Pokemon Sword and Shield Isle of Armor Review: Whipped Dream on Top

The Pokemon Sword and Shield Isle of Armor DLC is a worthy add-on to the base game, despite being somewhat light on content.

The Isle of Armor is the first-ever DLC for a Pokemon game, and it adds a significant new location to Sword and Shield, more Pokemon from previous games, and lots of extra stuff to do.

But is The Isle of Armor DLC worth it? That’s probably something you’ll ultimately need to decide for yourself, but I’d say yes — absolutely. The Isle of Armor is cracking good DLC for Pokemon, especially since there’s even more to come in the Expansion Pass with The Crown Tundra later this year.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Isle of Armor Review: Whipped Dream on Top

Getting started in The Isle of Armor is easy (check out our guide to see for yourself), and you can access it at basically any point in the game. That’s pretty handy overall, but what The Pokemon Company and early previews don’t tell you is that you’re sort of out of luck if you access the Isle of Armor before becoming Champion.

It doesn’t scale levels after all, so pre-Champion, you see everything ranging from Level 10 through Level 20 or so — even if your party is way above that. Post-Champion, you’ll see wild ‘mon and other trainers coming at you with Level 60 teams and up.

So my first adventure on the island was a bit of a disappointment then, compounded by the Fields of Hope being one of the most boring areas on the island. Well, at least at first.

You’ll be greeted by armies of Bunneary and Jigglypuff, with a few other Pokemon aside from that. It’s admittedly not the best introduction to something that’s supposed to be exotic and new.

But you’ll get glimpses of something better — islands out at sea, a massive Wailord hanging out in the ocean, lots and lots of Max Raids waiting in the distance, and the Master Dojo itself, just up ahead.

Sure it's a fair fight.

You can go in and start The Isle of Armor’s plot at once, or you can ignore it and go exploring, which is, naturally, what I did. And I’m glad I did. The rest of the Isle of Armor is pretty excellent, and it’s a whole lot bigger and more varied than you’d think. 

Better yet, the whole island is like the Wild Area in that you can fully rotate the camera, which is a much bigger touch than it might sound like. There are also Dens nearly everywhere.

Unlike the Wild Area, these Dens seem to be active more often as well. Where I’ll enter the Wild Area on a given day and see maybe four active Dens across the whole expanse, there’s sometimes that many in just one segment of the Isle of Armor.

The Pokemon variety is good throughout as well. Just when I’d think I was bored with the same three Pokemon showing up in an area, something new popped up — or there’d be a final evolved form of a Pokemon you normally can’t get without trading or special items. That’s when playing before beating the Champion comes in handy, so you can actually raise these fully evolved Pokemon from a low level.

Just uh... ignore the innuendo kids.

Having said that, I don’t know what to do with all these new ‘mon. There’s no room for them on my primary team, but using them in a new playthrough would be nice. The logical thing to do would be to buy a Pokemon Home subscription and funnel them back and forth as I please. Maybe that was Game Freak and The Pokemon Company’s nefarious goal all along, but seeing all these classic Pokemon as DLC is surprisingly lovely.

It keeps the main game from feeling overwhelming with so many monsters to catch, and it makes seeing them in a new location feel fresh and somewhat exciting again. That’s quite a feat when we’ve seen these same critters again and again for decades now.

In short, it’s precisely what DLC should be — an extra treat on top of the main course.

That works pretty well for describing the rest of The Isle of Armor as well. The story is short and revolves around training at the Master Dojo and raising Kubfu. There’s a post-game story too, also about raising Kubfu, but it’s really all a cover for battling and a handful of new features.

The Isle of Armor’s theme is “growth,” and that’s pretty apparent in playing. You’ll battle a lot. One of the features unlocked at the end is a kind of Battle Factory substitute, and you can grow your skills through managing new team combinations.

The Battle Factory substitute is called Restricted Training, where you choose a type of Pokemon to fight with while building a team around it from your roster. You usually battle against a stronger type, and it offers a decent challenge.

Outside of that, there are still some additional features to take advantage of. The Cram-o-Matic is an excellent excuse to offload crud you don’t want and get a rare item in return. There’s actually a recipe book if you want, though experimenting is a fun way to obtain some rarer Technical Records.

You can upgrade the Dojo’s Rotom machine too and turn it into a mini-Pokemon Center of sorts. You can challenge the Dojo Master to some battles. Or you can find more Max Mushrooms to turn “select” Pokemon into Gigantamax forms of themselves. 

One area The Isle of Armor improves on over the base Sword and Shield game is with its characters. They’re much more interesting on the island, and the stories around them are just quirky fun. The writing helps with that too. It’s a lot smoother and more varied than Pokemon usually is, with your island rival being a particular treat.

This kind of structure and focus on more episodic scenarios in a Pokemon adventure are what I'd like to see more of in the future. It's not shackled to the usual limitations of the Gym journey, so The Isle of Armor is free to create a goofball slice-of-life adventure set in a Pokemon world that still retains classic Pokemon elements.

Pokemon The Isle of Armor Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Expansive new island to explore
  • Lots of Pokemon to catch
  • Makes it exciting to see these decades-old Pokemon again
  • Fun localization and quirky characters

Cons

  • Not all that much new content
  • Level scaling is bruh.gif

And that’s it, though it's important to remember this is just DLC and not a full game.

The Isle of Armor is very much just one part of the Expansion Pass, and I suspect The Crown Tundra will be the beefier addition. That means that by itself, The Isle or Armor would be a bit difficult to recommend for the price compared to the Fire Emblem: Three Houses expansion pass or Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s pass.

As one half of an even more expanded adventure, though, The Isle of Armor is a well-rounded and satisfying topping to the main games — assuming you like catching new Pokemon, battling, and exploring. And if you don’t, then you’re probably playing the wrong game anyway.

[Note: The reviewer purchased their own copy of The Isle of Armor used in this review.]

Our Rating
8
The Pokemon Sword and Shield Isle of Armor DLC is a worthy add-on to the base game, despite being somewhat light on content.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.

Games Pokemon Isle of Armor Genres RPG Platforms Nintendo Switch Tags rpg
Published Jun. 18th 2020

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