Pokemon Sword and Shield Online Deep Dive: What it's Like to Battle, Trade, and Explore the Vibrant Wild Area

Pokemon Sword and Shield Online Deep Dive: What it's Like to Battle, Trade, and Explore the Vibrant Wild Area

The servers are on, and the players are trickling in. Here's what it's like to interact with them.

Interacting with other players has been an important part of the Pokemon experience as far back as trading over the Game Boy link cable in Pokemon Red and Blue. Our main method of battling and trading with each other changes as our communications technology becomes more widespread, and Pokemon Sword and Shield for the Switch marks another big shift.

The Global Trade System (GTS) that's been part of the Pokemon universe since the game first went online with Diamond and Pearl for the DS is gone in Sword and Shield. In its place is a communications system called "Y-Comm." Unlike GTS, you can access Y-Comm pretty much anywhere. All you need to do is hit the "Y" button and press the cross button to get online.

When you're connected, you can fight in battles against other players (single battles, double battles, or multi battles), trade one-on-one with other trainers, join open Dynamax raids, swap personal trading cards, or try a surprise trade. You can only put out one request at a time, so if you put out a request to swap a trading card, you can't request a fight or a trade until the swap is done, or you cancel your first request.

Otherwise, using Y-Comm is pretty passive. The game matches you up with someone making the same request you are, and as they say in the Galar region, Bob's your uncle.

When we published our impressions of Pokemon Sword and Shield, the servers weren't online yet so we couldn't use Y-Comm. The servers are on now and players from Europe and Asia are starting to pour in, so I've been able to put in some time with Sword and Shield's online experience. Here are some early impressions of Y-Comm, with the caveat that they might change when Sword and Shield is available worldwide on Friday.

General stability is OK - I haven't had many issues with connectivity, which is good; dropping out of online trades and battles in Pokemon games usually comes with consequences. I will note there's some hitching in the Wild Area when you're online. It's not terrible, but hopefully Game Freak does some optimization in the coming days.

Players greet you in their native language. World peace is achievable through Pokemon. | Game Freak/The Pokemon Company

It's fun to see other people running around the Wild Area - I was surprised at how many trainers I saw in the Wild Area. The game's not officially out all over the world, but the Wild Area is already looking much livelier than it did when I played solo for review. When you talk to other trainers, they say "hello" in their native language, which is cute. They also give you a random item for cooking curry with. I've already visited some camps, too. I like seeing other people's tents dotted around the landscape. While tents pop-in when you get close to them, you can see the smoke of cooking fires from much further away.

Trading is easy-peasy, and I never had to wait long for a response - It's nice to put in requests for whatever I need, including Pokemon trades, then forget about it until the game finds an appropriate match for me. Actually, maybe "forget about it" is the incorrect term to use here, since I've not had to wait more than 30 seconds for trading and card requests. I've spent much of my time online sending surprise trades (i.e. Wonder Trades where you send a Pokemon into the digital realm and get a random one in return) of level 60 Pokemon to new players. Am I warm-hearted? Or do I just like seeing absolute power fall into the hands of children ill-prepared to wield it? You make the call.

I haven't been able to do much battling or many Dynamax raids - While my requests for trades and cards are answered promptly, my calls for fights and raid partners mostly go unanswered. It's likely because the overwhelming majority of players currently running around the Wild Area are just starting out, whereas my team averages level 70. Picking a fight at this point would be like curb-stomping a kindergartner. In the same vein, I have access to very high-level Dynamax raids, and I doubt Game Freak is going to let level 5 teams join me in a fight.

Most of the new players can only offer me Yampers and other low-level Pokemon. Meanwhile I'm handing out level 60 Pokemon like candy. | Game Freak/The Pokemon Company

Despite not having access to much in the way of battles, Y-Comm is easy to use, and exploring the Wild Area with other players is fun. I should note that I currently don't see an option to search for specific Pokemon when I initiate a trade, though I don't know if that's something Game Freak will implement later, or if it's just been axed completely.

Look for our full Pokemon Sword and Shield review next week! For now, read our impressions of the game, and consider taking the controversial "Game Freak Lied" Twitter hashtag with a grain of salt.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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