Last month the first half of the Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, titled The Isle of Armor, released. The Sword and Shield Expansion Pass has the distinction of being the very first paid DLC in the history of the franchise. The Isle of Armor brings with it new characters, a new adventure in a brand-new area, and over 100 Pokémon previously unavailable in Sword and Shield. Including new Galarian forms, returning Alolan forms, and a brand new legendary Pokémon. So, how does this DLC measure up? Does it provide a tantalizing experience and set a standard for the future of DLC in the franchise, or does it come up short and leave a bad taste for players?
Going into this DLC I had tempered expectations. I had read up on the features and some of the Pokémon and some of the characters, but was able to remain mostly unspoiled on the story details. I played the expansion on Pokémon Shield version so going into the DLC the first thing I noticed was Avery’s character. He establishes himself as a rival, and one that is not very friendly towards the player’s ambitions on the Island. Avery does a great job of being an unfriendly rival, as well as entertaining one, from his uniquely expressive actions, and dialogue, to his attempts at machivalian plots to thwart the player. I have looked online and seen that pretty much the same is true for Klara in the Sword version which is very good. Because the character interactions with the rival are so enjoyable, I wish we had seen a little bit more of them in action throughout the story. They also suffer from the issue of never having more than 4 Pokémon, I would have liked to have had an all-out 6v6 battle against the rivals at some point.
Continuing with characters, Master Mustard is easily the other stand-out character, which is unsurprising as he is the owner of the Dojo. He is an easy-going guy with a passion for Pokémon and video games, the latter he had to hide from the public in his glory days. Mustard mentors his students, and the player by giving them various tasks that help them discover the secrets of the Isle of Armor and grow stronger. While much more of a straight-forward character than Avery, Mustard is still a good character, and adds a lot to the story. There are a few other NPCs that don’t impact the story. I wasn’t expecting a robust cast of NPC characters, and while just two story-important NPCs might not be enough for some people, they are well-crafted characters.
The tasks are the standard sort of missions in Pokémon, finding hidden or lost objects in caves and forests, battling wild Pokémon. The concept of the wild area of the Isle of Armor is much more fully realized than in the Sword and Shield base games. The environments are less barren and more alive with details. The three cave environments, and the forest area make up the collective dungeon of the island. I think that this DLC could have used more trainer battles as outside of the portions of the story within the Dojo quest line there are no trainer battles to be found. There are plenty of dens on the island allowing for many opportunities to have max raid battles and capture some of the newly added Pokémon.
Overall, this DLC provided a nice solid experience, there is enough content and new features to keep the player busy for a while. The story is engaging, though the lack of new characters, and scarcity of trainer battles make the quest-line somewhat short. When this content is combined with the additional content coming in The Crown Tundra DLC this fall the expansion pass will have collectively provided the amount of additional content that is usually seen in enhanced versions like Pokémon Platinum, or Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. If Game Freak keeps building on the standard that has been set by this expansion pass, then the future of Pokémon Paid DLC has a lot of potential.