Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass: The Isle of Armor Review

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Price: $29.99

Here’s something different for the mainline Pokemon games. Instead of releasing the same game with a bit more content as a third version, Game Freak has released a real expansion pack for the latest games, Pokemon Sword and Shield. It’s about time! They might mess around patch a game next. Who knows! This is a wild and adventurous Game Freak. The Isle of Armor is the first of 2 expansions included with the Pokemon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass. Shouldn’t it be The Isle of Armour since Galar is based on the UK, though? The next one, The Crown Tundra, is scheduled to be released later this year. The Isle of Armor adds a bunch of returning Pokemon from past Gens, some new story content, and a new Wild Area-like zone to play in.

The entirety of the Isle of Armor is basically a new Wild Area. You always have a controllable camera outdoors, there’s Pokemon Dens everywhere, and you can see other trainers running around when you go online. The only places that are not like the Wild Area are the 3 story-related buildings in the zone. The Isle of Armor is much bigger and more varied than the base game’s Wild Area, though. There’s a swamp, caves, a desert, fields, and you can also ride your bike over the ocean and explore a bunch of little islands surrounding the main island. It’s pretty awesome. Although, I found it much harder to just look up at the sky and see where all the Pokemon Den beams are because of all the mountains separating the different zones.

The new zone and Pokemon Dens are the real main attraction of this expansion. This new Wild Area is all that will be left after strolling through the story content. This is where you’ll catch the returning Pokemon, unless you just want to bring them in through Pokemon Home and call it a day. This is also where you’ll be able to farm the mushrooms to make Max Soup, which spawn around the island after you beat 3 Dens. If the Wild Area and Max Raid battles are not your idea of fun, you’ll be very disappointed with The Isle of Armor ‘cause the story content here isn’t very exciting.

The story content in the Isle of Armor is very MMO-like and nothing like the old legendary and mythical Pokemon scenarios in previous Gens. It’s more like something out of World of Warcraft. When you get to the Isle of Armor, you start a series of quests to train the new legendary Pokemon, Kubfu. The quests have you going around the island collecting different things to make Max Soup, which permanently gives all compatible Pokemon the Gigantamax ability. So yeah, you wasted all that time farming that Gigantamax Charizard with less than stellar stats because you can just train any old Charmander into the perfect Gigantamax Charizard now. You’ll also be doing battle with your new rival and the dojo’s master a few times along the way. After you’re done with the 3 fetch quests, you’ll go through a small battle tower to finish Kubfu’s training and evolve it into Urshifu. This is the most traditional part of this story content, and it’s only 5 trainer battles. It’s sort of like a Gym. Depending on which tower you choose, you’ll evolve Kubfu into a different form of Urshifu. This is a one time thing, by the way. Once you choose a tower, the other one is closed to you forever.

The Isle of Armor has level 60 Pokemon in it, but to finish the story, you’ll probably need Kubfu to be closer to level 70. I guess they want you to grind Dens a little bit to level Kubfu up, but if you’re like me and been playing in the Wild Area for the past few months, you probably have enough XP candy to level Kubfu to 100 in 5 seconds, so this probably won’t be an issue and you’ll have this story stuff done it a couple of hours. Yeah, that’s it. A couple of hours of story content. Maybe. You could just steamroll through most of this content with your level 100 Pokemon too.

You can also expand your dojo, like Garrisons and Class Halls in WoW. Expanding the dojo is really just something to dump your Watts into. You can use your Watts to add a bunch of stuff to the dojo, like a barber and vending machines with Pokemon vitamins and drinks. You can turn the dojo into your Pokemon Center, changing room, and Pokemart. So, just like in Pokemon X and Y!

Another cool thing they took away and has come back with the Isle of Armor is follower Pokemon. You can have any Pokemon follow you around the Isle of Armor, but only in the Isle of Armor. This doesn’t work in the old areas. Also, you’re the only one who can see your Pokemon, so this isn’t a way you can show off your shinies to everyone online. It’s still awesome, though!

I’m kind of disappointed with the Isle of Armor. I probably spent more time making a level 60 team to play through it at the right level than I actually spent playing through the story content. The Isle of Armor is a cool place to hang out in and do Max Raid Battles, but I have a living Dex in Pokemon Home, I don’t really need these Pokemon. The new clothes, haircuts, and follower Pokemon are great, though! I hope The Crown Tundra is much more than just another Wild Area.