The first part of the Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC Expansion Pass finally arrived last week, with The Isle of Armor letting players go to, well, the Isle of Armor.
The Isle of Armor is a brand new landmass to explore, inhabited by a huge number of Pokémon that are new to these two games. Some of these are Galar versions of classic Pokémon, others are returning Pokémon from other regions, and some are completely new. On top of all of that, there are also some new Gigantamax forms and a few nice little quality of life changes that can help you bring any Pokémon up to competitive level with far less time investment.
That’s all great stuff, undoubtedly. It’s just a shame that the Isle of Armor expansion still feels a little bit wanting.
The new area is a lot of fun to explore and you can make your way across the various areas as soon as you arrive on island. Well, first you have to take down your rival, who in the Shield version of the game is the intensely irritating Avery. He’s a technicolour douchebag that genuinely doesn’t seem to like you, and while that’s nice if you’re after someone to hate, it’s really quite irritating when compared to the wholesome experience of the main game.
You first meet him – or Klara if you’re playing Pokémon Sword – just before getting on the train you need to catch to begin your new journey. First impressions are important, and if there’s one thing I can say about your new rival, it’s that they’re consistent. You’ll recognise them as being intensely unlikeable almost immediately.
Once you’ve boarded the train, and then been air-lifted to the Isle of Armor – why not just take a plane? – you’ll have a chance to duke it out with your rival. Chances are that if you’ve played all of the main campaign that you’ll have a team around of Pokémon in the level 70 range, each of which will be able to steamroll nearly everything you’ll come across in this adventure. If you’ve been training your Pokémon more than the bare minimum needed to progress, then you’ll likely have an even easier time of things.
Now, challenge isn’t what makes a Pokémon game, but the complete lack of it was noticeable in the main game, and it’s even more obvious here. It feels as though Nintendo and Game Freak are really sticking to the idea that these are kids games. While that’s perfectly fine, it still leaves me feeling a bit sad when thinking about the brutality of the original Elite Four, or the dungeons that we used to have.
The quests in the Isle of Armor are also painfully simple. Go here, catch a thing, go here, find a thing etc. There’s even one quest to run around the relatively small island and find 150 lost Diglet. 150! Don’t expect to have your world changed by these or the expansion as a whole.
The main point of these expansions seems to be bringing additional Pokémon into the game, and the it definitely delivers on that point. You’ll have no doubt have seen people speeding away from Sharpedos already, or the wonderful absurd image of someone walking along with a Wailord behind them.