Switch Review: Pokemon Sword 4/10

Written by Carcassbomb

If you’re a 30 year old gamer boy like I am then you’ve probably played every generation of Pokemon from Blue & Red to Black & White, very much like myself. We spent months playing a single game as a child, binged them in weekends as a teen and as adults we still revisit some of the games every year. When a new pokemon game comes out we all get this pang of curiosity, we ask ourselves “Am I STILL ready for my very own pokemon adventure?” but we aren’t sure what the deal with these new graphics are, or what half of these new pokemon are and what’s the deal with these kids and their motion controls? Don’t worry, I’ll set everything straight and you’ll probably still want to give a couple of addicted weekends to this game.

  • Pokemon Sword
  • Developed by Game Freak
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Released 15 November 2019
  • 4/10

Graphics: The graphics are top notch and do not in any detract from combat or any other facet of the game. The perspective changes from the first decade of games may put some off but I assure you, the combat is still functionally exactly the same. The only difference that I wish was better is that the animation for anything takes a little time in comparison to the earlier games so you can’t skip through the prompts as quickly as I’d like to. In terms of exploration, it is more limited in this game with the third person over shoulder perspective but is still one of the strongest parts of the game. The aesthetic is far more palatable and less kiddy than the previous games for the 3DS.

Gameplay: There are a lot of pokemon to catch and they are quite accessible early on. Exploring and catching pokemon is the strongest aspect of this game and should have been the game entirely. Early on we’re given an area that acts like an open world filled with different landmarks and grassy spots teeming with pokemon to catch. There’s also unique pokemon spawns that are high level and can be difficult to catch. This area is perfect and you’ll spend a lot of time catching pokemon in various ways. Including a new raid type battle you can find that is highly rewarding in terms of items and strong pokemon. I like the idea and presentation of the raid but the execution could be a lot better. You basically go to a formless arena to fight a massive version of a random pokemon and you have 4 allies, you all take turns and try to survive huge damage. Typical RPG raid stuff. It looks awesome but unless you have friends to play with, you’re never going to have a human populated one. I didn’t have issues getting by with the computer controlled allies however. The 5 star ones might be impossible though sadly.

Outside of this area it’s all short linear routes so you will get to new cities very quickly, and there’s far less to do in them. So many features are missing or dumbed down. It’s poorly paced. Also, there is sometimes the option for motion controls but aren’t necessary at any point, you can easily play it like a regular mobile game.

Story: That amazing exploration area gets bigger as you progress and can take on higher level pokemon but it’s also under utilized. You’ll spend a lot of time there but none of it will be progressing the overall story progression, it’s just a place to train and find pokemon or raids. The game outside of this area is very linear routes connecting gym city hubs and long winded cutscenes to hold your hand with each new step. The story is super basic and redundant, you know the drill, get the badges and be the champion. Instead of also having to foil a criminal organisation, this time around we’re dealing with a global disaster of some kind.

Combat: If you take away the boring cutscenes, you essentially have a line of battles that vary in a few ways with the gym leaders and other rivals coming back later on stronger each time. Until you beat the game. The wild area is essentially the thing to balance out this more tedious side of the game. There’s nothing terribly interesting or new about the combat and once you get a couple of really strong pokemon that have a single type, like lightening or water, most fights become a breeze. I’ve rarely had difficulty with a trainer fight. Catching wild pokemon is far more engaging and stressful. The first 70 percent of the fights are good but after a while it gets old spamming the same movesets once your party is concrete.

I also have an issue with the gym fights, besides the gym missions being a characterless misinterpretation of each gym’s quirk from the original slew of games. These gyms are samey and boring, with the combat being slightly different due to being able to use a one off ability where your pokemon becomes giant for three turns. It’s cool in theory and in the raid but in the gym battles it results in all the matches ending the same way, fighting an HP sponge or a glass cannon fight of who can move first. It kills the end game of pokemon battles where anything could happen.

Characters: The characters are fine, some better than others. Some absolutely ridiculous. The goth girls are great, duh, Piers is always good for a chin wag. The rival is a faceless no one called Hop I think? and the gym leaders are pretty shallow characters. Instead of Team Rocket or any other good criminal organisation we have an obnoxious group called Team Yell who are cheerleaders for one of the goth girl trainers but spend the whole game trying to impede other trainers progress through the gym badge challenge. If you aren’t caught up on the last couple of generations of pokemon the you’re going to have a mixed experience playing this game but a generally positive one. There’s a lot of goofy mother fuckers which makes exploration very potent because you honestly don’t know what you will find. It’s not your usual Caterpie/pidgey starting bullshit. The downside of not having a clue what half the names mean is that in combat when it declares a trainers next pokemon, I often don’t remember what that pokemon is in terms of type so I can’t adequately prepare by having the right pokemon out.

There’s a couple of pokemon that I couldn’t decide if I liked or hated them, they’re weird. Like a honeycomb with bee wings. Some kind of humanoid moon plant that looks like my poetry teacher. Meowth is now a steel type feral rat looking thing. Ponyta and Rapidash are now fairy type or something and look full blown My Little Pony. There’s a green cube thing that looks like a breathing minibus. Weezing straight up looks like a bong now, kinda like this Gurt album cover below. There’s a bunch of pokemon that are analogous of pokemon from previous generations but also some really cool and unique ones that surprise the player. Overall there’s a lot of personality and rewards from the ‘catching them all’ experience.

Post Game: I spent the last part of the game which was story and combat laden, hoping there would be some post story exploration to catch the rest of the pokemon, perhaps a new area. In the past there has been great end game content such as in Silver/Gold or Emerald/Ruby generations where you got to go to a whole new region after beating the Elite 4. An entire games worth. It was incredible. Here’s you’re just congratulated and told to go “adventure until your heart’s content” with the same old map. Like yeah, I would like to adventure but my heart won’t be content without end game free roam. It’s DLC isn’t? Oh fuck off.

Should You Get it? It’s my opinion that the perfect condition for getting this game is that you got it for your kid and they didn’t really have an interest in it so you played it for four days straight. That’s my story. Perhaps also if you’re a megafan and the positives of this review sound appealing enough. It’s a fun game but an inferior pokemon game.

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