- Aug 25, 2020
We first learned about the Pokemon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass back in January. Since then, we've been served a trickling of information about everything from new items to new legendary Pokémon. Finally, at the 11th hour, we've been treated to more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted gameplay from the beginning of The Isle of Armor DLC for Pokémon Sword. There are two specific things I want to point out from my hands-off demo. First, I noticed that the Pokémon in the first trainer battle were around level 60 - the same as the highest level Pokémon in the trainer's party. Nintendo’s Demetrius Boggs told me that the new Pokémon expansion pass areas’ trainers and wild Pokémon scale with your own Pokémon's levels. Specifically, Boggs confirmed the DLC areas would even scale to match a team of Level 100 Pokemon. Not only that, but these areas can be accessed as soon as you reach the Wild Area of Pokémon Sword and Shield, just a few hours into the games. So whether you've just started or have already completed every post-game activity and have a full party of level-100 Pokémon, both parts of the expansion pass, The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, will match your Pokémon's level. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=pokemon-sword-and-shield-isle-of-armor-screenshots&captions=true"] As of now, we're unsure whether the DLC areas will continue to scale with your level, or if the areas become locked to the level your Pokémon were when you first visit, but we will update this as soon as we hear back from the Pokémon Company. Regardless, this is great news - anyone will be able to enjoy the Pokémon Sword and Shield expansion pass at an appropriate level regardless of how high or low level their Pokémon are. (Though I can't comment on how difficult or easy this content will be.) We already knew the Isle of Armor would at least include an additional wild area, but this demo confirmed that the entirety of the island is basically one big massive wild area, with many more diverse terrains than on the mainland. I saw coastal beaches, swampy marshes, lush forests, gloomy caves, and even deserts during my short tour. At many intervals during the story and upon entering new areas, the camera swept over each spot, creating a beautifying panoramic effect that highlighted the topography of the island. It also seems as though all of these areas can be explored as soon as you get to the island, without needing to progress the story, which leaves the pacing in the player’s hands. Overall, each of these micro areas seemed to be a little more full with environmental touches like logs or trees than the mainland wild area was. I also saw Pokémon interact with their surroundings in ways I hadn’t before. For example, I saw a Pokémon on a tree branch in the forest. Though Nintendo couldn't confirm how we could interact with this Pokémon, I assume it could be lured down from the tree by whistling at it - like you would lure flying Pokémon down from the sky in the base Pokémon Sword and Shield. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2019/11/13/pokemon-sword-and-pokemon-shield-review"] I also saw a huge (and I mean massive!) Wailord in the water from the beach. I'm not sure whether this was a to-scale representation of an overworld Pokémon, or if it was part of the story or had some other purpose. Most likely, it was just a wild Pokémon in the overworld. I know that’s not that surprising, but seeing a giant Pokémon in the water brought me joy in that moment. Overall, I saw a large variety pack on this island, and I'm happy to report that a few of my personal favorites return. I did ask if the large inclusion of old Pokémon previously unavailable in Pokémon Sword and Shield was in response to player feedback, but the Pokémon Company’s Elvin Gee said that The Isle of Armor expansion was already being developed before Pokémon Sword and Shield were released, so it seems as though it was always the plan, though he couldn’t be certain. Of course, there was more to the demo than just a tour of the island and it's myriad Pokémon. I also got to see the first 30 minutes of the story, which included introductions to Klara (in Sword) or Avery (in Shield); Mustard, a legendary Pokémon trainer who once trained Leon and will now train you; and other NPCs that call the Master Dojo on the Isle of Armor their home. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2019/11/14/pokemon-sword-and-shield-review-discussion-nvc-483"] Because this demo was for Pokémon Sword, the Poison–type Pokémon trainer (and our rival for this expansion) Klara greeted us upon arrival. She quickly outed herself as a self-interested mean girl type, but her antics were nevertheless amusing. After defeating her in a battle, she instructs you to not approach the dojo. However this is of course where you must go to progress the story... Once inside the dojo, after a quick battle, you're presented with a choice and the introduction of a move tutor that will accept Armorite Ore as payment. Then, Mustard explains that the dojo's apprentices must complete three trials in order to earn the dojo's sacred armor. One of the challenges involves collecting Max Mushrooms, which are used to create the previously revealed Max Soup which unlocks the ability for a Pokémon to Gigantamax. Though I only saw a single different trial (one I can’t reveal just yet), it reminded me of the minigames you might encounter as part of Pokémon Sun and Moon's Island Challenge, except perhaps less involved. [ignvideo url="https://www.ign.com/videos/2019/11/14/pokemon-sword-and-shield-review-discussion-nvc-483"] It's worth mentioning that I saw a mysterious Pokémon looking over the main character from the top of the dojo. Because of previous promotional materials for the DLC we know that this is Kubfu, a Fighting-type Legendary Pokémon that evolves into Urshifu. We know this Pokémon is an integral part of the story of The Isle of Armor DLC, and its evolution is dependent on which of the Towers of Two Fists you choose to face - the Tower of Darkness or the Tower of Waters. I saw one of these pagoda-like towers on the coast of the island, but that’s as much of the story that I saw and can reveal now. Oh, except the customizable bikes. I didn't see the menus for this, and Nintendo and the Pokémon Company couldn't give me any additional information, but I saw two different bikes with different “trails" similar to the trails you unlock for your cars in Rocket League! I loved exploring the Wild Area and catching a wide variety of new Pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield - in fact, it was one of my favorite new features. Considering that, the Isle of Armor DLC seems right up my alley. Though I do hope the story is robust on its own and doesn't rely on Pokémon catching as a way to artificially pad its playtime too much. Then again, who doesn't like catching Pokémon in new places? For more about Pokémon Sword and Shield: Isle of Armor, check out even more details ahead of its June 17 release. [poilib element="accentDivider"] Casey DeFreitas is an editor at IGN. Talk Pokémon with her on Twitter at @ShinyCaseyD.