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A Shell of a Game – Pokemon Sword and Shield

Quite disappointing. Although it was quite fun to play through my copy of Pokemon Sword, especially alternating between the TV screen and the portable 720p inbuilt display on the Nintendo Switch, the game was in hte end, not what I had hoped it to be.

Setting place in the very United Kingdom inspired Galar region, Pokemon Sword and Shield introduced a variety of new movesets and Pokemon, as well as a new technique called Dynamaxing (basically supersizing Pokemon) and a unique Wild Area with Breath of The Wild style gameplay, which all added to the excitement of the game.

Starting off with what was a major controversy surrounding the game upon the announcement of the news that not every single Pokemon would be available and in the PokeDex for Pokemon Sword and Shield. This was quite disappointing to me, as someone who has played through all of the Pokemon games up until this point, I thoroughly enjoy seeing my older, more classic favourites, square off against the newer designs that I fall in love with. In the end however, this was less noticeable that I would have thought. With the addition of many new Galarian Pokemon, as well as the inclusion of many of the most recognizable and fan-favourite Pokemon from the older generations, there were some that were missed, but none that made much of a huge impact on how the game felt to play. It was still very much a fun Pokemon game, that was not challenging in the slightest, with old and new Pokemon to catch, train, and battle.

The battles themselves still stuck true to the Pokemon formula and kept to the phrase, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The introduction of seeing wild Pokemon roaming the world instead of hitting random encounters was something I appreciated a lot, as it took away part of the tediousness of Pokemon which frustrated many. It did not take away from my enthusiasm to go ahead and catch as many Pokemon as I could, it just made it easier and much less frustrating.

The Galar region is well built out and laid out in Pokemon Sword and Shield, and a very beautiful design enhanced by the vastly superior graphics capabilities of the Nintendo Switch as opposed to the old home of the Pokemon games – the Nintendo 3DS. However, the world is very linear and there are only a few areas where the game actually feels like an open-world RPG. Very often you play along a strictly preset path from gym to gym, with few side-quests and people to enjoy talking to. The Galar region did not feel inviting and engaging as the others did, it did not feel comfortable and did not sit well with the atmosphere of the game. Pokemon games are supposed to be calm and relaxing to play through at your own pace, whereas Pokemon Sword and Shield felt as if they were pushing me on, telling me to ‘just get to the next area already’.

I would amount this to my biggest disappointment of the Generation VIII Pokemon games. I am a huge fan of the story design that usually goes into the creation of Pokemon games, and how the overarching plot falls into place throughout the game and is involved in many steps along the way. This did not happen. Small spoiler alert, but the actual story of this fucking game started right at the end, before challenging the fucking champion. That’s the only time that this began to feel like an actually Pokemon trainer story, of facing adversaries and opposing an organization that wants to disturb the peace. I fucking hated that, that was so irritating. The team touted as the adversaries for the player, Team Skull, were gimmicky and served nothing except small hindrances along the way. When the sub-20 minute story actually plays out towards the end of the game – I was extremely pissed off about that – that was when I actually began feeling the excitement of a Pokemon game. It was extremely frustrating. The remainder of story, lore, and background was mildly interesting at most, plus the little side story in the post game where you catch the Box Legendary.

All-in-all Pokemon Sword and Shield are in no means bad games, they aren’t good either. The experience of playing the game is all and well and it is enjoyable, however that overall excitement, joy, and determination in playing a Pokemon game is hindered by the limited map, and the absence of a true story. This game is a shell, all the mechanics and necessities are there, without a proper intriguing story to tie it all together, and to be honest, it was hugely disappointing. It just simply didn’t catch attention and left me wanting. Hopefully the paid Expansion Pass and DLC for Pokemon Sword and Shield, The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, will make the game a better experience.

Final Score: 6.3/10 (Hollow)

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