Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass: The Crown Tundra Review

Developer: GameFreak
Publisher: Nintendo
Price: $30 for the Expansion Pass

After the 1st Sword and Shield expansion, The Isle of Armor, I wasn't expecting much from The Crown Tundra. The Isle of Armor was full of bad fetch quests, had a lame story, and just wasn't very interesting. The Crown Tundra fixes most of The Isle of Armor’s problems. It's a Pokemon expansion done right. It has a really cool campaign, a new and much better designed Wild Area, and 2 new modes of play with Dynamax Adventures and the Galarian Star Tournament. The Crown Tundra makes the Sword and Shield Expansion Pass worth it.

The Crown Tundra is all about catching Legendary Pokemon. Those are the special, 1 per game Pokemon like Mewtwo and the Pokemon they put on the front of the box. Pokemon like Mew and Celebi are not Legendary, they're Mythical Pokemon, and are usually only available through giveaways and special events, so you won't find them here. In The Crown Tundra Legendaries are pretty much everywhere. If you're a fan of the post game Legendary hunts from previous games, you're in for a treat. The Crown Tundra is full of references to those old Regi puzzles, Legendary bird and beast chases, and off the wall Pokemon rumors.

The way The Crown Tundra is structured is more like the endgame of past Pokemon games than the main Sword and Shield game or The Isle of Armor. You have to do some things in order to unlock others, but you're given the freedom to choose what you want to do first. You can go through the story and catch the new Crown Tundra exclusive Pokemon, track down the Legendary Birds or the Swords of Justice, do Dynamax Adventures, or play in the new Wild Area. It's up to you. You'll have to play through the main story quests to unlock Ultra Beasts in Dynamax Adventures and the new Galarian Star Tournament, though.

I love the throwback to old Pokemon post game content, but like Isle of Armor, this stuff isn't going to challenge anyone who played through the main game. Most of these Legendaries are level 70. The highest level one is Calyrex at level 80. Who doesn't have a dozen or so level 100 Pokemon by now? They literally hand out XP candy in this game. The hardest part of fighting the Crown Tundra Legendaries is not 1 hit KOing them while trying to catch them. Thankfully, all these Legendaries respawn right away, unlike in past games. I made a team of level 60s for Isle of Armor, but didn't bother for Crown Tundra because it really wasn't worth my time. I just put my level 100 Ivysaur with Sleep Powder and False Swipe to work.

Dynamax Adventures is a new game mode which uses Max Raids in a different way. In this mode, you’re given a rental Pokemon and choose a path to play through in a lair full of Max Raids. You play 3 raids against normal Pokemon and the final one will be against a Legendary. You can catch all the Pokemon you beat in this mode, and the catch rate is 100%, but you can only keep 1 of the 4 possible catches. You can’t see if any of the Pokemon you caught are shiny until the run is over, so it pays to stick around until the end.

This isn't just a raid gauntlet, though. You get to see the type of all the Pokemon in these raids beforehand, including the Legendary’s, and you are able to switch your Pokemon with any of the ones you catch before the Legendary raid, so there is strategy involved in choosing the path you take through the lair. Ideally, you want your group to have as many Pokemon with Super Effective moves to use against the Legendary. This doesn’t always work out when playing online, though. Apparently, many people don’t pay attention, or just don’t know their Pokemon type matchups. Thankfully, you can save up to 3 Legendaries to go after later if your group happens to wipe. You can replay these saved Dynamax Adventure runs as many times as you want, so you can use this to farm a shiny Legendary by simply not taking the Pokemon with you after completing the run. You still can only get 1 of each Legendary, though. You can't catch them anymore after you keep one.

The Dynamax Adventures are a cool idea, but you are doing 4 Max Raids in a row. The Pokemon don’t put up shields, like they do in regular raids, but this still takes about 20 minutes. It can get boring at times. Especially when other online players seemingly go AFK, don’t pick their moves, and you have to wait for their 30 second timer to run out. It’s faster to do these offline, but also much harder with the horrible AI trainers.

There is another good reason for doing Dynamax Adventures besides catching Legendaries; the new Ability Patch. This new item allows you to switch a Pokemon's ability to its Hidden Ability. It's just one of the many items available for purchase with the special currency you get when completing a Dynamax Adventure, Dynite Ore. You can also use Dynite Ore to buy Pokemon items like Bottle Caps and Vitamins. Now all we need is an item that makes Pokemon shiny.

The Galarian Star Tournament is a new 2 on 2 tournament in the style of the Galar Champion Cup. The cool thing about this new mode is that you get to play with all the Gym Leaders, Rivals, and special characters from Sword and Shield. You fight against them and can pick one as your teammate too. Marnie is in here, Opal, Leon, Hop, and even the weirdos with the Sword and Shield hairdos. Everyone has special dialogue for every other trainer too, including you. It’s kind of like when fighting game characters have unique intros when facing certain characters, like Ken and Ryu's fist bump. It’s really cool. But like everything else in The Crown Tundra, it’s not challenging unless you make it challenging for yourself because there’s no level scaling. You can totally go in here with a level 100 and easily sweep all these level 75ish Pokemon. This would have been much better if everything scaled to level 50 or something, like they have done with gauntlet and battle modes before.

The Crown Tundra is what Sword and Shield have been missing. If you are a fan of those old Legendary Pokemon endgame quests, you’ll love this. The story isn't much longer than The Isle of Armor's, but the level of freedom you are given and the fun of tracking down and catching the Legendaries blow anything in the 1st expansion out of the water. The new Dynamax Adventures can drag a bit, and the Galarain Star Tournament would have been better with level scaling, but they are still pretty fun ways to catch more Legendaries, make money, and see all the game’s characters, like Hop and Marnie, again. The Crown Tundra makes the Sword and Shield Expansion Pass a must have for all longtime Pokemon game fans.