After several months of anticipation, the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass is here. The first set of DLC, the Isle of Armor, was dropped to fans on the 17th of June 2020. This DLC appeared the weaker of the two from trailers, but fans were excited nonetheless. However, I think there is still a lot left to be desired. An Isle of Armor Review does need to be taken with pretext, as it isn’t entirely new or original, but it does expand on the base game in a few ways.
With that said, it’s a complete mess that doesn’t resolve any issues present in the base game. It just adds some cosmetic changes, extra content, and calls it a day.
This is Culture of Gamings Isle of Armor review.
A Short Story that Leaves a Lot to be Desired –
The story of the Isle of Armor was not expected to be as long as a mainline game, but it still falls short. The main story of the DLC can be completed in around an hour or two. In it, you are rivalled by either Avery or Klara. This rivalry depends on which version of the Pass you purchased. They will be your main competition when taking on Mustard’s Dojo.
This is home to Mrs Honey and Mustard, a couple who run a dojo in which trainers compete. You will be assigned three trials by Mustard. Upon completing these trials, you will be gifted a Kubfu and build up your bond with this Pokémon, you will be told to choose between the tower of Waters or Darkness. These towers will conclude what final-stage evolution of Urshifu, Kubfu will take on.
If that all sound boring, tedious, and just downright insulting in length, that’s because that’s exactly how it feels to play.
Rival are Back –
As stated previously, your rivals are Avery or Klara on the Isle of Armor. I personally only have experience with Avery, but considering these are characters from separate versions, I’ll still talk about him. Avery was annoying, had an interesting design, but lacked any real reason for existing in the DLC.
Once you finish your trials, he just sort of sits there in the dojo blank-faced. The lack of cohesion between the dialogue and the actual events of the battles with him takes away from the immersion of him as a character. Overall, I appreciate the attempt to incorporate new characters, but Avery personally was lacking.
When you had a diverse range of rivals in the base game, like Hop, Bede and Marnie, there was an actual good amount of diversity and interaction. But here in the DLC it feels so much more… flat, lifeless, and almost insulting.
(Image Source: Pokemon Blog)
Disgusting Textures and Graphics –
This is the biggest crime in not only the Isle of Armor, but Sword and Shield as a whole. I was not expecting major improvements in textures and graphics for the DLC, but I was not expecting worse. As the Isle of Armor is one big Wild Area, the entire island follows the same texture and design patterns of the Wild Area from there base game, which isn’t good.
The ground is slimey and blurry. The water looks never-ending and dull. The mountains and caves are just messy and almost hurt to look at. Despite all the memes the trees even look like they’re stuck 20 years in the past. This DLC is disgusting to look at visually. It is just as bad as the original Wild Area. However, what made the original Wild Area more bearable was the ability to actually leave it and move between decently textures towns and routes.
This is not possible on the Isle of Armor. You’re stuck here, looking at uninspired, flat, and messy textures all over the place. It might be asking too much in an Isle of Armor review for it to rectify some of the major visual issues of the base game, but even so, it looks horrendous
(Image Source: Mic)
Nintendo published games aren’t exactly always the most stunning visual marvels, but these visuals are unacceptable in Sword & Shield. This is an expansion to the Switch’s flagship mainline Pokémon game, and it doesn’t look like it . These textures are not helped when compared to the New Pokémon Snap game announced on the same day as the DLC’s release, and that game is in early stages of development.
I honestly can’t tell if it’s just laziness, lack of care, or if Nintendo just don’t even realise it. They can come out with some stunning looking games from time to time, and even when they don’t as mentioned above, they usually still have charm.
(Image Source: The Mercury News)
Boring And Empty Landscapes –
The layout and design of the landscape on the Isle of Armor doesn’t benefit either. There’s no sense of scale or life in the landscape. That combined with its disgusting texturing doesn’t help make it feel like its supposed to, and extra grand adventure. Moving through the Isle of Armor feels like an ugly, tedious slog. The mountains are decently designed in comparison to the rest of the landscape. However, the water is just miles of ocean with these random, pointless islands dotted around. Along with that, the caves are giant, empty, and lacking, what’s the point in making everything large in scale if it all looks dull?
(Image Source: Crumpe)
Level Scaling And Difficulty –
The difficulty is something that was hyped up by many before release. Level-scaling was revealed to be present after many questioned how Gamefreak would make the DLC challenging with the knowledge of everyone’s abundance of level 100 Pokémon. The simple answer to this question was, they didn’t.
Bring a level 100 Pokémon, heck, even a level 70 Pokémon and you will find this DLC a breeze. From my experience, level scaling does not exist properly. Pokémon only scale to as high as level 60, with 61 being the highest witnessed outside of trainer battles and the giant Wailord in the ocean. Yes, the battles with Kubfu can be challenging. However, if you fail a fight nothing is stopping you from spamming Exp. candies on Kubfu to blow opponents out of the water.
Wasting Limited Dex Slots On Worthless Pokemon –
Something that baffles me is the inclusion of some of the Pokémon themselves. Gamefreak uses the ‘balancing’ excuse for the GalarDex to explain inclusions of the likes of Maractus and co. However, when there are 100 or so slots up for grabs, why would anybody want a slot to be wasted by Pokémon such as Klefki?
There are so many limited Dex slots in Sword & Shield and the Isle of Armor that are just thrown away and wasted on worthless Pokémon that almost everybody dislikes. It gives off the impression that Gamefreak has no idea what Pokémon the Pokémon fanbase like or want in the game. Especially when you see the likes of Comfey floating around, yet Garchomp is left in Sinnoh.
The Cut-Scenes And Non-Gameplay Visuals –
Now that I have spent the majority of this review slaughtering this DLC as part of an Isle of Armor review, here is some stuff I did like. I thought the cut-scenes with Mustard and Kubfu was some of the best the series has ever seen. The scenes of Kubfu’s introduction to the player, as well as his reaction after beating Mustard are just amazing. They help in creating a bond between Kubfu and the player. This was a brilliant way to show-off and incorporate a new legendary Pokémon into the series with some of the more recent legendaries like Zeraoara falling flat.
(Image source: Gamepur)
Customisation Options –
Another good addition was the Style Card and the ability to have more customisation options given to the player. The bike designs are interesting and personally something that is massively welcomed. However, I do think it is annoying to be unable to wear normal clothes when riding your bike. The new costumes are leagues ahead of the original. However, the mandatory wearing of a bike costume still feels obsolete and annoying to witness, especially when the new bike designs are so cool.
(Image Source: USGamer)
Returning Pokémon And Pokémon Following You –
Lastly, I would like to applaud the idea of getting one step closer to all Pokémon being available on the Switch, even if it is through DLC. Even if with The Crown Tundra many Pokémon will still be unavailable. However, one step closer is better than no steps whatsoever. (Even if they did take them out in the first place)
The secret inclusion of Pokémon following you is also brilliant, taking a leave out of Let’s Go’s book, even if it is lacking. This could have been a huge inclusion. However, the fact it can only be done on the Isle of Armor is disappointing. It baffles me as to why this feature was not possible across all of the Galar regions. As well as this, the pokemon following you are incredibly slow and mostly just end up teleporting after you. Even so these are steps that are two steps forward and one step back with how they were incorporated and should still be seen as somewhat positives.
(Image Source: Dot Esports)
Final Verdict –
Overall, if you liked Sword & Shield and want more content, then the Isle of Armor DLC will be worth it. However, if you are aware of the massive flaws in these games, then you are going to be set-up to realise more of these massive flaws upon playing the Isle of Armor DLC. This DLC is mediocre at best, and disgusting at worst. The Crown Tundra was always known to be the bombshell DLC with the majority of big-hitter features arriving in November. So, of course, if you plan on wanting the Crown Tundra then you might as well purchase the Expansion Pass and play the Isle of Armor DLC too.
That was our Isle of Armor review, If you’d like to read more from us at Culture of Gaming, head on over to our website! Or you can be kept up to date on all our articles via our Twitter @thecognetwork
- THE GOOD
- Pokemon following returns
- Old Pokemon begin to return
- Furthered customisation
- The Cut-scenes and non-gameplay visuals
- THE BAD
- Following Pokemon featured severely broken and hindered
- Disgusting visuals and empty landscapes on many occasions
- Story feels void and short
- Waste of limited dex-slots on worthless Pokemon
- Lack of any true difficulty
Overall, the Isle of Armor DLC has a lot going for it, but the things that it brings are all hindered and held back by the original games lack of polish, originality, and design. It’s two steps forward and one step back.