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Pokémon Sword and Shield tips, tricks and new features to know before you play

A selection of tips and handy things to know when you start off in Galar.

Pokémon Sword and Shield might not be our personal favourites here at Eurogamer, but there's no denying they add plenty of changes - big and small - to shake up the regular Pokémon formula.

There are changes to old systems and entirely new ones, which will probably affect everyone from brand new players to veterans and competitive battlers. We've pulled together all are in-depth guide pages over in our Pokémon Sword and Shield walkthrough and guide hub, if you're looking for some deeper pages and explainers - but here on this page we've gathered some quick and easy Pokémon Sword and Shield tips. They're all worth knowing, we reckon, so fingers crossed these get you off to a flying start!

There are more changes between the two versions than usual

Pokémon games have always released in the form of two separate versions - and those two versions have always had their own exclusive Pokémon.

With Sword and Shield, however, there are a few extra additions to what's exclusive: namely some entirely different Gyms and Gym Leaders.

If you're particular about who you want to battle, as well as which Pokémon - like Galarian Farfetch'd and Sirfetch'd, or Galarian Pontya and Rapidash - you want to catch, then our Pokémon Sword and Shield version differences and exclusives page might come in handy.

Wild Pokémon encounters have changed once again

Game Freak has continued to shake up the traditional ways in which you catch Pokémon in Sword and Shield. Where the long-standing method has been to wade into long grass (or cave floors and bodies of water) in the hope that a random encounter throws up the Pokémon you're looking for, they tweak things significantly in Let's Go, putting all Pokémon on the "overworld" and removing wild encounters entirely.

In Sword and Shield, that's now a mix of the two. There are visible Pokémon roaming the overworld in traditional areas - patches of long grass, in the water, inside caves, and so on - and there are random encounters. But they're different too: now, when you run around in long grass, an exclamation mark (!) will appear, and the grass in a specific spot will begin to rustle. If you run over that rustling grassy area, you'll be thrown into a random encounter - and the Pokémon that can appear in those often differ from those in the overworld...

You can now attract or avoid wild encounters without needing items

Sticking with wild Pokémon for a moment: you can now make your life much easier by sneaking past them to avoid those encounters above - roaming Pokémon won't run towards you, and the rustling grass won't trigger - or you can whistle to attack Pokémon towards you.

To sneak, just move the analog stick gently in the long grass, so your character moves slowly. You'll see your character crouch down to indicate you're treading gently! To whistle, meanwhile, click the left stick in.

If you're into competitive play, Natures are now much less important

Natures, if you didn't know, are a kind of modifier for your Pokémon's stats. Each Nature - apart from a couple of neutral ones - will boost one base stat by a small amount, and inhibit another by a small amount. So if you're really keen on min-making your 'mon, usually that meant a fair bit of grinding first, via catching loads of creatures or hatching them from breeding.

In Sword and Shield, there are now items - differently-named Herbs - that change your Pokémon's Nature in all but name. So if your Pokémon is Timid natured, and you give it a Bold Herb, it will get the stat boosts and restrictions of a Bold nature, but still be listed as "Timid" in its summary page. We only found these items in the post-game, mind - so if you want perfect Pokémon for your standard playthrough, you'll still need to grind.

Hidden items are now a bit less hidden

From that first Potion in Pokémon Red and Blue, the series has always featured "hidden" items - ones that don't visually appear in the game and can be walked straight over as if they're not there, but collected if you press A when standing and looking in the right place.

In Let's Go, things were made slightly easier by your partner Pokémon wagging its tail to tell you when you were hot or cold. In Sword and Shield it's even easier: hidden items are now represented by a little sparkle on the ground. Keep your eye out for little glints of white-yellow light, and always go and interact with them to collect the item that's hiding there, as it's often a good one!

There are now caps on the maximum level Pokémon you can catch, as well as the maximum level you can train

Another old tradition to receive a tweak: where Gym badges in the past would always modify the maximum level of Pokémon that would "obey" you in battle (to stop your mate from trading you a level 100 monster at the start of the game and carrying you through it), now there's also a cap on how high a level a wild Pokémon can be before you're able to catch them at all.

You'll know you've found one above your current level cap when you see the "very strong-looking" dialogue come up at the start of an encounter. If that's the case, you won't be able to even throw a ball at them to try and catch them - but you can at least try and knock them out, if you're brave, for some great XP! Here's an explainer on Sword and Shield's very strong-looking Pokémon if you want a bit more detail on how it works.

Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing can only happen in certain places - and Gigantamaxing with only certain Pokémon

Around the region of Galar are things called "power spots", and it's only above these where you'll be able to Dynamax your Pokémon

There are effectively only two places where you'll reliably find these: in the Wild Area, at the glowing red objects on the ground that often turn to pillars of red light, to indicate a Dynamax Raid is available; and at the Gym stadiums around the region, where you take on the Gym Leaders in your challenge. Expect much more in-depth explainers of Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing from us very soon!

There are no HMs in the game, and the only ability you unlock is one for your bike

Sword and Shield do away with HMs and their equivalents almost entirely. It's been coming - Sun and Moon replaced them with ridable Pokémon you could summon with a Rotom - but this is by far the most drastic change to date.

After a few hours, you'll unlock the ability to ride the Rotom Bike, which lets you whizz around the world at speed. A fair bit later than that, you'll get the ability to ride that bike on water, seamlessly going from land to water without having to do anything else, which is pretty neat! Fly, meanwhile, has been replaced by the Flying Taxis of the region, which act as a form of fast travel to any major location you've already visited.

It does also mean there are no strength puzzles in the game, or rocks to smash and waterfalls to ride, and all that - but it does at least keep things simple!

You can heal-up almost anywhere by whipping up a curry

Pokémon Camp is the latest featurette to arrive in the main series, letting you set up a tent to interact with your Pokémon, or even someone else's.

You can also cook yourself up a nice, warming curry if you combine classic ingredients like Berries with other new items, like Sausages. Doing so, without burning or spilling it, will heal your entire squad, including restoring their PP, curing status conditions and reviving fainted Pokémon in your party. It's helpful if you're short on items (or the cash required to buy them) or just don't want to leave somewhere like the Wild Area and traipse all the way back!

You can access your box to swap your team of Pokémon from anywhere

Let's Go aside, a mainstay of traditional Pokémon games has been the PC box, an invention of classic character Bill which allowed you to store all those captured Pokémon that aren't currently in your party of six.

Before, you'd always have to visit a PC - usually in a Pokémon Center - to swap those Pokémon into your party from the box or vice versa. Now, once you gain the ability very early on, you can swap those Pokémon from your box whenever you like. It means you'll probably have more than six Pokémon on the go at once, swapping in the odd new one to try it out for a bit or use against a specific Gym leader. It's pretty great, and is only blocked in special circumstances, like Gym Challenges.

With it finally in the wild, here's how to start the Crown Tundra DLC and our full Pokémon Crown Tundra walkthrough. Plus, here's how to catch Calyrex, Glastrier and Spectrier, the Regieleki and Regidrago puzzle solution and Regirock, Regice, Registeel locations, details on how to catch Legendary Birds Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres in the Crown Tundra, the Ultra Beasts and Necrozma adventure, Dynamax Adventures, including the legendries you can catch on these adventures, and the new Crown Tundra Pokédex and returning Pokémon explained. For Isle of Armor players, here's how to find the Slowpoke, where to find Max Mushroom locations, and how to get Kubfu, become best friends and evolve it, plus all Diglett locations too! For the base game, here's info on the ability to transfer Pokémon to Pokémon Home, the Wild Area, lists of all TM locations and TRs, all Galarian forms and finally our main Pokémon Sword and Shield walkthrough for the whole game.

Gym puzzles return as Gym Challenges, but aren't too tough

The puzzling element of Pokémon games almost entirely absent from Sword and Shield - but Gyms are close to the traditional thing as they've been in years.

You tackle eight Gyms, as usual, on your road to becoming Champion, and each Gym first asks you to solve a Gym Challenge. These aren't always puzzles - often they're battles or mini-games - but occasionally you might get the odd brain-teaser. Don't worry though, as we'll have all the solutions to them mapped out here for if you do get stuck - but they're never really that hard!

That's all of our basic tips for now. For much more though, remember you can head to our main Pokémon Sword and Shield walkthrough and guide hub, where we gather all our guides and walkthrough pages - including those gym puzzle solutions - in one place!

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