When I reviewed Pokémon Shield last year, I didn’t shy away from the fact that while I found the game’s transition to 3D interesting and fun, there were still some failings that held it back. The Wild Area was a fantastic new vision on what Pokémon could be, but it simply wasn’t interesting enough for what is was. Especially with the framerate issues that tended to pop up there. DLC expansions are often the first instance where a developer can begin making changes to a game’s inherent formula. You have a solid base to start from, so you can try some new and different things, and see how they land. It certainly feels like a somewhat experimental take on the Pokémon formula, shifting away from some of the tropes of the past, but there simply isn’t enough to it to make it truly great. Read on through our Isle of Armor review to find out why.
Pokémon Shield: Isle of Armor takes place on none other than the titular Isle of Armour, a mysterious area off the coast of Galar home to the Master Dojo. Arriving on the Isle with nary a care in the world, you’re quickly and accidentally roped into becoming a pupil of the Master Dojo. You’ve got no idea what’s going on, the Dojo doesn’t really realise that there’s a problem, and it works quite well. Everyone is a little dumbfounded about how quickly you complete everything, not realising you’re the Champion of Galar (assuming you completed the game prior to starting the DLC), and you’re just straight up confused about literally everything that’s happening. The story leans on light-hearted humour and is a short fun romp to put some time into. You’re not going to find industry leading writing here, but it’s not really needed.
While the story of the Master Dojo and Isle of Armour is fun, you’re not going to be spending too much time completing it. Overall, it took me roughly 3.5 hours to complete Isle of Armor’s story from start to finish. Part of that speed comes from having a handy stock of exp. candy from previously completed post-game raids, with the story probably needing an extra 1-2 hours of pure grinding to hit the level requirements for the later parts. If you were hoping for an elaborate campaign that would take you hours to complete, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Once you’ve completed Isle of Armor’s story, the game largely devolves into doing the same things you did in the main game: Battling in raids and catching Pokémon. There are a few new side things you can do, but none of them add much to the overall package. You can collect mushrooms to make Max Soup, allowing you to unlock the potential to Gigantimax in select Pokémon, find Ore to spend to teach your Pokémon new attacks, and spend Watts in the Dojo to upgrade its facilities, to name a few. They’re all nice little additions, but they’re all shallow activities that feel like busywork and don’t feel engaging at all. The biggest addition comes in the form of Restricted Sparring, which allows you to battle in 3v3 type-limited battles. You might get some mileage here if you’re interested in more difficult post-game activities.
The biggest change with Isle of Armor comes in the Isle’s landmass. Specifically, that the Isle is one big Wild Area that can always be freely explored. Unlike the original Wild Area, which was just a single giant, open area, the Isle of Armour has a significantly more interesting composition. There’s wide oceans, open plains, forests with winding paths, underground caverns and mountainous areas that all feel unique to each other. It’s a massive improvement to the original Wild Area from an environmental design perspective. There’s also more variety to the Pokémon, seemingly from both the addition of old Pokémon that came with this DLC and design decisions by Gamefreak. It felt more alive and interesting than in the past, especially as a Sharpedo ferociously charged me down in the ocean. Something else that helped was the reintroduction of allowing a Pokémon in your party to follow you in the overworld (after getting part way through the story), which is something I always want in my Pokémon games. Unfortunately, that can only be done on the Isle, but hopefully it’s a sign of things to come with future games.
In the end, Isle of Armor builds on the foundation of Pokemon Shield’s Wild Area, but there simply isn’t enough to it. The story is interesting and fun, but done within a few hours, and after that you’re back to large repeating the exact same activities as the main game, just with a little more variety. I’m not sure Isle of Armor is worth the current $45 price of entry (as you cannot buy it separately from the overall expansion pass), but if you enjoyed Pokemon Sword and Shield, you’ll get some fun out of it.
This Isle of Armor review was performed using a regular Nintendo Switch, using an expansion pass purchased by the author. More details can be found at the official site.
- Isle of Armor feels more diverse and alive than the Wild Area - Story is fun and lighthearted - Pokemon can follow you again!
- Story is too short - Once the story is complete, you're largely back to the same activities as the main game - Side activities aren't engaging or particularly interesting - Beyond the final battle, it's still too easy