Pokémon Shield: The Crown Tundra Review – Legends Abound

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: RPG
 
Rating: PG
 
Release Date: 23/10/2020
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


 

Positives


- Significantly less linear than other recent Pokémon games
- Dynamax Adventures are a fun and engaging end game activity
- I can finally catch all the legendary Pokémon I want

Negatives


- Main quest line is still pretty short
- Game still lags when using online connectivity
- Catching legendary Pokémon can be somewhat frustrating and tedious
- World still looks rough visually at points


Posted October 26, 2020 by

 
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The last year has been a transformative one for Pokémon. 2019 saw the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield, the first mainline games in the franchise to release on anything other than a dedicated handheld system. Moving to 2020, we saw another series first, with a season pass announced for the games as opposed to the more traditional third version or sequels we have come to expect. Pokémon Shield was a fun, but not fully realised romp when I reviewed it last year, while The Isle of Armor improved on parts but simply felt too short and limited in scope. Now, The Crown Tundra is here, and finally it feels like Pokémon Shield has reached some of its potential.

Taking place in a partially frozen wasteland where legends walk the earth (or skulk in the caves), The Crown Tundra eschews the linear nature of its predecessors in Pokémon Shield and The Isle of Armor. Upon arriving at the tundra and completing a short linear quest line, you’re given three separate sets of legends to pursue. You’re free to pursue them in any order you like and you can swap between them at any point you want. You’re never locked in, which is a freedom that has been sorely lacking in Pokémon games.

Each of these legends tells the tale of one of several legendary Pokémon that you’re tasked with hunting down and capturing. Instead of telling you exactly what to do at every point, these legends are instead largely presented in the form of puzzles and riddles. You actually have to think to solve some of them, instead of simply having the answer handed to you. It’s a refreshing take on what has become a somewhat stale linear formula. None of the puzzles are particularly complex or hard to solve, but they still add a bit of fun to the mix and change up the formula just enough to keep them interesting.

Each of these legends is presented as though they’re an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, complete with cheesy title font treatment. Ex-Gym Leader Peony tasks you with completing each of these legends after his daughter bails on him, checking in with you as you complete each step and adding a bit of comic relief here and there. There’s nothing super engaging in the story and the writing isn’t particularly clever or well done, but its light-hearted and funny enough at points to keep you going. With the initial legends only taking a few hours to complete, don’t expect this to take you a super long time to finish up.

Where the real meat of The Crown Tundra’s bones comes from is Dynimax Adventures. Dynamax Adventures are effectively a series of branching raid battles, where you and a team of three other Trainers fight through a branching cave to reach the randomised legendary Pokémon at the end. You can’t bring your own Pokémon into the fray here, instead being presented with a choice of three randomised rental Pokémon. You’re then free to swap those Pokémon out with others you catch along the way to the battle against the legendary Pokémon. Similar to raid battles, you have a set number of lives, so once four Pokémon have been KO’d it’s game over and you’re teleported back to the beginning. Complete a Dynamax Adventure successfully however, and you can keep one of the Pokémon you caught at that point. This almost always ends up being the legendary Pokémon, although you can find some Gigantimax Pokémon along that way that are mighty tempting to keep.

Dynamax Adventures are the first truly enjoyable endgame activity I’ve played in a Pokémon game in years. They’re fully playable offline with NPCs or online with other players, and they’re completely viable either way; unlike max raids which often feel insurmountable at higher difficulties with NPCs. They’re just difficult enough to add some tension, while picking your path and therefore the Pokémon you can catch along the way adds an element of player choice that I appreciate. A couple of the battles *cough*Mewtwo*cough* felt almost unfair at points, but with the ability to come back later and reattempt a run at a specific Pokémon, it was easy to jump back in. Be careful though, as you can only have three Pokémon saved for reattempts at any one point, and once you successfully capture that legendary Pokémon it will be wiped from your list.

Outside of Dynamax Adventures, The Crown Tundra is similar to Isle of Armor, in that its made up of one giant Wild Area. The scenery is more interesting this time around, however, with a nice mix of snowy and grassy areas, while the space is much better used with hidden secrets contained within it. The framerate issues that plagued the main game don’t seem particularly present here, while it feels like the world is a little denser than the original Wild Area as well. Overall, this feels like the best implementation of the Wild Area yet and bodes well for the future of the franchise.

The Crown Tundra feels much closer to what I had hoped Pokémon Shield would be. The Wild Area is better implemented in the story, there’s more freedom to the narrative and quests and Dynamax Adventures are the best endgame activity in a Pokémon game in ages. My one knock is that the main questline still feels relatively short, although completionists will need tens of hours to get all of the legendaries on offer. If you enjoyed Pokémon Shield and are looking for more Pokémon to fill your time, The Crown Tundra is worth the price of admission.

Pokémon Shield: The Crown Tundra was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch using a copy of the base game provided by the publisher and copy of the season pass purchased by the reviewer. For more information, check the official website.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.