Where the game drops the ball in terms of story, it picks it right back up in fun. The smaller dex while initially upsetting, buut allows for it to be much more manageable to complete. Along with the new wild area and max raids, filling out the pokedex has never been so fun before !
And for those who've always been interested in the competitive scene but never knew where to start, this game introduces many ways in which a new player can set themselves up as easily as possible.
Pokémon Shield may have been the Pokémon game straw to break my back of tolerance for mediocrity. I grew up loving the first three generations of Pokémon, and I really enjoyed my time with the games through X and Y, but rather than launching forward on the Switch, Pokémon Shield marked a clear backslide for the franchise.
After completing the fifth gym, I resigned myself to simply “getting through” this game. The story was more forgettable than usual—Team Yell is more of a joke than an actual enemy, and the towns made great first impressions only to be unmasked at empty shells as I walked into the seventh “painted door” in each one... The story never made me explore the cities the way Blue/Red and Gold/Silver did, and it often felt like that was true only because GameFreak couldn’t fill the cities with unique substance in the 3D engine.
The biggest problem I realized while playing this game, however, is that Pokémon has now reached that troubling point in every franchise where it no longer motivates the player within the game, but counts on the player’s compulsions from previous entries in the franchise... My team was set after the third gym and did not change except for one Pokémon in the late game. I never felt like it was necessary to explore the Wild Area, and I completely forgot it even existed during the grind of badges 4-“8.” This game was more Pokémon for everyone who wanted more, but for someone looking to be revitalized in my love for the franchise, this fell completely flat. I’m sad to have reached this point, but I sure am glad this particular journey is over.
The last Pokemon games I played through from start to finish were X and Y, so going in, the controversy around Sword and Shield almost put me off giving them an honest try.
I'm really pleased I did, typing this as the credits roll!
The new QOL features, gym challenges and region all feel great for the new generation; not ground breaking by any means, but definitely an improvement.
The story is serviceable, and has enough of that Pokemon charm to keep you moving between towns to see what comes next.
On the subject of the Pokemon themselves... There's plenty to catch! The current number in the dex (pre expansion) feels tight and gives plenty of creatures to hunt for, without dragging things out.
Overall, definitely an evolution, rather than a revolution, but amazing nonetheless!