiar feel fresh, namely in the introduction of Galar's Gym Challenge (their name for the League).

It was nice seeing the League as something of an event, much like how the World Cup is handled every four years.

The game takes the time to build up the League over the course of the first few hours until you finally sign up and take part in the opening ceremony. It genuinely makes you feel as if you're part of something bigger and it's pretty cool.

But then it all goes to hell.

As soon as the Gym Challenge starts you become locked in a holding pattern of gym after gym after gym after gym.

Outside of the Wild Area (which I'll talk about soon), there is nothing of intrigue or interest throughout the entire game and it comes to the point where the supporting characters seem to be having a much more interesting adventure.

There are multiple points where an event occurs, such as an (always) off camera explosion, which would be interesting to investigate but you're always told to mind your own business and go and get your next badge.

There are things happening in this world but you never get to see them or help in any capacity, despite being on the scene.

All that is asked of you is for you to get your next badge. Though, Y'know, perhaps berserk Dynamaxed Pokemon causing chaos in the wild (not that you ever see that) would be something I could help with?

Now that I've brought it up, let's talk about Dynamxing.

When Dynamxing was first revealed I was pretty much okay with it. It sounded sensical on paper, if the Gym Challenge was a big event, then super-sized Pokemon sounded like a cool way to bring on a spectacle. I didn't like the Mega Evolution of Gen 6 or the Z-moves of Gen 7 but Dynamax looked like a good compromise…

Unfortunately the Dynamaxing feature is terribly implemented. You can only Dynamax in (most) gym battles and the raids found in the Wild Area.

Knowing when to Dynamax isn't difficult; after your opponent. You see, Dynamaxing is a nuke button and even though it only lasts for three turns, it can still wipe out half your party, that's if you're still in a state where all six of your party Pokemon are still conscious.

Take some revives and ride out the Dynamax storm until your opponent has shrank back down and then Dynamax yourself. That's all there is to it.

I'm not going to talk about Gigantamaxing because it is pretty superfluous, what I'm going to talk about next is the region of Galar itself.

For over twenty years I have wanted a Pokemon game to be set in the UK. I'm not patriotic in the slightest, but the UK is my home and we have some wonderful landmarks both man-made and natural and I've always thought that Blighty would lend itself well to a country spanning adventure.

This is why, when Pokemon Sword and Shield were revealed, I was incredibly happy. And, after playing Shield from start to end, I can't say that Game Freak haven't done a good job with the feel of Galar.

What I can pull them on though, is the lack of content. There are only ten routes in the whole of Galar, and a handful of towns have next to nothing in them. One town has two houses, a Poke Center and a gym whereas another 'town' is literally a corridor with a single Poke Center in it.

These are the worst examples but the other towns don't come off much better. The towns in Galar and the lack of content they boast is frankly shocking. Palette Town in Gen 1 had more content than some of these towns.

In fact, Galar is so lacking in content that there were no trainer battles at all between one gym and the next. You also hear about places you just never get to go to because the supporting characters go instead.

To say that Shield gets worse as it goes on is a massive understatement.

Now, let's talk about the Wild Area.

The Wild Area is Sword and Shield's open world segment, roughly the size of two regions found in Breath of the Wild. This is definitely true, it is fairly big, and the surrounding architecture of the region makes it feel rather grand.

But just as with Dynamaxing, the Wild Area is not implemented well at all and feels more like something that was tacked on at the last moment, rather than a feature that the games were built around.

If you're just following the story then you're only required to go to the wild area twice. These two visits are literally only to sprint cross-country to make it to your next destination and nothing else.

Nothing in the wild area is mandatory and there are no story missions or side-quests or secrets to find.

The Wild Area also makes Sword and Shield's biggest flaw painfully apparent; terrible optimisation.

It's bad enough that in the towns of Galar that NPCs and giant Pokemon like Onix just pop into existence when you're ten foot from them, but in the Wild Area it is so much worse.

Pokemon pop into existence left and right and then out again if they move an inch away from you. Other Pokemon like wild Steelix will spin on the spot like the blades on a helicopter, Gyarados will pivot and slither in place in the water with no ripples, wakes or waves caused by the movement.

The 'dynamic weather' system switches on a dime and can go from a sandstorm to a blizzard in an instant.

It can be nighttime but when you enter a Pokemon battle you'll be told that the sun is shining brightly.

Oh yes, that reminds me, there's no day and night cycle. I mean, it can be night in the Wild Area but midday in the closest town. There is just no consistency.

This is without mentioning that battle backgrounds will transport you to a place where you exactly aren't.

For example; fishing in an industrial town and hooking a Magikarp will transport you to the opening area of the game with lush fields and lakes… this is if you get a background at all, as most battles, especially those indoors, will just have an odd void-space full of muted colour.

The finale of the game isn't anything to write home about either. After a full game of being told to mind my own business I just didn't care when it finally fell to me to step up.

I've seen people lose their minds at how awesome the battle is against the third legendary and all I can say to those people is that they have incredibly low standards. It's just a lot of nothing.

There is a post game too, that'll take two-ish hours but it's frankly embarrassing and has two of the worst characters in all of Pokemon. I was happy to finally be getting some story (in the post game, go figure), but it just wasn't worth the hassle.

Between the nothing story, the lack of content in the region as a whole and the terrible optimisation I can't understand why Game Freak felt the need to cut more than half of the Pokemon out of this game because I can't figure out what else they were doing with their time.

The balancing excuse is a lie because some moves are OP as hell and the Ghost/Dark/Psychic triangle is still broken as hell.

The new Pokemon have new animations but Galar has the second lowest count for a new gen and some of those are Galarian forms which reuse animations of their previous forms anyway.

Honestly, if they'd added all of the Pokemon then at least there would have been something to do in this bloody game.

Though, now that I've played the game, I'd like to put forward another possibility of why more than half of the Pokemon were cut from this game…

Given that Galar only had ten routes, and that none of them are very big at all, and with the Wild Area not being as diverse as one would have hoped…

I think Game Freak realised that Galar was much too small to house all of the Pokemon.

Anyway, a conclusion.

Pokemon Shield (and by extension, Sword) are the worst core Pokemon games to have been made.

The Wild Area is a let down, the region of Galar lacks content, there is barely a story to speak of, Dynamaxing is poorly implemented and the optimisation is abysmal throughout the entire game.

Playing Shield made me see that Game Freak really have no passion left for Pokemon. As the world's most profitable media franchise Sword and Shield should have been better in every aspect, instead there's a horrible 'good enough' mentality pervading the entire experience and if Game Freak don't care then why should I?


Pokemon: Sword and Shield Addendum
(further issues)

-Pokemon aren't scaled correctly
In the Wild Area and routes where you find Pokemon roaming around you'll find that their heights are what they should be. For example a 30'2" Steelix will tower over the player's avatar in the Wild Area, but once this Pokemon is caught and used in battle, it shrinks!

Suddenly Steelix is Teenylix and is no taller than a 4'7" Cinderace. This is the same with the likes of Gyarados, Eternatus and any large Pokemon you can think of and it looks terrible, especially when you want to feel imposing with your world ending legendary…

In a game all about scale, that doesn't shut up about the Dynamaxing phenomenon that turns Pokemon huge, you'd think Game Freak would adhere to the heights of Pokemon, especially on a console like the Switch which is powerful enough to do it (hell, even the Gamecube managed to do it).

-Reused NPCs
It's a 'thing' in Pokemon to reuse characters, especially in the anime with the likes of Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny, and this, for these characters, is fine for the games too, but it's outside of these characters where the games take the piss.

There are so many copy-pasted NPCs in these games that it's beyond distracting. The same NPCs are in every town sometimes twice and three times over.

For example; I saw two identical NPCs standing side by side at a market stall. In my head I assumed the market stall was a family business and that two identical twins were doing their parents proud. But then I went up the stairs on my immediate left and saw a third identical NPC standing at the top of the steps. Triplets!

Another time was when the Gym Leader Raihan had me battle three Pokemon trainers that had been hand-picked by him as part of his gym challenge. One of these trainers was a male and the other two were female and the two female trainers looked exactly the same. No change in hair style or colour, no change in skin tone or body shape, no accessories to set them apart, nothing. Lazy!

Team Yell, as well, only have two members; one male and one female. The character models are copy and pasted and reused time and time again throughout the adventure and it looks awful.

The constant reuse of NPCs makes Galar feel artificial in the same way that the terrible draw distance does and is yet another example of GF's sheer lack of passion for the games.

-Downgraded animations
For all GF said that the National Dex was cut to focus on 'high quality animations', they don't seem too keen on using them…

During a Dynamax Raid Battle every Pokemon's attack animation is replaced with a standard splash explosion with a colour added to denote the element of said attack. So instead of Cinderace kicking around a flaming ball before launching it at a super sized opponent, he'll just do a standard animation and the attack will show as a splash of colour.

You'd think GF would like to show off all of those sexy new high quality animations that they snapped half of the Pokedex out of existence for but apparently not, can't have too much of a good thing can we?

Conclusion; there are more underdeveloped aspects I could shine a light on such as the Pokemon Trainers themselves teleporting around the stadium during a battle and the lack of music during a poignant cutscene which cheaps out with storyboards instead of an in-engine cutscene but I have spent far too much time and energy on these games, so much so that it feels as if I've given more thought to these games than Game Freak themselves…

In the end, Pokemon Sword and Shield are just not good enough and GF and TPC should be ashamed of themselves for putting out such an apathetic product when they had both the money and power to make Sword and Shield the best in the series


Don't you dare go Hollow.
ZD Legend
Aug 31, 2014
southworst united states
idk what you would be waiting for since pokemon games don't go on sale. If you generally like pokemon, sword and shield are fine, they're not nearly as good as like emerald or LGPE tho
If you do end up pulling the trigger though you should absolutely get the DLC, I already felt like Isle of Armor was worth $30 and a whole other wild area is gonna be dropping this november. The DLC alone had as much effort put into it as the entire main game, if not more. Similar to breath of the wild I thought that the DLC makes the game as a whole much better (though note that if you don't have the DLC you can still get in on some of the DLC action; you can join DLC raids and you can transfer pokemon that were added via DLC through pokemon home, and the added moves can still be used and stuff, you just need to trade your pokemon to someone who can teach them and trade back)
also apriballs

Edgar Allan Plinko

What’s the character limit on this? Aksnfiskwjfjsk
Mar 18, 2019
If you wanna pay $120 for a game with half of the content and polish as the previous $40 games, go for it. Otherwise just replay one of the good Pokémon games and save your hard earned money.

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