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Catch 'Em All: A Pokemon: Sword and Shield Starter's Guide

Pokemon Sword and Shield Starter header

Whether you're entirely new to the series or a returning veteran of generations past, there's something for everyone in the latest installation of the Pokemon franchise, from the small town of Postwick to the heights of the Galar region.

While much of the familiar functionality returns for veteran players, there's also plenty of new features to take advantage of to make this journey unique. Pokemon: Sword and Shield have quality of life changes for players old and new, to help you get on with assembling your team and becoming a Pokemon Master. Where do you start? How can you maximize the return on the resources you now have at your disposal?

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Now, we're taking a look at what the games  offer to get you the information you need to build the perfect launch pad for your latest Pokemon adventure!

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The Pokemon Themselves

The most important aspect of any Pokemon adventure is building the team you want to use with the Pokemon you like. There's no right or wrong way to build a team, you can have a team full of different kinds of Pokemon, or you could have six Woopers. However, there are ways to build teams to change your gaming experience.

To give yourself an easier time, balancing the team with a good variety of types is the way to go. Having a Pokemon for nearly every situation ensures that players are best prepared for whatever the Galar region has to offer. So, when catching potential candidates for your team, be sure to pay attention to their types. To seek out more of a challenge, you might want to build your team entirely around a single type or strategy, finding ways to succeed in spite of any difficulties that might apply.

Some Pokemon have more than one type, allowing you to fill two requirements with one member. Be careful though, it is important to consider the weaknesses of your team members as well as their strengths. For example, a Pokemon that is both Ground and Fire type may be strong, but as both types are weak to Water, that's double the pain they'll endure at the hands of a water Pokemon.

Get used to rotating Pokemon throughout battles to ensure you've always got the best combatant for every match-up. One aspect of Pokemon Sword and Shield that makes team management more intuitive is the ability to swap Pokemon from your active team to your storage boxes on the go! This prevents you having to run to a Pokemon Center just to try new line-ups.

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Evolution is also a huge part of Pokemon Sword and Shield, as with previous iterations of the series. Evolving your Pokemon is a surefire way to make them more formidable, but consider preventing evolution as soon as it is available. Pokemon at younger stages in their evolution chain learn certain moves faster when leveling, so consider putting off their evolution for a few levels to get powerful attacks sooner than you usually would. Galar provides new versions of existing Pokemon, such as Meowth and Weezing, which have new type classifications and abilities, so don't forget to check those out, they might be more applicable to your team than their traditional forms.

The biggest change in the Pokemon from the Galar region is their ability to Dynamax—this allows Pokemon to grow to great heights and gives them access to more powerful attacks, though it only lasts three turns. Any Pokemon in your control can Dynamax, but there are some Pokemon who have unique Dynamax forms, changing their appearance as well as their size and giving them even more special attacks. You can tell which Pokemon have unique Dynamax versions as they have an X graphic on their statistics summary.

The Power is Yours

Dynamaxing is a vital part of Pokemon Sword and Shield and allows for a lot of extra possibilities not only in the Dynamaxing of the Pokemon, but in item and Pokemon acquisition. In the game's new Wild Area, players can take part in Dynamax Raids by entering the lairs of powerful, powered up Pokemon. Team up with other trainers online or with NPCs to take on powerful Pokemon for rewards. Sometimes these raids include Pokemon that aren't common, allowing you to capture a rarer Pokemon when they are defeated. One of the best things about Dynamax raids is the rewards received upon completion, and herein is where the power is truly yours.

Raid rewards include things like experience candy and one-use Technical Machines for teaching Pokemon powerful moves. With more access to candies that give experience, players are able to keep their teams balanced. This can give players an edge over tricky Gym Leaders or rivals and catch lower level Pokemon up to their high-level teams. The Technical Machines gained in the raids can give Pokemon powerful moves, helping to round our your roster's move arsenal for battles.

In the Galar region, Hidden Machines are a thing of the past. Previously, these items taught Pokemon crucial moves for navigating the world map, but the more advanced Technical Machines have fully replaced them. In Galar, things like flight and traversing water are handled by items and NPCs, meaning you don't need to find space in your team to fill navigation requirements. This gives you more freedom in the compilation of your team and their movesets.

Extracurricular Activities

In addition to the regular Pokemon aspects we've come to expect, there are more activities to enrich your adventure. In the Wild Area, you can take part in various activities including bike rallies, energy collection and berry acquisition. Energy you collect, known as Watts, can be exchanged at vendors in the Wild Area for special items including Technical Machines and specialist Pokeballs.

In any outdoor area in the game, players can set up camp, which opens up the ability to endear your Pokemon to you via interacting and playing with them. In addition to this, foodstuffs can be bought at vendors to be cooked in the camp. Players can mix ingredients and berry types to make different kinds of curry. The more types of curry you discover, the bigger your curry library gets, which can be examined by the camping master in the Wild Area. At each milestone of your culinary adventure, he will give you items for the camp, allowing you to do more with your Pokemon in your down time.

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It is also important to catch a lot of Pokemon, even if you don't plan to use them in your immediate team. The Pokemon Center PCs now include a Pokemon jobs board, which lists tasks asking for assistance from Pokemon. You can send your reserve Pokemon out on these errands, allowing them to gain experience whilst not actively being part of your team. The more jobs you do, the better, allowing you to earn rewards in the background of your adventure.

On top of all this, be sure to check out clothes stores in certain towns, as customization of your character is encouraged. In order to get the full depth of your new Pokemon adventure, you're going to want to take advantage of all the new features available to you and Pokemon Sword and Shield has the variety to really let you make your adventure your own.

Pokemon Sword and Shield is out now, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.

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