Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Isle of Armor (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 14.07.2020

Review for Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Isle of Armor on Nintendo Switch

In the past, whenever an already released Pokémon game was expanded upon, it happened through the release of an extra version of something already existing. There's practically an example to cite for every generation: Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Crystal, Pokémon Emerald, Pokémon Platinum, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, or even a full-on-story sequel like with Pokémon Black and White 2. Those are separate from full-on remakes released years later, and typically brought out about a year after the base products. However, with Pokémon Sword and Shield, this looks like that won't be the case, since two expansions will come in 2020, and The Isle of Armor is the first of those two, and it just came out. Those two will add content to a game that has been criticised for lacking some essentials, like the absence of a national Pokédex or the ability to bring over any past creature through an online transfer service. The Isle of Armor looks to remedy this to some extent by opening the floodgates, and allowing to capture a little over 100 more of the older generations Pokémon to be used and played with within the world of Pokémon Sword and Shield. It's a compromise, and one that requires to pay some extra dough for it, but what else does it bring to the table?

The Isle of Armor expansion can be played even by people who have not made much progress in the main story of the game. The extra side-story here does not fit in any particular spot in the main plot, as nobody on the island will acknowledge the player's status of fame should they have already become the new grand champion. The heroine or hero walks into Wedgehurst station, and sees a new trainer on her way to the Isle of Armor to become a Gym Leader specialised in the poison-type. This gives a glimpse at the only extra Galarian form of an existing Pokémon that this DLC brings with it: Galarian Slowpoke. Owners of the expansion pass can show their Armor Pass to the station employee (after updating the game to version 1.2.0) and be on their way to the island.

Said island has many beaches and the waters all around the island can be explored for lots of water type pocket monsters to catch. In fact, the Isle of Armor plays exactly like a big new wild area, like that of the main game. It's a place where the player has full control on the camera, and there are very few areas where camera movement is restricted. This means that those who are connected online will be able to see other players going their merry way all around the island this time, although like in the base game this comes with a performance cost. Like the wild area, though, this also means that the amount of detail poured in the new DLC area is minimal, so as to save on performance. Nevertheless, the sea area, the few caves, the little mountain and forest included are all nice enough to look at, just not very technically impressive.

Screenshot for Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Isle of Armor on Nintendo Switch

Once on the island, the bit of story to be had revolves around the Master Dojo, where the player gets confused with a new student that was supposed to arrive today, and gets enrolled anyway. Three trials have to be taken before being handed the wholly new Pokémon exclusive to expansion pass owners, Kubfu, which eventually evolves into Urshifu. The player's friend and rival Hop even shows up at one point to help with a quest. The story practically requires that Kubfu be trained to at least level 70, which is done easily enough by taking part in Max Raid battles and gaining experience candies, which Pokémon Sword and Shield fans were probably already hoarding anyway. Beyond that, don't expect much more than five to 10 hours, getting through all the story on the Isle of Armor.

The rest of the experience then will be to try to complete the Isle of Armor Pokédex. Indeed, the new "old" Pokémon that come back in the DLC don't get added to the base game's Pokédex, but a separate one has to be filled, which by default will already contain whatever monsters the base game and DLC have in common, and which had already been encountered and captured before. There are 107 returning Pokémon, then the new Galarian Slowpoke and Slowbro, and finally Kubfu, and whichever of its two possible types of Evolution, Fighting/Water or Fighting/Dark, that the player can choose from. Kubfu cannot be bred however so players only get to choose once. Any Pokémon besides those were already in the base game, adding up to a Pokédex of 210 Pokémon to see and capture for completion. Bringing those over from Pokémon Home is possible, though at launch they would not register automatically in the Isle of Armor Pokédex. This was an error acknowledged by Nintendo and a workaround at time of writing was to put them in the day-care, aka Pokémon Nursery, and then taking them back out, so they get listed as captured. This may have already been patched out by the time this gets read.

Screenshot for Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Isle of Armor on Nintendo Switch

The rewards for completing this new Pokédex are sadly a bit of a let-down. One of those is the Mark Charm, which allows Marked Pokémon to be encountered more easily. A Marked Pokémon is encountered in the wild, and comes with a ribbon attached, which allows it to display an "expanded" nickname based on its personality whenever it is sent into battle. Something like a Pikachu named "Choochoo the Spacey" for example. Nothing exciting gameplay-wise, but no doubt something that eager Pokémon collectors and traders will want to have for themselves, and this charm is said to make them more likely to appear. Another reward is the Gold Crown Replica which is an accessory that players who complete the DLC get to wear proudly as they roam the land.

On that note, also exclusive to the DLC but obtained early on are the style card, which expands the selection of clothing available in all of the boutiques in the base game, and then the Experience Charm, which flat out increases experience gained from battles in general. The parents of the digging duo from the main game, Digging Pa and Digging Ma, also make an appearance, one digging up Armorite Ore in exchange for Watts, the other doing the opposite. Armorite Ore is spent at the dojo, to pay an exclusive Move Tutor, and is a sort of new currency on the island. The most critical little thing of all in the DLC however is that the player gets to choose between a Gigantamax Bulbasaur or Squirtle, a nice gift for sure, but also gain the ability to feed Max Soup to any non-Gigantamax Pokémon belonging to a species that has the ability to appear as Gigantamax Pokémon from random battles. That's right! No more relying on Max Raid battles to catch rare Gigantamax creatures with the Isle of Armor DLC, since Max Soup can be fed to regular Pokémon to turn them into Gigantamax versions of themselves.

Screenshot for Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Isle of Armor on Nintendo Switch

This basically means that getting one with perfect IVs, maybe even shiny, and making them Gigantamax becomes a lot easier. Max Soup isn't so easy to prepare though, since Max Mushrooms found in caves on the island are required, three per soup serving, and those are rare. The first three are found as part of the story, but finding more is more complicated and it is said that taking part in Max Raid battles releases particles in the air that makes them grow more easily. Expanding the longevity of the DLC as well, is a hunt for 151 Alolan Digletts hiding all over the island, which is sure to take a lot of time, the reward for this being a 6 perfect IVs Alolan Diglett.

All in all then, the Isle of Armor comes with lots of little things that are sure to make it desirable enough for eager Pokémon fans looking to get an edge over the competition, and lots of little things to see and do, which should keep players occupied - perhaps not for the whole summer, but at least long enough to warrant half the price of the expansion pass. It is not possible, however, to buy Isle of Armor without also buying the Crown of Tundra, which is scheduled to release in late 2020. It's also worth noting that Galarian Slowking won't be obtainable without an item that won't be available until that second expansion releases, so as to tease people further. Lastly, at launch, an online event took place exclusively on the island where the event Pokémon Zeraora from Generation VII appeared in Max Raid battles. After 1,000,000 trainers defeated the beast, every participant got a free Shiny Zeraora in their Pokémon Home storage... a way to get people to pay up for a subscription, no doubt, but a super effective move all the same.

Screenshot for Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Isle of Armor on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The Isle of Armor is a nice extra chunk of land to explore in the Galar region that brings with it 100 past Pokémon, and two new ones to add to the list of playables in the 8th generation games. A slew of extra items and features making Pokémon breeding and training a bit better are also included, along with enough bonuses to warrant the existence of this DLC... but not much more than that. Nevertheless there's a sense that story content is kind of short here, and that having to pay extra to gain access to more of the older Pokémon, whereas past games included all of them right from the start, whether through Pokémon Bank or not, is not the best of deals. Still, this is better than having to pay for a full new game like Ultra Sun and Moon, only to have access to a bit of extra stuff. The concept of expansions is, at least, a better solution.

Review copy provided by Nintendo


Game Freak




Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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