Part of the allure of Pokémon games is growing attached to each new creature you catch. Games like Pokémon X and Y, Sun and Moon, and Let’s Go incorporate some sort of bonding, from giving your pals a good pat to feeding and cleaning them up. In Pokémon Sword and Shield, downtime doesn’t just happen with one member of your team; it happens with the whole gang at once with the game’s camping feature.
When you’re out in the wild and between towns, camping is an easy way to quickly revive and refresh your party. Sword and Shield feature a curry cooking option where you choose from berries and other food items you’ve collected to create new recipes. Once you’ve laid out your ingredients, you fan campfire flames and stir the pot via motion control of frantic button mashing to perfect your dinner. Cook a good meal, and your team will gain experience, regain their health, and bond. You can start fresh without having to rush back to the nearest Pokémon Center every few battles while you level grind.
Campsites also serve as a way to get face time with your pokémon. Your party wanders and mingles among themselves as you watch; a quick whistle will usually bring them running. While talking is an easy way to check up on how they’re feeling, you can also toss a ball or wave a feather wand around to play (a good reminder that you’re still traveling with a flock of fancy pets).
Camping in Sword and Shield isn’t a deep or especially robust system. You cook and you do some basic interacting with your party. I could have gone the entire game without needing to chuck a ball over and over for my electric corgi. But having the option is what I like most about Pokémon games: brief moments built on my own attachments to fantastical creatures I’d never know otherwise.