#119 – Critics Verdict on Pokemon Sword and Shield

TODAY: Big Stardew Valley update waiting in the wings — Game Freak hasn’t remade all the Pokémon for Sword & Shield after all — Human Head Studios is no more, long live Roundhouse Studios!

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Pokémon Sword and Shield review round-up

Game Freak and The Pokémon Company has finally released the first proper Pokémon adventure for the Switch. Pokémon Sword & Shield takes you to the all-new Galar region, where you’ll face off against new Gigantamax Pokémon in epic arena battles. The game isn’t out until 15th of November, but the first critical verdicts are already in. Here’s what they say:

  • IGN (Score 9.3/10) – ”Pokemon Sword and Shield are the best games in the series, streamlining its most tedious traditions without losing any of the charm.”
  • Gamespot (Score 9/10) – ”In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokemon 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 Pokemon, and trying out its new battle strategies with very little in your way. This leaves you free to enjoy what Pokemon is all about, and that makes for an incredibly strong showing for the series’ proper debut on Switch.”
  • GamesRadar+ (Score 4.5/5) – ”Gameplay tweaks and attention to detail make Pokemon Sword and Shield the most compelling Pokemon world to date.”
  • Game Informer (Score 8.75/10) – ”Pokémon Sword & Shield are strong first attempts for the series’ full transition to consoles. While some frustrations hold it back from true legendary status, this new generation proves the Pokémon franchise is still great more than two decades after its debut.”
  • Nintendo Life (Score 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. What we’ve got here is an experience full of highs and lows, from the unadulterated wonder and joy of seeing a brand-new Pokémon in a stadium full of cheering crowds, to the monotonous and dragged-out dialogue we just wanted to skip.”
  • EGM (Score 4/5) – ”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.”
  • VG247 (Score 3/5) – ”Pokemon 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.”
  • Daily Star (Score 3/5) – ”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.”

Unscored reviews

  • Ars Technica (Unscored) – ”I do think Sword and Shield are good entries for anyone who got into Pokémon through Go and Let’s Go and is looking for something a bit more difficult and larger in scale. Seasoned players can still enjoy the new monsters and appreciate the game’s story mode while it lasts (I cleared the main story in around 35 hours). It’s just too bad that, for longtime players, what’s missing is probably going to overshadow everything that’s here.”
  • Eurogamer (Unscored) – ”Pokémon Sword and Shield add some brilliant new creatures, but like their gargantuan Dynamax forms, the games feel like a hollow projection.”
  • 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.”
  • The Verge (Unscored) – ”But the changes that are here — a larger, more detailed world and a streamlined structure that cuts out the annoying bits — are enough to make this the ideal iteration of the concept to date. The moments when I felt frustrated or bored in past games simply don’t exist in Sword and Shield. It’s one big adventure.”

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

Which of these animatronics was NOT in the original Five Nights at Freddy’s?

  • Chica the Chicken
  • Foxy the Pirate
  • Balloon Boy
  • Golden Freddy

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Big Stardew Valley update in December

Stardew Valley, the obsessive-compulsive’s farming simulator of choice, will have a nice hot steaming pile of updates spread over its fertile fields next month. There are still “some holes or weak points” left in the game according to creator Eric Barone. That means there are more updates on the way, but he doesn’t want to spoil the fun by revealing too much. He says there will be a new “unique 14-heart event” for spouses, and that “nearly every aspect” of Stardew Valley has been expanded or improved.

Five Nights at Freddy’s 1-4 coming to Nintendo Switch late November

The Five Nights At Freddy’s experience will finally appear on the Switch by the end of November, along with it’s three sequels. Freddy Fazbear and his animatronic chums will keep you busy – and terrified – starting on November 29th according to the Nintendo eShop listings. Unfortunately no mention of spin-off Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location.

Daily Fact

Inexperience and first impression jitters meant Doom’s start was its end

id Software’s iconic Doom series all began with a shareware game for DOS in December 1993. John Romero was an inexperienced level designer, and so concerned with making sure Doom made a great first impression that he didn’t want to start with the game’s opening level.

He would save the first level for last, and finally make it once he was convinced that he had found his groove and learned exactly how he wanted to present the game.

Oh, and if you ever wondered why there are demons on Mars, that’s because the whole idea behind Doom and all its demonic enemies came from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign the developers had been playing, which ended with a portal to hell opening and allowing demons to invade the world.

Daily News

Reused models ‘confirmed’ in Pokémon Sword and Shield

Parts of the Pokémon community are a bit unhappy with Game Freak after people started digging into Pokémon Sword & Shield game files and discovered that some of the Pokémon models are identical to the ones from Pokémon Sun & Moon.

They’re nice Pokémon models, so what’s the big deal? Well, Game Freak’s excuse for trimming the Pokédex was that it would be too expensive and time-consuming to recreate all the models and animations for Sword & Shield. But if they haven’t actually remade all the Pokémon featured in the game, why did they say they did?

The Pokédex began with 151 Pokémon but it’s now over a thousand

Game Freak said that the increased visual fidelity of the Pokémon in Sword & Shield meant there was no way they could recreate each of the over thousand Pokémon without compromising on quality. “In the end, I had no choice but to choose quality,” said producer Junichi Masuda.

Models and animations are not the whole story, though: Textures and shaders also play a part, and considering the 3DS and Switch have dramatically different GPUs, they would need to be recreated. Time will tell whether Game Freak’s excuses were valid or not – and you will be able to find out for yourself on November 15th.

Bethesda Softworks open new studio staffed by former Human Head team

Bethesda Softworks has opened a brand new studio called Roundhouse Studios, mostly made up of developers from now-defunct Human Head studios. Chris Rhinehart is now creative director at Roundhouse, and confirmed both the demise of Human Head Studios and the formation of the new studio.

Human Head was formed in 1997 by developers from Raven Software, and is most famous for their work on the original Rune and Prey, as well as helping out on Bioshock Infinite and Batman: Arkham Origins.

“Sadly, we had to wind down the business of Human Head Studios and close its doors. This was particularly devastating due to the passion and creativity of the team we’d assembled. We reached out to our friends at Bethesda for help, and they saw that same creativity and passion in our team,” said Rhinehart.

New name, new digs, new projects, same team

Apparently the entire staff of Human Head has moved on to Roundhouse Studios, who are moving into new offices to work on unannounced projects at the behest of new paymaster Bethesda: “We are delighted that the entire staff will remain together and is now part of the Bethesda family,” said Bethesda’s Todd Vaughn. No word yet on what projects they’re working on, but with a bit of luck Rune 2 might still see the light of day.

News Bits

Google Stadia will support 40-player races in Codemasters’ GRID

The PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Codemasters’ racer Grid should apparently hang their heads in shame, because the Google Stadia version features something no other platform can handle: 40-player races.

The developers claim having “40 cars on track at the same time,” is “ something that just isn’t possible with other hardware.” So how does Stadia do it? Well, apparently their servers can communicate super-fast since they’re all under the same roof in a Google datacenter. Google Stadia is launching on November 19th, though Grid won’t be available at launch.

Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg teases new Age of Empires reveal at X019

Microsoft’s X019 event begins tomorrow and runs until November 16th in London, and we can expect a bunch of Xbox announcements – and more news about Age of Empires! Microsoft big cheese Aaron Greenberg has already teased us with a, uh, big glowing eagle, and we know Relic Entertainment is already hard at work on Age of Empires IV. So put your money where your eagle is, Microsoft, and give us that sweet real-time strategy historical action!

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

Which of these animatronics was NOT in the original Five Nights at Freddy’s?

Answer: Balloon Boy!

The Five Nights at Freddy’s series is finally appearing on Switch, and it’s a pretty big series considering it’s based on the same simple premise: You can’t leave your chair. While the cast of malfunctioning animatronic horrors has grown over time, the first game only featured a handful – and Balloon Boy wasn’t one of them!

Many of you are probably dreadfully familiar with Freddy Fazbear, Chica the Chicken, Bonnie the Rabbit and Foxy the Deeply Irritation Pirate Fox (aka the swine who runs at you), the line-up from the original Five Nights At Freddy’s and who mostly return in the later games. Oh yeah, and the creepy, ghostly Golden Freddy was indeed present in the first game, though more as a kind of Easter egg. An Easter egg that kills you.

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