Pokémon Sword & Shield review round-up

The Pokémon Sword & Shield review embargo is up, with critics now able to weigh in on one of the most controversial and thoroughly leaked games of recent times. Through the furore over graphics, assets, gameplay changes and more, have Game Freak managed to craft a Pokémon game to kickstart a new era for the franchise?

So where’s our review? Well, we don’t have review code just yet. We’ll obviously be working to get our review out of the door as soon as possible, but for now all we can do is look to our peers within the games industry and collate some of their review scores.

Needless to say, opinions are mixed. Some love the game, others find flaws or feel that some ideas aren’t fully realised. Let’s dive in:

Daily Star – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pokémon Sword and Shield are not bad games. But fun character arcs and inventive, creative designs of new ‘mon are often offset by poor pacing and restrictive world design.

The world of Galar is charming, and is a Pokémon interpretation of Britain I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, but between gating what Pokémon you can catch behind Gym Badges, some half-baked route/City designs and a modest amount of post-game content, Sword and Shield can only be called ‘good’ Pokémon games… not ‘great’ ones.

EGM – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The first new-generation Pokémon game to release on a proper home console does not disappoint. New features like Dynamaxing and the Wild Area are fun additions that make the experience of becoming a Pokémon champion still feel fresh. It’s just a shame that Game Freak didn’t lean into the new features more than they did.

Eurogamer – no recommendation

“What is intended as a great, Breath of the Wild step forward quickly turns to two giant leaps back, and with these games that sad irony is everywhere. Pokémon Sword and Shield project a sense of scale and ambition far beyond any previous ones in the series, but to take it back to those gargantuan new Dynamax forms, the size is merely a shadow. A shallow projection, in place of the real thing.”

Game Informer – 8.75/10

“Pokémon Sword & Shield deliver a new generation of creatures to capture throughout a consistently enjoyable adventure.”

GameSpot – 9/10

“In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokémon games so captivating in the first place. You’re not held back by overly complicated back-end systems or hoops to jump through; from the outset, you can start wandering the Galar region, seeing its new Pokémon, and trying out its new battle strategies with very little in your way. This leaves you free to enjoy what Pokémon is all about, and that makes for an incredibly strong showing for the series’ proper debut on Switch.”

GamesRadar – 4.5/5

“Gameplay tweaks and attention to detail make Pokémon Sword and Shield the most compelling Pokémon world to date.”

IGN – 9.3

“Pokémon Sword and Shield are the best games in the series, streamlining its most tedious traditions without losing any of the charm.”

Kotaku – unscored

The magic of Pokémon is that it lets you tap into a sense of wonder that becomes more and more difficult to access as an adult. Sword and Shield do that more successfully than any Pokémon release has in years. It won’t be everything to everyone, and it will not make everyone happy. I’m not sure it needs to. It’s a portal to a new world. And it definitely has something for Pokémon’s core audience: everyone in the entire world.”

Metro – 7/10

“The furore over Dexit may be overblown but even without it this is an underwhelming and unambitious attempt to modernise Pokémon and expand its horizons.”

Nintendo Life – 8/10

Pokémon Sword and Shield succeed in bringing some new ideas to the table, but they’re also somewhat guilty of not pushing things far enough. What’s done right is done right, but what’s done wrong feels like it’s come from a decade-old design document. There are moments contained within that are best the series has ever been, but this joy is at times spoiled by contrasting moments that left us disappointed and did not match up to the rest of what the rest of these games can offer. […] The niggling issues are impossible to ignore, then, but on the whole, Pokémon Sword and Shield are a solid start to the HD generation of Pokémon games, but there’s ample room for improvement with the next outing.

Polygon – unscored

“The surprise in Sword and Shield is that I’m still finding things that surprise me, even after putting in so many hours. It’s in how Game Freak has made a linear game feel so much less linear. Make no mistake, Sword and Shield is not an open-world game. There are limitations. But the game’s designed for me not to notice them, and mostly, I don’t.”

VG24/7 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pokémon Sword & Shield is all too often a bit disappointing, and in some places actually feels a little unfinished, but it also fully provides that warm, fuzzy feeling that one expects from the series. Crucially, even through frustration, never once did I think about putting it down, which is to its credit. It comes recommended almost for the Galar setting and new Pokémon alone, but with a long list of caveats indeed. With the level of fan hyperbole surrounding this release, that recommendation is worth repeating and underscoring – but this is not the revolution that was promised or hoped for, and some may prefer to wait for a sale or wait and see if an improved, definitive release is on the cards.

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