The Pokémon Sword and Shield rumor that it's the fastest generation to complete has been debunked by multiple players, who each reported that it took them the average time for the franchise to finish the game. GameFreak's first mainline console game has received numerous criticisms leading up to its launch, starting with the removal of the National Pokédex, which meant that various Pokémon were cut from the game entirely.
Since then, players have voiced complained that the game doesn't take advantage of the Nintendo Switch's hardware due to its graphic fidelity and cut content. The title received even more backlash when a leak revealed exactly which Pokémon were removed, such as the Bulbasaur and Squirtle starter line-up. This has also resulted in rumors that Sword and Shield were the shortest games in the mainline series to finish.
However, IGN guides editor Janet Garcia, staff reviewer Casey DeFreitas, and freelancer John Sullivan have each reported an average of around 40 hours to beat the title, which puts Pokemon Sword and Shield in line with other titles in the franchise. During their playthroughs, the writers spoke to as many townsfolk as possible, caught every new Pokémon seen along their journey, tried out the new additions such as curry recipes, and fought every NPC trainer. Considering that gaming writers have other duties and deadlines to accomplish, their play-style tends to be quicker than what the average player might experience. For example, Garcia and Sullivan stated that they did not revisit the Wild Area frequently, with the former choosing to also ignore 'surprise encounters.'
While they said that Sword and Shield took them less time to beat compared to Pokémon Sun and Moon, it was due to the game's quality of life updates and a more streamlined structure. For example, both Garcia and DeFreitas mostly ignored grinding due to the abundance of exp. candies received by accomplishing max raid battles. Other distinct gameplay elements, such as natures, tutorials, and random encounters, were adjusted for convenience's sake, which also contributed to a faster completion time.
One aspect of Sword and Shield that the IGN contributors said they would revisit is the Wild Area, as it offered a "new and worthwhile way to spend" their time. They also reported how many hours they would add to the game now that IGN's review came out, with DeFreitas estimating to spend 90 hours in the game and Sullivan already spending 20 extra hours on top of his initial game time of 40 hours. Even though Pokémon Sword and Shield has received a lot of skepticism from players, at least one of the criticisms of the game appears to be false. And despite fan concerns, many players are just excited to have a new game to enjoy for the first time.
Pokémon Sword and Shield releases on November 15 for the Nintendo Switch.