Isle of Modest Size
If there's one thing most modern Pokemon titles seem to lack, it's a strong post-game. Sure, if you're a competitive player, you can go wild. For those like me who just prefer to explore the region and catch as many Pokemon as possible, there's only so much you can do. More so, when the Pokedex is cut in half, it's a lot easier to complete your collection. So, I haven't touched Pokemon Sword and Shield for quite a while, but with the release of Isle of Armor, I was eager to get back and enjoy a large new area with new features, and most importantly, more Pokemon. The Isle of Armor has more Pokemon to catch and several new features, but it's surprisingly disappointing in size.
A Short Ride Around Isle of Armor
Let's just get it out of the way - the Isle of Armor is a small area, and it's definitely a short expansion in terms of length. If you don't want to catch the dozens of legacy Pokemon found on this island, you have about a solid three hours of content. Moreover, the isle itself is small. The entire island is roughly the size of a few routes, but surrounding the landmass is a much larger body of water. It's a bit of a disappointment at how much water there is around this island, but the landmass itself being so small. I suppose it's not surprising that it's an isle and not an island.
However, I find that despite how short the content is and the smaller size of the island, it's by far the nicest area in Pokemon Sword and Shield. As I mentioned, the isle itself is a giant wild area. This means that Pokemon will roam freely and you can see them walking around the area as you explore. There's bodies of grass that have Pokemon lurking inside them, bodies of water to traverse, caves, and more. It's a beautiful area, even if the base game's graphics aren't that great.
Game Freak packed the new area in The Isle of Armor with tons of compact but dense areas to catch the added Pokemon. There are rocky clifftops with a giant pagoda tower, a desert with sands twirling around and obscuring your view, and a maze-like forest. In terms of visual variety, this Isle has a lot to offer. The beauty is complemented with an absolutely fantastic Kung Fu-inspired soundtrack. Game Freak was always great at making the soundtracks for their games, and Isle of Armor might top it as some of the best music in the base game.
Kubfu Brings the Heat on the Isle of Armor
Indeed, the whole shtick behind Isle of Armor is that it's the home base of a dojo where aspiring Pokemon gym leaders and champions train. The entire island has a martial arts vibe to it. That also serves as the basis of the story, which, like the island, is minimal. But, what is there is quality. The writing for this expansion also surpasses that of the base game. Players unexpectedly become an initiate on this island and train under the deliciously named Mustard, an elderly man and also former Pokemon champion.
Throughout this expansion, you will go through several trials and Pokemon battles. As the story progresses, you'll be met with witty and punny dialogue from characters like old master Mustard, as well as a new rival. Whichever version you have will dictate who your rival is. Since I have Pokemon Shield, I have Avery, a psychic user, and a total fool. Every time he speaks, it's actually quite funny. He's kind of a buffoon, and it's fun to watch him freak out when something goes wrong or when he gets destroyed by my team. The superior writing definitely plays a role in making Avery a likable rival, despite how inept he is. There are several times in the story where you can use a dialogue prompt. Instead of the typical happy-go-lucky dialogue options, you can sometimes call out or even be slightly sarcastic to these characters, which I appreciated.
The real highlight of the story, though, is your adventure with Kubfu, the only new Pokemon in Isle of Armor. He is a legendary fighting Pokemon that looks like a cute little bear with a bit of attitude. You'll raise him throughout most of the brief story and eventually make him evolve into his second and final evolution. You have a choice to make him fighting and dark, or fighting and water type. There's a bit of a brief branching path, which is somewhat atypical of the series, but it definitely makes Kubfu special. You also grow a connection to Kubfu in ways that don't usually happen. You're forced to use Kubfu in several instances, and there are multiple cute cutscenes featuring this lovable bear and your character. You create a bond that you usually only share with your starter.
Pokemon Sword and Shield: Isle of Armor Review | Final Thoughts
Besides expanding the Pokedex, there are a lot of nice, smaller changes that come with this expansion. My favorite is Max Soup. By collecting max mushrooms in this expansion, you can cook up a pot of soup that grants eligible Pokemon the ability to Gigantamax. I was able to make my level 100 Centiskorch a Gigantamax Pokemon, meaning I don't have to search for one in Max Raid Battles anymore. Besides that, there are more ways to spend your ever-increasing amount of Watts. For example, you can spend this currency to upgrade the dojo with more features. Furthermore, with a new device in the dojo called the Cram-o-Matic, you can use excess items to create new ones. One use is throwing apricorns (a berry found around the isle) into the machine to create make Pokeballs.
Pokemon Sword and Shield: Isle of Armor is not a game-changer by any means. You're likely not going to be spending a lot of time on the isle after you've caught all the Pokemon it has to offer. The story is also very short. Those complaints aside, you have some nice new changes and an adorable legendary Pokemon. The isle is also beautiful, and it's one giant wild area. I would not be opposed to an entire game comprising one entire wild area, like this Isle. I think Game Freak is learning from the mistakes made in the base game, so if Isle of Armor is any indication, there is a bit of hope for more originality with future games.
TechRaptor reviewed Pokemon Sword and Shield: Isle of Armor with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Fantastic Martial Arts-Inspired Music, Atmosphere, and Writing
- Expanded Pokedex and New Features Like Max Soup
- Kubfu is Adorable
- Very Short
- New Land Area is Quite Small