- beautiful, colorful, fully three-dimensional graphics;
- well-made Pokémon models;
- spectacular, explosive combat;
- Pokémon Gyms finally feel like real fights for championship;
- beautiful atmosphere of locations, which really invite exploration;
- accessible to younger, new players.
- probably the easiest Pokémon you've played;
- annoying soundtrack;
- modern graphics can't conceal obsolete mechanics;
- untapped potential of Dynamax;
- the plot is simplistic and naive – even for a Pokémon game.
I've been playing Pokémon games from Game Freak studio for 23 years. Now, can you believe that in the last part – Pokémon Sword (and Pokémon Shield) is still using mechanics that were used in Pokémon Red and Blue back in the 90s. If you want to go back to those charming childhood years, the newest Pokémon is the perfect way to do this. In terms of technology and accessibility, this is the best about the belligerent creatures, although, in some respects, the new approach of Game Freak can be defined by the well-known phrase: "It's not very effective..."
I shall not ponder over the question of what Pokémon actually is, because I dare to assume that the series has fossilized so much throughout the years that it's become an inseparable part of the gaming DNA. For those who have never heard of the Pokémon, I hasten to explain: this is a story about young heroes, who leave their hometown to become Pokémon champions. During the expedition, we catch monsters, train them, and pit them against each other in a turn-based, classic RPG system. Once they've collected 8 badges, they can approach the final duel. And this hasn't changed for 23 years.
The most beautiful Pokémon
A few years ago, when I beat Pokémon Pearl, I raised my hands to the heavens, letting out a cry: "How dare they?!" How can anyone have the audacity to create something that looks like it was put together in RPG Maker – in the heyday of beautiful, 3D RPGs? My voice apparently echoed across continents and oceans, because now we ended up with a game that maybe isn't cutting-edge, but it's at least modern.
The old, if not archaic, gameplay known for decades, finally received a beautiful, vivid, and fully three-dimensional visual envelope. Villages, cities, mines, caves or forests finally look like what you'd expect from a magical and strange world inhabited by the Pokémon. No more fighting with pixelated bitmaps. The creature and human models are well crafted – overall, combat in this installment is no longer a thing that mostly happens in the player's imagination. Instead, there will be explosions, lasers, raging elements, earthquakes, and so on, all furnished with different animations. And while some things could use more polishing (some of the attacks are generic and used by many beasts, and it's hard not to feel that some of them have been neglected), the overall impressions are solid nonetheless. With the revamped graphics, combat has become spectacular and full of explosions, almost like in Michael Bay's.
Why not six?
Taking the right approach to this review was tricky – Game Freaks' latest work is a tough nut. If the score 7.5 seems surprising after reading my rants – in the text, I complain and mercilessly indicate numerous issues – allow me to explain: if you were to rate what Pokémon Sword did – this game deserves a decent 7.5. If you think about things that could have been done, but were not, things will become more complicated. Considering that everyone knows what the gaming Pokémon is, instead of redundant explanations, I decided to evaluate – apart from the game itself – the things we might be missing, looking forward to, and that this series simply needs.
However, the most important part of this small but long-awaited "revolution" are the locations. Just take a look at some of the initial spots, such as the rustic Postwick, or Ballonlea, full of glowing mushrooms, and you should understand this is exactly what the series has been missing for years – a consistent and apt depiction of that weird world. The capital of the Galar region, the city of Wyndon, is really a fairy-tale London, with the Thames, the Big Ben, the Eye of London, the Trafalgar square and Piccadilly Circus, with red telephone booths and the tube. And even if there's not many activities in these regions, just walking around and taking it in can be entertaining.