New Frontiers – a Pokemon Sword and Shield Review

The Main Story:
First off, I thoroughly enjoyed the game with all its potential – as a returning and frequent player of the franchise. It ticked all the boxes for me; cool new Pokèmon and a story that got you hooked from the get-go, as much as it is a slow burner. It’s set in the region of Galar, based off the UK. The game follows the basic format of completing all the challenges, and becoming the champion, that all previous games had followed.

The game meshed everything good about previous games, but did however lack in many areas. For starters, the game combined the gyms feature with the challenges feature from previous Pokèmon generations, which was a welcome addition, that combined to become Gym Challenges. Throughout the game, you are also introduced to the new gimmick, or ‘mechanic’ as it is advertised, of Dynamaxing, and later Gigantimaxing. This feature is fun at first, and wares of quickly, but is a staple throughout the game. Unlike previous Generation 6, which contained X and Y, this mechanic will likely not stay around for long, and often pales in comparison to Mega Evolution, the mechanic of Generations 6 and 7. To cater to all audiences and fans, one of the Gym Challenges is a non-Dynamaxing battle, which calls back to previous generations. The game also introduced an open world area, which Pokèmon fans had been clamouring on about for years, but still left much to be desired. This area also included new ‘Max Raids’ which provide you with a new way of getting Pokèmon, and is a new way of gaining Experience Points for your party.

Other than this, the game is beautiful, with the step up from a handheld console to a home console doing the series justice. A favourite location of mine from the game is a winter city called Circhester, and another being Ballonlea, a fairy-tale type village. Another thing I absolutely adore about the game are the inspirations behind it, being that of British legends, such as King Arthur, and nods to such legends can be found throughout the story.

Alas, many things are missing from the experience. First, there is a lack of a specific antagonist until later in the game, and even then, there is no evil or bad character, which in the right circumstances could be interesting, but didn’t work within this instalment because the character wasnt morally grey, just short sighted. Once the game is completed, he also disappears never to be seen again, leaving much to be desired. Your rival in the game is also considerably annoying, and is supposed to be a caricature of British culture from what I can gather – he wears tracksuit bottoms, a jean jacket with fluff around the collar, has a sheep as his best friend and says ‘Oi!’ and ‘Mate’ every other word. (Which, is a consistent theme throughout the game with not just his character, as it is obnoxiously an over-dramatization of British culture.) This happens to the point where another of your rivals is a punk rocker, and has supporters which follow her with vuvuzela and chant things in an over exaggerated British tone. Not only this, all of the events are football themed.

I played through the game relatively quickly, taking me around 20 hours to finish including post-game content, and I also found it quite easy, but that is to be expected of a game made for and marketed towards ten year olds. The pacing throughout the game was also excellent, it gave the player the time to take in the game, and it’s new graphical capabilities. By the end of the game, I had ended up becoming the Champion with my Pokèmon being in the level 70-75 range, and consisting of the final evolution of my starter, Cinderace, Dubwool, the evolution of the sheep Pokèmon Wooloo, Dragapult, Eiscue, Cramorant and Rapidash.

Post-game Content:
Post-game content is where the game truly starts to lack. The post-game content consists of a duo who are royal celebrities called Sordward and Shielbert, who ‘nefariously’ summon the cover legendary of the game, and recycles the Gym Challenges of the game. (Who, may I add are also absurd caricatures of Britain.) That’s all there is in terms of post-game content other than the Battle Tower, which is an endgame battle area to level up your Pokèmon. However, I’m sure that the decision to make close to no post-game content was intentional, as to sell the expansion pass for the game; the first Pokèmon game to have DLC content.

The Isle of Armor:
The Isle of Armor is the first expansion in the expansion pass for Pokèmon Sword and Shield, and introduced much to the game, including more returning Pokèmon, which was a common criticism upon the games launch. The story of this expansion revolved around a Dojo on a nearby island, a new open world area that was fun to traverse. An island in which your party Pokèmon can follow you around, also a returning feature from a previous game, being Pokèmon Soul Silver and Heart Gold. The story of this expansion is around five hours long, and gives you the Pokèmon Kubfu, a legendary Pokèmon, as a part of the story. Not much happens in this expansion, other than giving you new challenges to return to and complete, along with a a glorified game of hide and seek, which is admittedly both fun and rewarding. This side quest is to find 150 of a fellow explorers lost Pokèmon, in which you are rewarded with Pokèmon from previous generations. By the end of the story of this expansion, you have to climb one of two towers in which to evolve the Kubfu you had been given uniquely, which is an interesting concept that was executed well. Personally, I chose the dark tower, and came out with a Single Strike Urshifu.

Personally, I strongly recommend this game, and its expansion pass for open minded fans of the franchise, along with newcomers to the Pokèmon franchise, as it is a welcoming place to start your adventures. However, I don’t think this game is worth buying a Nintendo Switch for – as many other games on the console may be more user friendly for a first time interaction.

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