Released on: June 17, 2020
Requires Pokemon Sword or Shield (the DLC has a corresponding version for each)
Price: $39.99 CDN ($29.99 US)
I’ll be honest here, folks: I’ve had a change of heart when it comes to Pokemon Sword/Shield. Astute readers who read my Game VS. Game article on Pokemon Let’s Go VS. Pokemon Sword/Shield might have picked up on this somewhat, but after playing it some more, I got hooked. I still stand by my review of Pokemon Sword/Shield, as many areas could use some polishing, but I am much more of a fan now and have a much better understanding of where the effort went with Sword/Shield. Rather than rewriting the Sword/Shield review, I figured I would take this opportunity to review the first DLC for Pokemon Sword/Shield: the Isle of Armor. Does the Isle of Armor add a substantial amount of content to Pokemon Sword/Shield?
Upon visiting Wedghurst Station (or revisiting to those already passed Wedgehurst), a mysterious character waits at the station (Klara for Sword and Avery for Shield). During their conversation, a Slowpoke native to the Galar region immerges from the train. After catching the Slowpoke, the player has a seemingly innocuous conversation with Klara (or Avery) telling them about the Isle of Armor. The mysterious character takes the train to the Isle of Armor, and the player follows suit (so long as the player has the Armor Pass given to them when they purchase the Expansion Pass.) Once the player makes their way to the island, they learn that Klara (or Avery) is the player’s rival on the Isle of Armor. Despite Klara’s (or Avery’s) chagrin, the player makes their way to the Master’s Dojo to begin their training on the Isle of Armor. As far as the story goes, the Isle of Armor is passable. The player goes through a series of quirky challenges to finally get their ultimate reward. I’ll be honest; I don’t think the story would have left much of an impact on me if it wasn’t for Klara (more on her in a bit.)
While there’s still a long way to go to get all of the missing pokemon in Sword/Shield, the Isle of Armor DLC adds many old favorites back into the game, and I am happier for it. What’s more, the Expansion Pass is not required to get these pokemon. They will have to get the pokemon by trading for it, but it is possible for those who don’t have the Isle Of Armor DLC to get its pokemon.
One improvement I’ve noticed with the Isle of Armor is its visual consistency. The visuals were something I had issues with Sword/Shield and, while they are still not what I would call ideal, they did take a step in the right direction. There are still a few blemishes here and there, but for the most part, I do feel like the Isle of Armor is much more consistent with its graphical quality.
A quality I omitted in my Sword/Shield review is its wealth of post-game content. I mentioned that the Wild Area is ultimately optional when going through the game’s story. While I still feel like that is the case, it is after the player beats Sword/Shield that I realized that the Wild Area is meant to be explored after the player becomes champion. Once I realized this, the Wild Area’s design suddenly made sense. What’s more, the Isle of Armor DLC is one massive Wild Area. Most of my time playing Sword/Shield is spent in the Wild Area trying to find items, pokemon that aren’t in my Pokedex or even fighting in Max Raids to get some of those sweet Armorite Ores. It is worth noting that the Isle of Armor is best enjoyed as a post-game (after the player beats the story) area.
Another topic I neglected to mention in Sword/Shield is the improved competitive aspects. Getting competitively viable pokemon is much more convenient. Pokemon Sword/Shield improved Base Point training (known colloquially as EV training), introduced Nature Mints, Hyper Training, and the NPC that will reset the Base Points of a pokemon. As someone who has a bit of an interest in competitive pokemon battling, these changes are a godsend and made going through the Battle Tower the most palatable it has been in generations.
Speaking of Pokemon battles, the presentation when battling other players is terrific. In my Sword/Shield review, I mentioned I liked the gym battles, as they take place in a stadium, with an actual crowd, and awesome music. This is also the case with playing against other players. The player has the option to chose what music plays during the battle, and they take place in the same stadiums that the gym battles do, making Pokemon battles against other players feel more significant and more impactful.
This might be a controversial opinion, but I don’t care: Klara is my favorite rival in the Pokemon series. Before her, my favorite rival was the one from Gold/Silver (and Heart Gold/ Soul Silver) because he was a jerk. It felt satisfying to beat him since he was obsessed with power, belittled the player, and when he finally got his comeuppance, got a taste of the might that is the player. Klara falls into this category, except her character has more nuance. She is mean, don’t get me wrong, but the rival in Gold/Silver never lied to people hoping it would interfere with the player’s progress or cheated to hamper the player. Klara is conniving and toxic, and I love her for that. Beating her and seeing her face fall as she realizes her efforts to thwart the player was nothing but a waste of time is a special kind of rewarding.
That said, though, there are a few things that I would like to see in the next DLC.
For starters, while the visual quality has improved, they are still far from what I would call impressive. The developers made great strides, like having pokemon be to scale in the overworld, but I still feel like the environments are still a little too simple, despite the game’s best efforts.
I want more pokemon to be included in the next DLC—the more pokemon, the better. What I would like as well, is some compatibility with Pokemon Go. There is an application for the Nintendo Switch and mobile devices called Pokemon Home, which acts like expanded storage for pokemon. When it was announced, the developers claimed it would have support for Pokemon Go, but I have yet to see this at the time of this writing. I am curious about how good pokemon from Pokemon Go would be when transferred over to Sword/Shield.
One criticism I have about the Isle of Armor is that there is one version for Sword, and one for Shield. The idea itself is ok, but if the player purchases the wrong version, they will be unable to play their new DLC. What’s more, since this is a digital purchase, refunding the wrong version’s purchase is extremely difficult. I do wish the eshop would check to see which copy the player has before allowing the player to make the purchase.
Finally, when writing this review, the only way to save any recording for pokemon battles is by keeping 30-second clips using the Nintendo Switch’s Share button feature. While it is sufficient for creating a highlight reel, it doesn’t cut it for saving full battles. I find the lack of battle replays to be curious; the battles are much more grandiose than previous entries, why, of all things, omit such a fantastic feature when the DS and 3DS games had it.
The Isle of Armor is a fantastic addition to Sword/Shield. The vast new Wild Area, the best rival in the series, and the myriad of things to do in the Isle of Armor are fantastic. For fans of Sword/Shield, the Isle of Armor DLC is a no brainer. Despite my glowing praise, I don’t see the Isle of Armor persuading naysayers into purchasing the DLC. For those on the fence, I recommend getting the Expansion Pass with Sword/Shield, so long as they make sure they get the right version of the Expansion Pass before purchasing.