One of the main new features in Pokemon Sword and Shield is the Wild Area, a new take on a Pokemon's classic "routes" that players traverse to get to new areas. This massive hub route connects a couple key parts of the game and is divided into several regions that feature different Pokemon and weather. The Wild Area utilizes the game's always-online features to connect players to participate in raid battles, give items to one another, and make the Wild Area feel more populated. But what is the Wild Area, and what makes it so special?
What is the Wild Area?
The Wild Area in Pokemon Sword and Shield is located right in the heart of the Galar Region, and serves as a bridge between several key locations in the game. Players are tossed into the Wild Area shortly after receiving their starter Pokemon, so it serves as interesting, albeit potentially dangerous, introduction into the game. The Wild Area features unique regions that can have Pokemon hiding in grass, roaming in the overworld, and soaring through the skies. Pokemon in the Wild Area range in level when starting out, so players can encounter Pokemon that are significantly higher than the player. As players complete the game, Wild Area Pokemon will be boosted up to Level 60 - for better or for worse.
Wild Area Regions and Weather
The Wild Area is divided up into various regions with seven unique locations on the map. Unlike most areas in the beautiful Galar region, the weather in the Wild Area rotates regularly which will cause different Pokemon to spawn. Each section of the Wild Area features a rotation wild Pokemon. For example, the crumbled watchtower in the west of the Wild Area has a high concentration of Ghost Pokemon. As the weather changes, different Pokemon will start spawning both in the grass and in the overworld. Players can see the current weather on the map, and the Pokedex will let players know if a Pokemon only appears in certain weather.
The regions in the Wild Area add a good amount of variety, though visually they are not too different. The weather makes more of a visual change than the areas themselves. Certain areas, like the Dust Bowl and Lake of Outrage are significantly different than the other areas, but a large swath of the Wild Area is very one-note in terms of visual design. However, the Wild Area features a very large variety of Pokemon to catch. Players can find many of the new Pokemon in Sword and Shield in the Wild Area, which is great for players looking to complete the Pokedex.
Raid Battles and Activities
There are a couple stand-out features in the Wild Area in the form of new activities players can participate in. The most notable feature is the Raid Battles, which can be started from the various glowing dens around the Wild Area. These allow up to four players to team up to battle one Dynamaxed Pokemon for the chance to catch it and earn some great items in the process. The Dynamax raids are also the only way to get certain Pokemon that have unique Gigantamax forms. For example, if a player catches a Butterfree or evolves it from a Caterpie, it will only have a regular Dynamax form. However, if players catch a Gigantamax Butterfree in a raid, that Butterfree will be able to have the Gigantamax form when players use it in battle. The raid battles and Gigantamax raids will rotate over time, so players will have to check back often in the Wild Area to see what Pokemon are up for grabs.
Players can also spend their time in the Wild Area participating in Rotom Rallies which are essentially time trials that players can do on their bike. This is great for players trying to get across the Wild Area quickly as they cannot encounter Pokemon during the Rally. There are also some smaller activities players can do, like visiting the secondary Pokemon Day Care, or visiting the Digging Duo to spend Watts to unearth some rare items. There are plenty of hidden items scattered in the Wild Area, so it does reward players for exploring while farming for Shiny Raid Pokemon.
What Needs to Change in the Wild Areas?
While the Wild Area is definitely a revolutionary take on "routes" in Pokemon, the Wild Area feels barren at times,with little to do outside of battles. It's one of the many reasons why players are upset with Sword and Shield. Outside of searching for new Pokemon and doing Raid Battles, there isn't much to do. Raid Battles also feel inconsistent in terms of spawn rates. It's not uncommon to load into the massive Wild Area and only have one or two raids active.
The game also encounters some pretty significant slowdowns when traversing the area, especially if connected online where other players load into an area. There are plenty of infamous pop-in moments while exploring, though since the Wild Area is one large, open area it does make sense. If there are Pokemon or other characters in the area, then it can take a couple seconds to pick up items off the ground due to the game suffering from lag. This can make searching for all the TMs in the game a bit cumbersome at times. If Wild Areas are making an appearance in future titles, then some technical upgrades need to happen, as well as some new things to do if not searching for Pokemon.
The Wild Area is a great step forward for route design in Pokemon, though it does need some more work for it to be a great feature going forward. The Wild Area in Sword and Shield seems like a good proof of concept for what routes should be, as it gives players a great way to find specific Pokemon while maintaining some variability when it comes to which Pokemon appear. Hopefully Wild Areas will take over as the new routes in Pokemon after the success of Sword and Shield, as they will make the journey from town-to-town a whole lot more interesting.
Pokemon Sword and Shield are available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.