How to beat gyms and survive in Pokémon Sword and Shield

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When we picked up Pokémon Sword on Friday afternoon, it was the first Pokémon game we had played in… a while. No judgement, thanks. Technically the last region we conquered was the Hoenn region. That was a while back. Because we tend to head to Google when we get stuck in Sword, we decided to compile a nifty little guide to Pokémon Sword and Shield

As we mentioned, we are playing the Sword variation this time around, and it’s all done on the Nintendo Switch Lite. Y’know, for maximum portability. 

Although a whole bunch has changed, the game mechanics remain very similar to what you’ll be used to if you’re a veteran. Guidance throughout the game also takes this into account. Encounters with story-critical characters are cut short if you opt for the handy ‘I already know this’ options. Which is a nice touch if the mechanics are still fresh in your mind or burned there from years of redoing the same tutorials. 

Starting out you’ll be just fine training your Pokémon as hard as possible. You’ll fly through the first two gyms. Just make sure you’ve got some strong-ass critters at the head of the party and you’ll be fine. The tricky bits comes in further down the line when mechanics like Pokémon strengths and weaknesses start to play a critical role in advancing. 

Yeah, you can veer off the path and hunt for Pikachu and Eevees. Yup, they are catchable in the game, and there are a few ways to get your virtual hands on ‘em. 

Keep Strengths and Weaknesses in mind

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of Pokémon becomes more essential as you progress. Make sure you train up a variety of Pokémon — yes, you can specialise or focus on your starter ‘mon but make sure to have a selection. For when you’re in a pinch against a ghost-fairy type, for example, and you’re stuck with your starter and a Magicarp… 

Luckily the developers, GameFreak, have made it much easier to access your external box with additional Pokémon. ‘Member when you had to find a Pokémon Center and access a PC Box. Now you’ll have access to your box (a place you send caught Pokémon that won’t fit in your party) wherever you are. 

The trick is to try and keep as many different Pokémon as possible levelled up to your current area. After the third gym, you’ll go head first against the fighting gym (if you’re in Sword), or against the ghost-gym (if you’re playing Shield). Here, party efficiency will be mucho importante

Below, we made a table to help you understand Pokémon strengths and weaknesses. We found it extremely helpful getting through gym battles. 

Pokemon Type Strong Against Weak Against
Bug Grass, Dark, Psychic Fire, Flying, Rock
Dark Ghost, Psychic Bug, Fairy, Fighting
Dragon Fire, Water, Electric, Grass Ice, Dragon, Fairy
Electric Flying, Water, Steel Ground
Fire Fire, Grass, Ice, Bug, Steel, Fairy Ground, Rock, Water
Fairy Fighting, Bug, Dark Poison, Steel
Fighting Dark, Ice, Normal, Rock, Steel Fairy, Flying, Psychic
Flying Grass, Fighting Bug Electric, Ice, Rock
Ghost Poison, Bug Dark, Ghost
Grass Water, Electric, Grass, Ground Bug, Fire, Flying, Ice, Water
Ground Electric, Fire, Poison, Rock, Steel Grass, Ice, Steel
Ice Dragon, Flying, Grass, Ground Fighting, Fire, Rock, Steel
Normal Ghost Fighting
Poison Grass, Fighting, Poison, Bug, Fairy Ground, Psychic
Psychic Fighting, Poison Bug, Dark, Ghost
Rock Bug, Fire, Flying, Ice Fighting, Grass, Ground, Steel, Water
Steel Fairy, Ice, Rock Fighting, Fire, Ground
Water Fire, Water, Ice, Steel Electric, Grass

For more detail about attacks and defences for particular types of Pokémon — check out this website. We’d also recommend bookmarking this link or printing out our table to keep on-hand. 

Stay healthy… all the time

Although this tip isn’t necessarily Sword and Shield-specific, some features have been added to help keep your critters healed and ready to battle. 

As always — keep as many potions on-hand as you can handle at any required time. At the start of the game, it’ll feel like you have infinite funds — don’t waste your money! It’ll be mighty useful later on when you stop making as much money (and you need more potions to stay alive). 

In Sword and Shield, camping has been added as a cool feature you can use to heal up. Pokémon Camp lets you set up a tent to interact with your Pokémon, and you can even use someone else’s for some critter socialising.

Camping allows you to cook up a nice, warming curry if you combine classic ingredients like Berries with other new items, like Sausages or Mushrooms. If you manage not to burn or spill your curry, it’ll heal your entire squad, restore their PP, cure any status conditions and revive fainted Pokémon. 

This is super helpful when you’re out of potions. Or when you just don’t want to leave the Wild Area right now because you gotta evolve that Magicarp into Gyarados right freakin’ now. 

Bonus tip! Where to find Pikachu or Eevee

As always, there is a variety of specific Pokémon EVERYONE wants to get their hands on. Like the globally-loved Pikachu and Eevee fluffs. You can get them in both Sword and Shield, and there are a few ways to do this. 

The first (easiest) method, can only be done if you’ve played Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Eevee! If you played one of these on the same Nintendo Switch you’ve loaded Sword or Shield on, you’ll be able to unlock the respective Gen 1 Pokémon. Any save file will work, so even if you didn’t finish the game, you’re sorted. 

You’ll have to visit the Wild Area Station, which you find when travelling by train to Motostoke when your train is forced to stop (thanks to those wild Wooloo on the tracks). You’ll end up at the Wild Area train station, where you should quickly spot a couple of kids in a nearby corner. Simply talk to them to get your Pikachu or Eevee.

The next method is far more tedious. You’ll have to find Pikachus or Eevees out in the wild. We managed to find one of each in the long grass on Route 4. You’ll know it’s the right place as the kids you battle are dressed in either Pika or Eevee onesies. It’ll take dedication and many a Pokéball. But you’ll find them if you search hard enough. 

Also, many forums warn that you won’t be able to Dynamax your wild Pikachu or Eevee. This is untrue — we managed to Dynamax Pikachu just fine. And I caught it, all by myself .

And that concludes it! These are our Pokemon Sword and Shield tips and tricks so far. Stay tuned for a full review on Pokemon Sword on the Stuff website once we clear all the gyms. Want in on the fun? You can get either of the games from Nintendo SA for R1,000 each

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Deputy Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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