As the newest entry in one of the most beloved franchises in Nintendo’s roster, Pokémon Sword and Shield introduces the 8th generation of pocket monsters; while also being the first of the series’ mainline titles to be released exclusively on a home console. As someone that was rather skeptical about this game before, I now sit here typing my review on what is the franchise’s most controversial release as of yet. As I reach the end of my first playthrough of Pokémon Sword (which is the version I had a chance to pick up), the word that I’m looking for to describe my experience is disappointing. Am I saying that everything is wrong with this game and give it a 0 out of 10? Nope, but I’m certainly not here to tell you that the game is great or fantastic either.
This game is rather mediocre at best when compared to some of the better entries in the franchise. Though some steps in the right direction, such as setting the game in a brand new geographical location and having arguably one of the best (if not the best) the soundtrack of the franchise; the game also fails to astonish in other important areas. Its graphical design is one of those areas that left us wanting more, with the game looking no better than an upscaled 3DS game more than at best when compared to other Nintendo Switch titles. It is also frustrating that features such as The Global Trade Center did not make it into the final cut of the game.
From a writing perspective, the story could be considered a mixed bag. There are moments that simply don’t make sense at times; mainly the way certain characters act or react for the sake of plot. However, Sword and Shield does have its fair share of memorable moments and arguably some of the best-written rival and gym leader characters that the series has had in a long time.
Sadly, Sword and Shield is the least challenging game of the franchise to date. While that is not a game-breaking flaw for me like it can be for many others, I will admit that I found the inability to set the game’s difficulty as desired to be disappointing and lazy. Something as simple as having gym leaders’ Pokémon levels be higher or the option to turn on or off the experience share mechanic (which distributes battle experience to your current Pokémon party, whether the Pokémon fought in the battle or not) as a means to adjust the game’s difficulty would have made a big difference towards the overall experience.
The “Wild Area,” which was heavily promoted in the game’s marketing, was underwhelming to say the least. Not only does it overstate its welcome rather quickly, it is filled with bugs galore and frame issues when playing online. This is especially true when attempting to play in a Raid. These special events known as Raids, are challenges where four players fight against one Dynamaxed Pokémon with the hopes of catching it after defeating it in battle.
Unless you have three friends that live nearby to connect locally or far away with good enough internet, finding people to play with can be a hassle; especially went it comes to the harder raids down the line. More often than not, I have tried to find people to play Raids to be left hanging due to a “communication error”. Also, whenever I rode around the “Wild Area” online, I encountered constant lag. It was worse when meeting players from other countries. Something that should not happen when you try to use one of the game’s main gimmicks. At times, it reminded me of some of the worst lag experiences that I have had while playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate online (a game that I have spent over 1000 hours on as of today)
Pokémon Sword and Shield is easily one of the weakest triple-A titles that is available on the Nintendo Switch. It is not a horrible game, but it is mediocre at best. Whether you are on the fence about getting it or are still tempted to do so after this review, I recommend you wait purchase this monster filled experience when it receives a major discount.