When Pokémon Sword and Shield released last fall, one glaring hole in an otherwise amazing game was the lack of opportunity to “catch ’em all,” by which I mean the nearly 900 Pokémon from the franchise as a whole. The Pokédex was woefully lacking some of the franchise’s best creatures, and GameFreak made it clear well before launch that not all of your favorite pocket monsters would make the cut. Thankfully, that’s been (somewhat) rectified. The first DLC expansion, The Isle of Armor, is now available, and the true bread and butter of this content is not the brief story content; it’s the ability to catch so many classic Pokémon in and around the island.
The Isle of Armor is the first of two post-game DLC chapters, and as the name implies, it takes place on an island in the Galar region. Upon downloading the content and booting up either Sword or Shield, the player is given instructions to head to Wedgehurst Station to catch a ride to the new island. It’s pretty simple. Just know that, if you are a long time Pokémon player, you may never want to leave the Isle of Armor, as it is a breeding ground for so many “new” creatures that you’ll spend days and weeks filling up your Pokédex.
The island is one big wild area, complete with a Dojo and two challenge towers — the Tower of Waters and the Tower of Darkness — giving players an opportunity to take a break from catching and grinding for experience. The Isle of Armor is home to many different biomes, including beaches, grassy plains, caves, a dark forest, and even a desert area. Not unlike the wild areas of the core games, most of the wild Pokémon are just hanging out and about, and you can run into them — or be attacked — to initiate a battle. The entire island is surrounded by water, of course, and there are tons of water-type Pokémon waiting to be challenged. There’s a unique thrill to be had while riding your modified bike over the ocean, when all of a sudden, you see a 6-foot Sharpedo racing toward you at break-neck speed, fin poking out of the surface of the water.
The wild Pokémon in The Isle of Armor all seem to be at level 60 or higher, so snagging them doesn’t put you a disadvantage if you want to add them to your team right away. I’ve had to make some tough decisions, boxing up some of my strongest go-to’s in favor of newbies that I have always loved.
The brief story thread focuses on you meeting a new “rival” — either Klara in Sword or Avery in Shield — at the station. These new rivals want to be the next big star at the Master Dojo, and it doesn’t take long until they decide that you stand in the way of their goals. Klara specializes in poison-type Pokémon and Avery favors psychic-type, but neither will be much of a challenge if you’ve spent any time training and expanding your team from the core game. No lie — my level 71 Inteleon essentially wiped the floor with Klara in every battle without ever having to switch out.
The aforementioned dojo is run by Master Mustard and his wife, Honey. Mustard gives his students three trials to accomplish and once completed, the winner receives the “Dojo’s Armor.” These trials are not very challenging and serve mostly to show off the island’s different areas for when you want to go hunting later on. The story only took a couple of hours or so to complete, and that was with some exploring outside of the trials.
Once the brief piece of story-focused content is completed, the rest of The Isle of Armor centers mostly around battling, catching, raising, and/or evolving all of the legacy Pokémon. There are new Pokémon Dens in the wild, and high level (5-star) Dynamax battles with the “new” creatures hiding inside.
The Isle of Armor DLC has a unique charm that has left me smiling each time I’ve played. There are fun mini-games to take part in, like a massive hunt for 150 Alolan Digletts across the island. The catch is, you can only see their three little hairs protruding from the ground, so finding them takes a careful eye. Admittedly, this is made harder when using the Switch’s handheld mode or when using a Switch Lite. Still, it’s a nice distraction from the other content, and you can snag cool rewards, like other Alolan versions of Pokémon, for catching them.
From hearing the classic calls from some of my all-time favorite Pokémon (Scyther for the win!), unlocking new outfits and bike designs, or creating new curries with fresh new ingredients, this DLC has something for every Pokémon fan. The new content adds so much more to Sword and Shield by essentially giving you what you’ve wanted from the beginning. Who knew?
There are 207 Isle of Armor Pokémon on the island, and some are even specific to the new region. Unsurprisingly, there’s a reward for completely filling up the Pokédex, giving players plenty to do until the next DLC, The Crown Tundra, releases later this fall. With a new story, mini-games, side-quests, and over 200 new-to-this-game Pokémon to catch and train, The Isle of Armor proves a worthy addition to the world of Pokémon Sword and Shield.
This review is based on time spent with Pokémon Sword. A review code for The Isle of Armor was provided by Nintendo.
The Isle of Armor breathes new life into Pokémon Sword and Shield by giving players something they wanted from the start: access to more classic Pokémon from previous generations.