Pokémon "Sword and Shield" DLC: "The Isle of Armor" Review: The Greatest Post-Game Ever?
Get ready to explore the Isle of Armor
The latest DLC for the Pokémon Sword and Shield titles dropped during the end of the Pokémon Presents Presentation on Wednesday. The Expansion includes two brand new adventures, completely separate from the main story. The second part, The Crown Tundra is due to release this Autumn 2020.
Introducing . . . New Characters!
One of the reasons I couldn't recommend this adventure enough was the exciting new people we meet throughout the Journey. From the moment I booted up the game and arrived on the island, I was introduced to Avery, The Psychic type specialist, who has a certain grudge after we defeat him in battle. His overall aesthetic really shines through, from his top hat to his vibrant clothing. The development surrounding is character is built on through your adventure. Overall, one of my favourites from Sword and Shield.
Another notable character you meet is Master Mustard, who is in charge of running the Dojo on the Island. He assists you throughout the game and acts as a mentor for the player. He's not too "holdy handy" though, and push the player onwards to complete the tasks on the Island.
Freedom of Exploration
As soon as you step on to the Island, the sense of majesty and largeness encapsulated me into exploring as much as possible from the onset. This is usually my style of positioning when it comes to open world RPG's, I can easily spend hours doing my own thing before being directed back to the main quest. There are 12 "sub-areas" on the Isle of Armor, each one bringing a host of returning Pokémon, from fan favourites, like Lucario, to the slightly obscure and quirky. There are over 100 returning, in addition to 111 from the original game, bringing the total to 211. This alone was more than enough reason for me to purchase the pass. It is still possible to get a friend to trade them with you, but where's the fun in that?
Whilst the graphics remain the same as the original game (no tree upgrades), the various parts of the Island offer a different variety of Pokémon available not only in the overworld, but in the wild encounters too. From Sharpedo in the Ocean to Bouffalant in the Wetlands, these habitats are diverse and as a Pokémon fan, getting the opportunity to see the many landscapes of the Island was totally cool.
It is also worth mentioning how one of my favourite aspects of the Pokémon Series, is collecting the various species included in each game. This naturally is not mandatory to explore the game, however, and so players aren't "forced" to catch Pokémon. When you get all 211 Pokémon registered to your Pokedex, speak to the lady with the lab coat in the arrival area to collect your reward.
The Pokémon . . . The Myth . . . The Legend: Kubfu
Kubfu was the latest Pokémon to be revealed in the official trailer and oh boy, is he cool. I don't just say that to any encounter I meet as well, this little bear grew really close to me as we traversed the land together. Since Pokémon can also now follow you on the Island (after a certain point in the game), it felt like I had gained an invaluable partner. The goal is to challenge one of the Towers of Two Fists, which grant Kubfu to evolve into Urshifu. The choices were either the Water tower, or the Dark tower, each evolving into their separate styles: Single Strike Urshifu, a Dark and Fighting type, and Rapid Style Urshifu, a Water and Fighting type. I personally really liked Rapid Style because it gave me "crane" vibes due to its posture. Once you enter the tower of your choice, there is no return, even if you get a friend to transfer you another Kubfu. There is a possibility, however, that Game Freak could give you another Kubfu via Mystery Gift, which would then allow you to obtain both forms of Urshifu. Who knows?
Take your Buddy for a walk!
I have never liked reading too much into the nitty-gritty of games before release, so that I can dive in and experience the content first-hand. But I'm glad this feature was kept a secret, and that is the return of Pokémon walking alongside you, something that has not been included in a main series game since Heart Gold and Soul Silver (if you exclude Let's Go as a side game). Having little Kubfu run around the fields to build up friendship was cute and caught me off guard, and I can honestly say it was worth the 40 minutes or so to get max friendship so I could challenge one of the two towers. That being said, apart from running around, the models aren't particularly interactive, they lack detail and seem somewhat bland and unimaginative. Props to Game Freak though for adding this into the expansion, nice feature nonetheless.
Thoughts on Gameplay
I managed to 100% complete the Isle of Armor expansion in less than 15 hours. I did find this to be the more unfortunate aspect of the gameplay, and that it was too short and could have done with more content to fill the time. After beating the main story, there are some tasks you can do, such as getting all your potential Gigantamax Pokémon in your boxes, well, Gigantamaxed, it was not the challenge at all.
Soundtrack and Music
One of the most underappreciated features in this DLC was the soundtrack. Take, for example, the Master Dojo, where you and various other trainer's fight to compete in the three trials. The background drumming, in addition to the Asian and Samurai style instrumentation, made me feel like I was in a real dojo competing against the likes of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. I also enjoyed the accompanying wild area music while I was exploring the Island, the Celtic and northern influence really shone through, similarly to the original wild area.
Important Trainers also had exclusive themes during battle, and while this is a spoiler free review, they're interesting to say the least.
Whilst the first expansion to the DLC wasn't as long as I had originally hoped for, the Isle of Armor was honestly very appealing and worth the money if you're a collector, like me. Getting to see so many returning Pokémon, in addition to the side quests, like finding all the Diglett, made the expansion rewarding to the player. The gameplay is somewhat easy, but being Pokémon, it's come to being not so much of a surprise that the games are getting easier. Having said that, I don't purchase a Pokémon game for the difficulty, I buy it because for the time spent playing, I enjoyed what content there was to offer. Overall, if you liked Sword and Shield, you'll be sure to love the DLC.
© 2020 Lewis Usher