Pokemon: The Isle of Armor Expansion Review

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Pokémon has released its first DLC for a main title game on the Nintendo Switch being The Isle of Armor expansion for Pokémon Sword and Shield. With the announcement coming several months ago, I wrote a post about how it can be good and bad to have DLC’s for these games. I wasn’t entirely on board, but also suggested some advantages they could have and different ideas for where they could go with it, but overall I was skeptical going in. It wasn’t until a few weeks before its release that I was reminded that it was coming out so soon and began to get excited again. The last few months leading up to this expansion, I actually hadn’t been playing that much having mostly found myself being a bit bored.

The few days before the release renewed my excitement and I began playing again. It was the anticipation of having an expanded world in the game that got me so excited into playing again. I really didn’t read that much into the expansion before release and really only knew about the addition of Kubfu the new legendary Pokémon that was to be gifted to you with two different Gigantamax forms. I was super excited to get my hands on this new Pokémon not only because it was a new legendary but I love the design of both.

The expansion came and I began playing. The first thing I noticed was how simple it was to get to the Isle of Armor. You update the game after buying the expansion of course and then as soon as the game boots up it informs you of the update and lets you know to go to the rail station to travel to the new Isle. After arriving, travel becomes easier as you are able to simply fly to and from the rest of the Galar region and the Isle of Armor. They could have easily gone the more complicated and senseless route of making all of this more complicated but thankfully they didn’t and I appreciate that a lot. It’s just easily accessible as long as you have the expansion.

The word “expansion” is interesting because it can mean just about anything. It’s not specific to like adding new Pokémon or actually adding story or even specifically a post-game story like we typically have for many of the main series games. It seemed that going the route of DLC’s rather than releasing a sequel like Black 2/White 2 or Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon meant that maybe we would just expansions that did give us more story and more game to actually play. That was my biggest worry because I wanted something that was going to make me stay invested into the game that I had grown somewhat bored of.

Thankfully there is a story in the Isle of Armor, albeit not one that take entirely long to play through but at least it wasn’t just a new place to find newly added Pokémon. It actually made you work for that new Pokémon Kubfu which on one hand I just wanted them to give it to me because I was so excited to train it while on the other hand I felt like it was smart to actually make you work for it, so I count that as a win. The story doesn’t take entirely long as you have to complete different trials by Master Mustard (weird name) and then eventually you get a Kubfu. After that you have to train it and gain a friendship with it until Mustard says you’re good to go and then you get to pick one of the towers to train in.

I feel like this decision was one of the better decisions that they made because rather than forcing you to only be able to evolve it into a game specific form, you actually get to choose which one you want with it be the Fighting/Dark or Fighting/Water typing. I feel like this is a unique decision that could be more interesting to play around with in future games. I understand the advantage profit wise of wanting to have two different games for each of the box cover legendries but it would also be cool to see them allow you to choose which one you want while also giving up the other. It just poses some interesting questions as to where you could actually take that concept in the future and it could have some implications of what to expect in the next expansion The Crown Tundra. We know that there are two new “Regi” forms that could also serve as a means to allow you to choose one and give up the other or it may be that you actually get both, so we’ll see which is the case in a few weeks.

Before you can actually go into the tower though, there is a suggestion that your Kubfu be at least Lv. 70 before entering. I’m not sure if it prevents you from going in if you’re under that level because I trained mine to about 73 before I tried to enter, but even still it sets it up as being  difficult challenge especially since you don’t get to take any other Pokémon with you. Now training of course carries over from the rest of the game where you can train normal or just use the candies that you get from raid battles to just level it up quick. The candies are the quick and not as fun way of leveling up so I suggest the grinding way just to go back to the old days when you had to do that. It does however bring up the issue I have of the NPC’s on the Isle.

Despite everything this expansion does have, the one thing it doesn’t have is actual trainers to battle outside of Mustard and Klara/Avery. I feel like this is a missed opportunity to give us a chance to go back to the old ways of grinding to level up by going through various trainers. I also wish that in the expansion there was some sort of inclusion of re-battling trainers. It could have been the perfect place for us to have a spot to continuously battle trainers to train rather than the easy way out of just using the Exp candies. With the theme being a dojo it just seemed like it was a missed opportunity to do this.

That does bring me to the theme of this expansion being the dojo and the inclusion of the new outfit which I personally really like and continue to use now. I wish there was more customization to the outfit, but either way I really like it. The theme doesn’t reach much further after you get through the story part as it resorts back to just being a new “Wild Area”. This is what I mean by missed opportunity though. If their intention is to put a lot of focus on these game and expanding upon them then they should have put more effort into really making this unique to the dojo/ martial arts theme. As in, they should have made it the ultimate training spot, not just full of new Pokémon and Raids, but also plenty of NPC trainers for you to continuously battle to level up your Pokémon.

It even would have been awesome to see some cameos from some past trainers known for martial arts that are visiting to train their Pokémon like Chuck, Bruno, and many others. Rather than having that inclusion, we have a new form of battling being the type restricted battling at the dojo. While it is cool and does pose a challenge, it does bring me back to the worst part about the Battle Tower or other things that follow that model being that you don’t actually get experience for your Pokémon which ultimately sucks. To me, it’s about training your Pokémon and I feel like outside of the raid battles and the raid candies, they don’t give us enough to actually do that which sucks. I want strong trainers in-game that are difficult to battle and that will give us experience for our Pokémon.

Once you defeat Mustard and evolve your Kubfu into Urshifu then you get another side mission of finding a specific item that will be used to allow your Urshifu to Gigantamax. It’s a cool little side final mission that brings you back to Hop, but ultimately doesn’t allow you to actually battle Hop at any point which is a real shame. Another missed opportunity for a great rival throughout the game. You don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with your Urshifu after that point unless you really like it because it’s already almost at level 100. For me, I still use it a lot because I like the Pokémon, but I see others throwing it in the boxes and forgetting about it at this point.

After finishing the final side mission, you have a few other things you can do like upgrading the dojo, finding all of the Alolan Diglett, or exploring the new isle and the added Pokémon. It does bring in question again the issue everyone had with not including the National Dex because while they do bring in various new Pokémon that we all love, it still leaves much to be desired as far as all of the missing Pokémon. Some of which are being included in the next Expansion, but the others are still out there waiting for inclusion in the new games. I will say though that I like the Isle of Armor more than the Wild Area due to the uniqueness of the design and how fun it is to just explore the island. I also enjoy how open world it seems like being able to go out to the ocean and explore smaller islands. The biggest surprise for me was when I first showed up and there was just a giant Wailord in the ocean which was a pretty sweet visual that I think they intended on doing to make some sort of statement.

Ultimately, after playing through the expansion and logging several hours, I have come to the conclusion that yes the Isle of Armor is worth it to buy for the expansion itself, the new Pokémon and the effect of making you go back to the game, however there is still much to be desired. A lot can be made up in the next expansion, The Crown Tundra, but as of right now I think that Game Freak needs to focus more on giving players a reason to stick with it rather than just capturing players for a few days or weeks. The expansion offers a lot for someone to come back to, but doesn’t give you much reason to continue after you complete the “story”. We do get some new Gigantamax forms for Venusaur, Blastoise, and the other Galarian starters, but even that isn’t enough to save this from being something that I will soon forget about and become bored of until the next expansion.

Pokémon needs to focus on expanding the games to a point where there is so much to do in these games that it gives players plenty of reason to not grow bored after defeating the main story. The DLC’s are indeed an opportunity for them to keep players engaged and sticking around, but more can be done to make it successful. At this point I feel like people are very much engaged, but with the relatively short amount of time between the expansions I think they will be fine in keeping people invested, but it will be after the next expansion where I start to get worried about the interest staying high. I am excited for The Crown Tundra, but for now if you have played through The Isle of Armor than let me know what you think and if not then definitely give it a shot to see if you like it.

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