When Pokemon Sword and Shield came out, purchasing it was a no-brainer. I spent the entire summer leading up to it watching the Nintendo Directs, replaying some of my favorite Pokémon games, and even diving into some titles that I missed (I'm looking at you, Pokémon Ranger). So, it's clear that I am a biased Pokémaniac and here's what I thought of The Isle of Armor DLC.
I spent my first weekend with Pokémon Sword locked in the apartment with my best friends (Domino's and Pizza Hut) to allow myself to get sucked into a new Pokémon region for the first time since 2016. I grew up with these games. I learned to read with Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Sapphire was the first game I ever owned. Main series or otherwise, something about every game in the franchise feels magical to me despite their many flaws and Pokémon Sword was no exception. From the summer I first peeked into the Galar region and saw the Wild Area in its entire Dynamaxed splendor, I knew that this title had the potential to be the be-all and end-all Pokemon game that I've wanted since I was little. It also had the potential to burn me. In a way, it did both.
Pokémon Sword and Shield delivered its promise of being a bold step in the series and it's easily the most beautiful Pokémon game so far. Still, it failed to become the experience that it promised to be. One of these promises was the breadth and diversity of the Wild Area which looked massive in the trailers. However, it ended up feeling limited as there is just the one area and it isn't all that big.
The freshly released Expansion Pass includes The Isle of Armor DLC and it realises a lot of the potential that Sword and Shield always had. The most notable addition in Isle of Armor is that it is essentially a brand new huge Wild Area that is bigger and more realistic than the first. I say realistic because this island has a lot of different biomes within it and the way you move through them makes more sense than the first Wild Area which was basically an open field. This new island features a traversable ocean with little islands that you can explore which feature forests, beaches, swamps, and fields. Plus, all of its little areas are connected via an intricate cave system.
In addition to giving us a new Wild Area, Nintendo has expanded its Pokédex on the isle. I'm not one to complain much about the lack of Pokemon in Sword and Shield because I actually prefer how they are expanding the size of the world in order to make more room for the Pokemon that they left out of the original series but it's nice to see some new faces. As for the story, there isn't much going on. Obviously, the legendary Kubfu you receive is the biggest draw for this expansion. When you reach the island, you'll participate in a few mundane trials in order to receive Kubfu at a low level who you then must train and travel with for it to evolve. I'm not going to spoil any of the story because there isn't much to get into and you're going to want to experience the few slivers of plot for yourself.
While The Isle of Armor is an eye-catching place, it doesn't take long to explore it and I would have loved if there were more towns with NPCs to make it feel substantial. It also retains a big problem with the first game's Wild Area which is a lack of activities. Anyway, I don't have much to say about the new characters except that Nintendo is still the king of fashion. The rival I encountered in Sword (Klara) is annoying and easy to beat; think early Team Rocket but without the humour. Also, the master of the dojo is fun and the dojo scenes reminded me of the guild in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. In short, the characters aren't terrible; they're just not that interesting.
Despite the lack of meaningful content, I enjoyed a couple of neat features. One is a mini-game in which you have to find 150 Alolan Digletts for an Alolan traveller which turns exploring the island into a fun collect-a-thon. It's not quite as rewarding as finding Korok seeds in Breath of the Wild but it's similar. There is also a feature where you can use your Watts to upgrade your dojo and install things like vending machines and decorations which is pleasantly reminiscent of the secret bases in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. I love both of these features as they made it feel like I had something to do besides zoom through the story. If you're looking to explore a new area, see the pretty biomes, expand your Pokédex, and train up Po from Kung Fu Panda, then boy, do I have some DLC with your name on it!
With few summer Switch games this year, The Isle of Armor is a breath of fresh air and its vibe will make you feel like you're on vacation. Plus, exploring the beautiful island while catching new Pokemon has definitely made me re-experience some of Pokemon Sword's magic.
- + Expands and improves upon the concept of open-world Wild Areas
- + Plenty of new Galar region Pokémon
- + Gotta love those mini-games!
- - Story and characters don't feel meaningful
- - Lack of NPCs makes the island rather dead