Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first games in the series to introduce an expansion pass, providing downloadable content which adds new areas to the base game. In June 2020, the first part of this pass was released in the form of The Isle of Armor, a huge island situated to the east of the Galar region, with a varied landscape to explore! You can access the Isle of Armor by purchasing the appropriate expansion pass from the Nintendo eShop, and download the most recent update to Pokémon Sword and Shield. From there, head to Wedgehurst Station and show your pass to the rail staff, who will allow you to travel to the new area.

Pokémon Sword and Shield – The Isle of Armor
Nintendo Switch
Developed by Game Freak
Published by Nintendo and The Pokémon Company
Released: 17th June 2020
Review copy provided by Nintendo UK

Upon your arrival, you will encounter a trainer who is hoping to join the island’s Dojo, but is intimidated by a strange person standing outside the station, who reveals themselves as Klara or Avery, depending on which version of the game you own, who are trainers at the Master Dojo on the island. They will mistakenly identify you as the new dojo challenger, and ask you to battle to prove if you have what it takes. Once you are done with the battle, you will receive a Style Card that will unlock additional clothing and hairstyles to access from boutiques and hair salons across the Galar region. From there, you can progress towards the Master Dojo, and take on three trials given to you by the master of the dojo, the former Galar champion, Mustard.

The three trials include chasing down specially trained Slowpoke that can move at tremendous speed across the land, finding Max Mushrooms and returning them to Mustard at the dojo, and a final battle to determine who is worthy enough to be given the dojo’s armour, a pokémon new to the series called Kubfu. Once you obtain Kubfu, you will need to visit specific locations across the Isle of Armor to strengthen your friendship. Once you have achieved this, you will be able to take on the final step to evolve Kubfu into Urshifu at the Tower of Waters or the Tower of Darkness. You may only take on one of these two towers to evolve Kubfu, and it will evolve depending on your choice. The Tower of Darkness will allow Kubfu to become a Single Strike style Urshifu, a fighting and dark-type Pokémon, while the Tower of Water will unlock Urshifu’s Rapid Strike Style, a Fighting and Water type.

The Island is effectively a huge Wild Area, something Sword and Shield owners have likely explored already within Galar. This time around however, this space feels much more fleshed out, with lots of different areas to explore, such as a beach, a wide-open sea, a swamp, cave systems, a desert, and a tall mountain to climb. Just like the Wild Area in Galar, the area is filled with Pokémon dens, which allow you to join max raid battles with up to three other CPUs or with your friends.

The isle also includes many returning Pokémon from across multiple generations, 107 in total at the time of writing, which means more Pokémon can now be transferred to copies of Sword and Shield using the Pokémon Home app from existing games. It’s also important to note that you don’t need to own the expansion pass to access these new pokémon, and players who own the base game can connect with those who own the pass to trade over these newly accessible creatures.

Isle of Armor introduces new Gigantamax forms of all three Galar starters final forms, Rillaboom, Cinderace, and Inteleon join Venusaur and Blastoise, the two remaining Kanto starters that didn’t get a Gigantamax upon launch. You are able to choose a Bulbasaur or a Squirtle as you progress through the Isle of Armor story, both of which have the ability to Gigantamax once fully evolved.

In addition to the new Pokémon, new moves are available via the move tutor, allowing for even more setups to give you the edge in battles. New items are also available, including Apricorns from the second generation of games, which can be turned into pokéballs using a new feature in the game, the Cram-O-Matic.

The Cram-o-matic is a machine that allows you to combine items from your inventory, to create new items! Place four items from your inventory to get a new item in exchange. If you speak to Hyde, the creator of the machine, he will give you a recipe in exchange for 100 watts. One of the recipes he shared with me was for a Shell Bell, which requires me to add a Pearl, a Power Belt, a Fire Stone and a Super Repel.

While I respect that this is part one of a two-part expansion to Pokémon Sword and Shield, I can’t help but feel disappointed and underwhelmed by what it has offered so far. The story content can be completed within a few hours, for my playthrough it took just under three hours. There are a handful of trainer battles within the story, but that’s about it. There simply wasn’t enough to entice me to want to return to the game. The game offers a quest to collect 151 Digglet in exchange for Alolan Pokémon, which is a nice challenge, but one I found mundane.

However, I can praise the Isle of Armor for its varied locations and how everything is interconnected, it’s what the Wild Area in the base game should have offered players. I also appreciate how I can let a pokémon from my team walk behind me, just like in Yellow and the Heart Gold/Soul Silver games, however this is limited to only the Isle of Armor from what I have seen so far. I also think that I will continue to play to collect all the new Pokémon, and am hopeful that part 2 of the expansion, The Crown Tundra, will offer significantly more to entice me. But sadly, my honest advice is to stay clear of purchasing this expansion until more details of the second half of the expansion are revealed, so you can make an informed purchase.

Final Rating – 2 out of 5

Please note that this rating is purely for The Isle of Armor portion of the expansion pass.
Please stay tuned for our review of The Crown Tundra closer to release!

Darren is a huge Nintendo fan from the days of the Gameboy Color and his copy of Pokémon Blue. Over time, he developed a passion for many Nintendo franchises, including Metroid. His favourite system is the Wii.