Pokemon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass – Isle of Armor
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 06/17/2020 (“The Crown Tundra” releasing in Autumn 2020)
Price: £26.99 / $29.99 / €29,99 (those prices only address the Expansion pass)
A code was provided for review purposes.
Please note: Since I started the main game in German, there will occasionally be German text in the screenshots. I try to avoid these as much as possible but will put a translation where it’s unavoidable.
Played for 105 hours or more
Every time I enter my profile on my Nintendo Switch, I get greeted by that message when my Pokémon Sword cartridge is inside. With that amount, Pokémon Sword is the third most played title in my library after Animal Crossing and Octopath Traveler.
Instead of focusing and incorporating the many opinions that are floating around the internet on various aspects of the main game, I purely intend to focus on the DLC and not address the concerns some fans have or had in the past.
If you are interested in the review of the main game, please consider visiting Alex’s work afterwards. I invite you to return to Rapid Reviews UK’s website when the second part of the Expansion pass gets released in autumn this year.
Off to a new island
The Expansion pass also comes with two additional outfits featuring the main stars of the Let’s Go series, Eevee and Pikachu. I also got the exclusive Champion’s outfit. The Expansion Pass also gives you a Style Pass, so a few new hair styles are available. Tired of your bike’s appearance? Two brand-new options are available for you to travel around the island in a fresh way.
With that said, let’s go and see what the first part and addition to Pokémon has to offer!
While downloading the DLC, I asked myself what to expect. I admit, I avoid trailers and everything so far as much as possible, since I like to be surprised; plus I’m getting older, so I tend to conveniently forget something from time to time. That working in my favor, I completely forgot the previous shown images I had seen from the Isle of Armor.
Booting up Pokémon Sword, I got my Armor Pass that allows me to board the next train at the station and the information that a new area has been made accessible with that. So, no new save file or anything you had to jump into.
Arriving on that island, you will be greeted by a face you might recognize (for spoiler reasons I keep this part vague; I was surprised the main character wasn’t commenting on that!) asking you to collect as many Pokémon as possible to complete the Armor Pokédex.
Discovering the dojo
The first difference greeting players is the rival you are encountering. For me, as a Pokémon Sword tester, I got the Poison-type gym leader wannabe with questionable ambition motives, Klara (German: Sopohra), as Hop’s successor as a rival.
If you download and play the Expansion Pass on Pokémon Shield, you’ll get the Psychic-type trainer with a shrill colorful outfit, Avery (German: Saverio), competing against you.
As a fair warning: Both are respectively similar in behavior to Bede (German: Betys) and not quite ready to be the bigger person here when it comes to losing against you. Unlike Hop, they keep up the more “mean” and “sour when lost” rival role we used to know from the previous titles. While stating that, their representation in both Shield and Sword are the same: they want to be a gym leader and train at the dojo that’s located on this idyllic island.
A new partner awaits!
Once you get to the dojo you are introduced into the three trials that await you there. With completely different tasks, they gave you some variety by solving those. I won’t spoil any of them for you, but it made me enjoy spending time on that game again. Worth to mention that I did love the main game despite its issues, flaws and weaknesses.
Once you completed the two quests, you’ll get a Pokémon. Being very shy, the master of the dojo asks you to take it with you on a journey, as the training inside prepared him perfectly for the outside. Having to level your new companion up can be a bit grindy, since you have to match the 70-ish level Pokémon and their trainer you are up against to fulfill the last and final test.
Is this a third softversion what we know from the franchise? Absolutely not. Depending on how you play, that DLC can be completed within a few hours. Having probably stacked up a lot of handy items that could boost that level of the legendary Pokémon you receive, you ran rush through that in a few hours like a Rapidash.
The game intends you to train along with the Kubfu on a “traditional” way. To aide you, you receive an item that helps you with the EXP sharing even more than the original Sword/Shield at the beginning. With a lot of items around, it is not too hard to get your partner on a decent level without attending a grind fest. The argument that that DLC can be too vague is a point, but easily a home-made problem.
Plus, the island is fun to discover with a few previous mentioned side quests that can fill your play time meter significantly. And another chance to finally spend the number of watts you’ve collected! It’s worth it for an extra challenge!
So, what to do next?
Feeling too much weight in your backpack by tons and tons of items? No problem in the DLC. You will be able to mix and transform items into a new one using the brand-new invention Cram-o-matic, designed after a Cramorant. Requiring four things, you can put berries or obtained items in it. Your Gatcha machine in a dojo is free of charge for you and there are Pokéball recipes, as well as special or random standard ones.
While the ones for a Pokéball and the special items follow a certain order, the standard one is calculated by a point system and do not require you inserting them in a strict order.
Feeling like searching for Digletts? Another side quest you can pick up. Finding all 151 Digletts can be quite hard to find, but the reward is more than generous! Can you find them all?
The new Max Soup gets introduced very early in the game. It helps a Pokémon in your team reach a Gigantamax form.
Game Freak heard fans in some aspects; having made improvements on the environment by adding more textures and improving them, you also have the option for Pokémon to follow you around. This is only working on the DLC exclusive area, though.
The mechanics of a Pokémon following you around are kind of clumsy. It depends on the Pokémon, though. The one you have on your first party spot will follow you around on a ground area – not on water, of course. The type of Pokémon running after its trainer is key. How you ask? Quagsire for example wobbles awkwardly after you in a rather slowing pace, while Cinderace is sprinting with much more grace.
Undoubtedly it could have been better. That unique style conversion to its Pokémon characteristics deserves some recognition and consideration even so.
Fair warning, regardless of probably being obvious: Do not expect ground-breaking, Breath of the Wild-esque improvements on the surroundings. There was some work done, it certainly is visible on a few points. The light effects on the Pokémon as an example, or small effects such as various plants on the ground. Nonetheless, there is always room for more improvement.
Music and sound effects playing a secondary role, they are decent, they are good, but certainly not as rich as the main games’.
No issues with controls and Pokémon never crashed on me. It runs well in both modes the Switch has to offer, TV and handheld.
Winner or bitter defeat?
Let’s Go (haha) and recap: The main story of Pokémon’s Expansion Pass is enjoyable and a light-hearted one. Side quests to keep you busy are there as well. New sets of monsters to catch and the return of two fan favorites since day one made me genuinely happy. The outfits and styles for you and your trusty bike are a nice bonus on top. You loved how a Pokémon followed you in Let’s Go? You probably will like that update as well.
Purchasing the Expansion Pass is a no-brainer for many fans out there. The voices against the main titles will be loud again since the Isle of Amour part isn’t perfect either. Taking a new attempt, I welcome the Expansion Pass instead of a third version and am very much excited returning to the second part, The Crown Tundra.
Meanwhile, I will hunt and battle trainers on and offline with the new Dynamax versions of Pokémon introduced. Besides following the main story line, there await a lot of new challenges that make both Kubfu, your team and you as a trainer grow. It is certainly less hard when you played Pokémon immensely before – believe me when it can get surprising as well.
It is worth mentioning to take care when purchasing the Expansion pass since it is confusing and unnecessarily complicated. There is a website for that which helps… But it would have been better if that website hasn’t the necessity to be made in the first place.
Closing statement: I wholeheartedly recommend the Expansion Pass in my review for an addition to the main game. It is fun, I did not expect perfection, though, and will spend many more hours to complete the Isle of Armor DLC while awaiting the second addition!
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass from the Nintendo eShop.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.