Now you may be wondering why I’m talking about DLC? Well it’s big enough to justify talking about, there were some misconceptions going around when it was announced I’d like to address and also I’d like a week when not talking about a Mario game (just the way my reserves have lined up, he is in a lot of games).
What normally happened with Pokémon is that after the initial 2 games, in this case Sword and Shield versions, a third version would be announced that while basically the same game would have additional features and a different lineup of Pokémon and even some new forms of previously available Pokémon. There were some exceptions to this, Gen 6 instead had the Gen 3 remakes and Gen 5 had proper sequels. Instead of that, for Gen 8 we got expansion packs for the main game split into two sections, the now released Isle of Armour of which we are talking about today and Crown Tundra coming soon.
Since this is a replacement to the 3rd version I shall be comparing it to that, and in that regard this is a massive improvement. While the third version did contain new features it often had you run through the essentially same game you had already completed to get to them (and in the case of US/UM mess up the plot and made it worse). The expansion pass is considerably cheaper than buying a whole additional game and half of it contains more content than the new additions usually did (with exception to BW2 and the Gen 3 remakes but those are not technically 3rd versions.)
Accessible anytime after completing the first gym, The Isle of Armour is a large open area that works just like the wild area in the main game but is a considerable evolution of it and shows the game building on what works. Rather than being mostly flat the isle has multiple elevations, hills and other major rises as well as caves, a forest and rivers with a properly exportable sea (complete with massive wailord and constant attacks by sharpeedos).
There is a story to it but it’s not very long and mainly there to introduce you to some mechanics of the island, but they do some new stuff with battles later that though simple add an additional layer of difficulty for people wanting a challenge.
The isle also has 100 Pokémon that were unavailable on the main game, while these are only catchable in the wild if you have the expansion pass, you can still trade them over to people who don’t and they can join max raids of people on the isle so are able to catch them that way. A common mistake people made when critiquing the dlc was that you were paying to get Pokémon back when that wasn’t what happens (I was very disappointed to see some internet reviewers pass on that inaccurate statement)
Sadly the internet features of the game don’t seem to have been improved as I still find my updates of what max raids are available not regularly updating and notifying me of groups long after they are filled. I did however notice considerable improvement on frame rates when online in the isle than before the expansion was released so presumably some things are being worked on (just sadly not the part that still to this day really annoys me)
I was happy to see quite a few quality of life improvements in the game such as a means to turn Pokémon into their gigantimax variants (as I much prefer having something I raised than just captured) as well as finding rare items such as the nature changing mints as repeatable finds on the ground so I don’t need to farm the battle tower.
Overall I find The Isle of Armour as a step in the right direction, building on the best features of Sword and Shield and evolving them to the next level. I love exploring round this far more alive area with Pokémon flying about or wandering ready to fight me and see it as a positive example of where the franchise can go in the future. Just really wish they would fix the online updates.