Tips For Playing Pokémon Sword And Shield

Pokémon Sword and Shield are out today. While everyone has their own strategies for battling, raising your Pokémon and becoming the Champion, Sword and Shield have some new features and new ways to make all your monsters the very best. If you’re just starting out in your journey through Galar, here’s some tips to get you going.

Tips For Starting

Pokémon Sword and Shield are a lot of the same, but just enough is different that you might need a helping hand (har de har). Here are some general tips to get you started on your journey.

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Grab Some Free Pokémon

If you’ve played Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu or Eevee, you’ll be able to get the corresponding monster in Sword and Shield. If you’ve got save data for either game on your machine, you can talk to an NPC in the train station in at the Meet Up Spot right outside the Wild Area. The woman standing in the Nursery on Route 5 will give you a Toxel, an adorable Poison/Electric type that looks like a grumpy baby. Raise him well!

Running Through The Fields

Pokémon live in the tall grass—this much we already know. In Sword and Shield, you can see Pokémon on Routes and in the Wild Area with your own two eyes and walk into them to battle them, instead of having to trudge back and forth through grass. If you tap your joystick gently, you can tip toe through the grass without alerting the Pokémon in the area.

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It’s worth it to just run full speed in the grass, though. There will be other Pokémon hiding in there that you can’t see in the overworld. If you run through the grass and see an exclamation point appear, run toward it. There are Pokémon you can catch this way that don’t appear in the same area of the overworld. It’s how I caught my Galarian Ponyta, who I’ll love for the rest of my life.

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Turning Off Auto-Save

This is a tip for all the Shiny hunters out there—unless you are an obsessive save summer, there’s no compelling reason to turn off auto-save. If you want to, you can access the setting in the menu, which you open by pressing X. Scroll over to settings, and you’ll be able to turn off auto save in there.

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Look Out For Sparkles

If you see a glimmer on the ground, try to check it out. Those are items that you can pick up, and sometimes they’re worth big bucks. The collector character that will buy certain items for a higher price day to day returns as well, in Stow-on-Side. The items will also replenish over time, so if you’re afraid of exhausting all the resources in the game, don’t be. Just check back tomorrow.

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Casual Controls Are For Everyone

Casual Controls don’t make the game easier—they just make it easier to play it one handed. You’ll find it in the settings menu. It essentially disables the right analogue stick, which you normally use to control the camera in the Wild Area. Instead, the camera will just natively move toward whatever you’re running toward. The one bad part of Casual Controls is that you can’t rotate your character when you’re shopping for clothes, but it’s easy enough to turn off before you check out some new bags.

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#SobbleSquad

While picking a starter is mostly about who you think is cutest, might I interest you in Sobble? If you grab the crying reptile, the early game is a breeze. You have to defeat the first three gyms—Grass, Water and Fire—before you can move on and check out the rest of Galar. The Water type Sobble isn’t a huge boon for the first gym as he’s weak to grass, but makes the two subsequent, harder gyms pretty easy. Also, why would you ever want to make him more sad?

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Editor’s note:

#ScorbunnyGang

Since we’re talking about the cutest, I feel like I should clarify for our dear readers that Scorbunny—whose moves are supereffective against the the first gym—is the clear choice.

...Or you can choose Grookey.

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Catch ‘Em All

...Or just fight them all, honestly. After you face a Pokémon in battle once, either against a trainer or in the wild, the next time you encounter them, you’ll see which moves are effective against them or not. Remember that’s moves, not Pokémon types, so you can still get tripped up. This quality-of-life improvement did save me some frantic Googling of what Ghost or Psychic types are weak against, though.

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TMs, TRs, and You

Back in my day, the moves you taught Pokémon could only be used once. In more modern games, they’re reusable. Sword and Shield have a little bit of both. TMs are reusable, so you can teach those moves to as many Pokémon as you’d like. TRs break after use, so you’ll only be able to use them once. Helpfully, sometimes you can earn more than one of the same TR from Max Raid battles.

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Get Your Team Up To Speed

It really sucks to catch a Pokémon that fills a hole on your team but is 10 or more levels below everyone else. If you don’t want to grind, Sword and Shield has a couple of ways to bring underpowered monsters where they need to be.

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Using the Rotomi in Poké Centers, you can send Pokémon out on Poké Jobs. These listings ask for a Pokémon of a specific type, and if you send multiples of the appropriate type, you’ll earn more experience when they come back. Pokémon can sent on a job for up to an entire day, and they earn tens of thousands of experience in some of the more advanced jobs. Pokémon will also sometimes bring back a treat for you—usually either an item or cash.

Max Raids can also help you level up a Pokémon quickly. After completing a Raid, you earn Experience Candies, ranging in size from Small to Extra Large. The more difficult the Raid, the more likely you are to get Large or Extra Large candies.

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Poké Ball Tips

The rules for catching Pokémon apply in Sword and Shield: lower its health, throw a Pokéball, and pray. As always, in the early game, before you have Ultra Balls, slapping a status effect on the monster you want helps a lot.

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If you’re still having trouble catching what you want, try using specialized Poké Balls, which you can buy at Pokémon Centers or get for free from the guy who’s dressed as a Poké Ball and hangs out at Gyms. (He calls himself the Ball Guy. No one tell him.) The easiest way to get these more expensive balls early in the game is via Watt merchants in the Wild Area. My personal favorites are Quick Balls, which have a higher rate of capture at the beginning of an encounter, and Dusk Balls, which work better in dark areas like caves or Glimwood Forest.

The Wild Area

The Wild Area is new to Pokémon Sword and Shield, and while it’s fun to explore, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s how to keep your head on straight.

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Elementary, my dear Watt-son!

The Wild Area has its own currency: Watts. You gain watts by checking out the dens that sometimes house Max Raid Battles. Dens that are dimmer have fewer watts, while brighter dens have much more. Dens that are currently housing a Max Raid give you a whopping 2,000 watts. You can spend watts by speaking to the Pokémon League officials—the guys who are dressed like referees—that hang out around the Wild Area. You can buy TRs, a Wishing Piece which can summon a Max Raid, and special Poké Balls. You’ll also talk to these guys to do a Rotom Rally, a bike race that earns you, you guessed it, more watts.

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Make The Most Of Your Raid

Max Raids are fun and give you very useful items. They’re rated on a 1- to 5-star scale. Raids that are between 1 and 3 stars are pretty easy and can probably be beaten using the random computer players that the game provides. 4- and 5-star raids are much harder, and you should probably play those with real-life players who won’t bring a freaking Mudbray to a Roselia fight.

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Sometimes during Max Raids, the Pokémon you’re fighting will throw up a shield, broken up into 3 to 5 segments. You’ll do minimal damage to that Pokémon until you break it. You can break it faster by taking advantage of type advantages. Normally, an attack will only break one segment of the shield, but attacks that do a lot of damage can sometimes break two. After you beat the raid, you’ll have a chance to catch the Pokémon. Use a regular old Poké Ball for that one—you’re guaranteed to catch it.

Weather And You

Different Pokémon populate different areas of the Wild Area. If you’re looking for Ghost types, check out the Watchtower Ruins. For Fairy types, your best bet is out past the Lake Of Torment. Weather will also change what kinds of Pokémon appear, and there’s different weather all over the Wild Area—I literally just caught a Jolteon that was chilling in a thunderstorm. You can check the weather by opening your map and then hitting the cross button. Weather changes over time, so if you’re not seeing what you want, check back later.

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Camping

You can camp in most places, but you’ll probably do a lot of it in the Wild Area. When you’re at Camp, you can play with your Pokémon—which will earn them experience and also raise their level of Affection with you—but also cook curry. Cooking curry heals your Pokémon, so taking advantage of that can make your travails in the Wild Area last longer.

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In order to cook a good curry, you’ll need a couple of things. Rare berries help a lot. You can find berries by shaking the trees with those multicolored blobs on them. If you shake them too many times, you’ll end up having to fight a Skwovet and losing some of the berries. You’ll know when you’ve hit your limit by the vibration in your Joy Con. Once it’s vibrating with barely any pause in between, take your hands off the tree unless you’re looking for a fight.

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To cook curry, you’ll have to complete a mini game, which can be done with either motion controls or regular controls. I prefer regular controls, but do what feels best. You’ll know you’re doing well in the mini game if sparkles rise from your dish. Curries that are Coperajah class—the highest possible—not only heal your Pokémon but also replenish everyone’s PP and remove status effects, so it’s worth the time to learn how to do it well.

Gym Battles

You’ll be able to Dynamax your Pokémon in Gyms, making them huge and super powerful. The bad news is, so can the Gym Leaders. Here’s some tips on how to best use this new feature.

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When To Dynamax

Gym Leaders will always Dynamax their last Pokémon. You might, like I usually do, save your Dynamax for the end. This method has its disadvantages, though. Sometimes, the Pokémon that would be most useful to use against your opponent will be at low health by that point. Dynamaxing will give your Pokémon a higher total health but won’t heal them.

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Or, you could do what my colleague Natalie Degraffinried does, which is Dynamax a Pokémon with a huge type advantage right away. Dynamaxing last for three moves, so in the early game when Gym Leaders only have a handful of Pokémon, you can blast through their entire team. In the late game, when they have more Pokémon, you’ll have to come up with another way to beat out their last few Pokémon and take down their Dynamaxed monster.

Dynamax Moves

When you Dynamax a Pokémon, they won’t have their regular moveset. They’ll have Dynamax Moves, which work differently. The power and effects of the Dynamax moves depend on the type of moves that your Pokémon has learned. Grass-type attack moves become Max Overgrowth, and Water-type moves become Max Geyser, for example. Defensive moves will become Max Guard, which blocks all incoming attacks, but is more likely to fail if used concurrently.

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Dynamax Moves also have special effects. Max Overgrowth and Max Geyser will change the environment or weather, respectively. After using Max Overgrowth, Grass type moves will be powered up, and each Pokémon in play will earn a bit of health back at the end of your turn. Max Geyser makes it rain, making Water type moves more powerful and Fire type moves less powerful. Some Dynamax Moves will change the stats of either yourself or your opponent, as well.

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Post-Game

There are things to do after the credits roll in Pokémon Sword and Shield. If you’d like to discover these things for yourself, turn back now, because I’m about to spoil some of them.

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More Free Pokémon

The free Pokémon don’t end when the main game does! If you head over the the Battle Tower, which takes the place of the Macro Cosmos headquarters after the end of the game, you can grab a free Type: Null.

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As if that isn’t enough, after you defeat the Champion, Lee, he’ll have a little surprise for you. If you go to Lee and Hop’s house in Postwick, the town where you all started off in, he’s left you a Charmander in his room. If you’re like me, you will audibly say, “Hell yeah,” upon receiving him.

Pretty Ribbons

Ribbon hunters rejoice: There are ribbons in this game. Any team that’s on the winning roster after you become Champion will get a ribbon for doing so, but there are two others as well. If you head to Hammerlocke and go into the house on the right hand side of the drawbridge leading to the gym, you’ll be able to get the Effort Ribbon or the Best Friends Ribbon. The former you get for a Pokémon that’s “giving it their all.” The latter you get for a Pokémon that has a high level of affection with you. What was once my Sobble, before it fully evolved, has all three, and I love him.

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