Over the years Pokémon fans have become accustomed to receiving a third title that added onto an existing and current generation of Pokémon titles that were currently out. A third title that added either a few quality of life features, new Pokémon or even a new area. So when plans for expansions were announced, needless to say, everyone was a little surprised. However, The Isle of Armor did look promising. So was it? Let’s find out.
Expand my world
Expansions are created to…well…expand the world or your experience within a game. And with the Isle of Armor, Pokémon Sword and Shield’s first expansion, it does just that. The Isle of Armor is an absolutely gorgeous place to explore. Upgrading on one of Sword and Shields core features, The Wild Area, the island is home to quite a number of different areas. A bright sunny beach, lush green forests, and shadowy caves are but a few areas players will be able to explore on the island. With some caves even possessing a river that’ll lead you out into the ocean itself.
Of course, the island is also home to a large number of Pokémon not found in the base games. And just as it was in the Wild Area, players will have the pleasure of running among the wild Pokémon in their natural habitats. Allowing you to identify Pokémon much sooner and also coaxing some of them out of the grassy areas to engage in battle. Truly one of the best moves that Game Freak has done for the fans, was this. And in the expansion, seeing more of the first and second-generation Pokémon created not only a more immersive experience into the Pokémon world for me, but hit me with a nostalgic blast from the past. And if that wasn’t enough, the expansion also adds the feature of allowing your Pokémon to walk alongside you. A feature that I absolutely loved in the Let’s Go titles. Being able to see my Scizor walking or flying behind me, or my Gyarados swimming behind me in the ocean kept me smiling for hours on end. Sadly, it may just be those hours that you’ll enjoy because the expansion doesn’t really last too long…
Welcome to the Dojo
Along with the new areas and “new” Pokémon offered to players in the expansion, is there is an additional storyline in the mix. A rather light-hearted story that made me feel as if I was actually playing through a side-quest that had or has no significance whatsoever to the end-game of Pokémon Sword and Shield. But I guess a story had to be inserted because let’s face it, an expansion that just added Pokémon which was originally left out of the base games would have been ludicrous right…
Weirdly enough, in this expansion, you’re already the best, and this is just a vacation to a beach island.
Landing on the island, players will immediately be introduced to their “rival”. A rival that is at first rather colourful not only in looks but also personality and then later on just seems to lose steam. Thereafter, players are integrated into the island’s Dojo. A place where students learn about the art of Pokémon battle and are then granted the opportunity to raise a Pokémon. However, before the opportunity is presented, players will be sent out on mundane fetch quests. Quests that to me seem to be designed to force the player to explore the island. Once these quests have been completed, players will then be “challenged” (I didn’t really want to use the word force again) to raise their friendship with their Pokémon before they can proceed within the storyline, which is then followed by another “challenge” before they can proceed even further into the story. It was sadly quite frustrating at times because not only were my Pokémon all a little overpowered for anything challenging in the wild area but I never really experienced any sense of fear of losing a battle. A fear that usually has Pokémon Trainers wanting to be the very best. Weirdly enough, in this expansion, you’re already the best, and this is just a vacation to a beach island.
All in all, the expansion does give players another reason to jump back into Pokémon Sword and Shield, from an exploration and a “Gotta catch ’em all” aspect. I spent hours just exploring every nook and cranny of the island, and there are tons of items littered across the different areas to find. Combined with all the wild Pokémon just walking around alongside me and some even running at the sight of me, was quite enjoyable and made me remember how much I enjoyed exploring the Galar region.
Playing on the big screen at times and not just handheld mode also made me realise and appreciate even more as to how far Pokémon has come in the graphics department, with the colours of the game just popping at every angle. The new Pokémon that becomes your companion is rather adorable as well. And some of the characters in the Dojo are quite witty and entertaining to watch and listen to, in the game’s dialogue. However, if you’re looking for an extension or rather expansion to the Pokémon Sword and Shields end-game story, sadly, that’s not what you’ll receive. Instead, you’ll be playing through a “side-quest” with admittedly a few fun and entertaining to watch scenes, with a rather light-hearted storyline that seems to have been quite rushed and can be completed in one sitting.