Isle of Armour time!

Okay; the first expansion for Pokémon: Sword and Shield is out today, so let’s do this thing! Same as with my initial playthrough of Shield, in the interests of being timely I’m not going to spend time writing a super detailed or analytical write-up; I’m just going to bullet-point things as they occur to me, and if there’s something I want to write an article on, we’ll figure it out later (at the very least, we know there’s at least one extra regional form, which will have to be tacked on the end of the series I’m currently writing [also the next one of those is almost done; I know it’s taking ages and it was probably a mistake to try and do four Pokémon at once, but it won’t be much longer]). Anyway, here we go!

  • Before anything else, I don’t think I’ve said this anywhere, so a word on the titles of the expansions: Isle of Armour and Crown Tundra – Sword, Shield, Armour, Crown, all the regalia of a Mediaeval warrior-king. I dunno, I just think that’s kinda neat.
  • First up: a Corviknight taxi flies us to the Isle of Armour, which is off to the east of Galar proper (since Galar seems to be Great Britain upside-down, this is more or less where we would expect to find Ireland [EDIT: Pokémon social media has actually confirmed that it’s the Isle of Man, which explains why it’s so much smaller than mainland Galar]).
  • The first person we meet is the new rival character, Avery (or Klara if you’re playing Sword), whom we already know a bit about from when the expansion was announced: he’s a Psychic Pokémon specialist training at a dojo on the Isle of Armour with the aim of becoming one of Galar’s gym leaders.
    • I love Avery’s animations – his Pokéballs float around his top hat, and when he’s defeated in a battle his psychic powers cut out for a second and they all drop to the ground.
      • On the other hand, he has this stage magician aesthetic that Galar League soccer shorts do not work with at all.
      • Also he’s kind of a dick.
    • Avery doesn’t want a strong rival at the dojo, so he encourages us to just see the sights on the island and then leave (and tries to tell everyone at the dojo that the new student they’re expecting isn’t coming). Not a fµ¢£in’ chance, mate.
  • Avery’s also given me a Style Card that will unlock a bunch of new clothes from boutiques all around Galar, so at the end of the day I can head back to the mainland for a bit and accessorise, baby!
  • There are… apparently 150 lost Alolan Diglett scattered around the island? And a… side quest to find them?
    • Sure, I guess?
  • Upon arriving at the Master Dojo, we meet the elderly master Mustard, his… much, much younger wife Honey and their tech-wiz son Hyde. Mustard doesn’t seem like a very serious person, likes corny jokes and is kind of a pushover in our introductory battle… but he has also apparently trained three Galarian Slowpoke to run as fast as a bicycle and steal people’s stuff, so he’s gotta have some kind of secret master trainer mojo.
    • Hyde has a… device… known as the Cram-o-matic, which appears to be made of a pressure cooker, a vacuum cleaner, a tank of gasoline, and a small bucket decorated to look like the head of a Cramorant. I am frankly unconvinced that it is safe for use by a child, or indeed by anyone at all. By stuffing random items into it, you can make it spit slightly more useful items out: rare Pokéballs, TRs, Wishing Pieces, Ability Capsules; there doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to it, but Hyde is an entrepreneurial little bastard and is willing to sell you recipes.
  • There are three “trials” that Mustard’s students have to complete as part of their training, and the first to complete all three will receive some kind of magic secret armour. Trial number 1: his Slowpoke have run off with Avery’s dojo uniform and we have to catch the bastard things.
    • Mustard says “well mustered!” when you finish that first quest and no one acknowledges the fact that he has just made an awful pun on his own name.
    • Retrieving Avery’s uniform (which he then does not bother to change into) rewards us with a Bulbasaur or Squirtle that can Gigantamax (we already got Charmander from Leon at the end of the main game’s story).
  • The outdoor areas of the Isle of Armour are an open-world-ish setup like the Wild Area, but they have a lot more variety and visual interest to them, and I think they fulfil the promise of the Wild Area as a concept a lot better than the original Sword and Shield did.
  • The Master Dojo has a move tutor who can teach you eighteen completely new moves – one for every type – in exchange for a special substance called Armorite Ore found only on the Isle of Armour. These range from “meh” to situational to interesting to very interesting.
    • Terrain Pulse: Normal, special, 50 base power; changes type and increases power depending on terrain (I think they mean field effects like Electric Terrain, not just ambient like Nature Power). Seems gimmicky at first glance.
    • Burning Jealousy: Fire, special, 70 base power; inflicts a burn if the target has increased its stats this turn. Meh; stick with Flamethrower.
    • Flip Turn: Water, physical, 60 base power; the user switches out after attacking. Water-type U-Turn! Sure, it does less damage, but that’s still an extremely strong effect.
    • Rising Voltage: Electric, special, 70 base power; power doubles on Electric Terrain. Electric Terrain already buffs Electric damage by 50%, so this can hit with a colossal effective base power of 210. The question is whether that’s enough upside to make Electric Terrain teams worth putting together.
    • Grassy Glide: Grass, physical, 70 base power; always goes first on Grassy Terrain. A lot of Grass Pokémon are pretty slow, and 70 power is a lot for a priority move. Grassy Terrain also boosts Grass-type damage. Could be interesting.
    • Triple Axel: Ice, physical, 20 base power and 90% accuracy; hits three times and does more damage with each hit. This sounds a lot like Triple Kick, which is a useless move, but Triple Axel is twice as powerful, and Ice doesn’t have many good physical attacks. If the second and third attacks hit at 30 and 40 power, that’s not brilliant, but it’s a decent attack that breaks effects like Substitute, Disguise and Multiscale. Galarian Mr. Mime is kicking itself for not getting Technician like its cousin.
    • Coaching: Fighting, support; boosts the attack and defence of a friendly Pokémon. Bulk Up for an ally; could be useful but not all that exciting.
    • Corrosive Gas: Poison, support; “melts away” all other Pokémon’s hold items. Meh; just use Knock Off.
    • Scorching Sands: Ground, special, 70 base power; may cause a burn. Not sure what the burn chance on this is. If it’s 30% like Scald, that could be useful, but the low-ish power is disappointing.
    • Dual Wingbeat: Flying, physical, 40 base power and 90% accuracy; hits twice. There aren’t a lot of good Flying attacks. Drill Peck is usually better than this, but not everyone gets Drill Peck. There are probably a few Pokémon who want this, although unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be available to anyone with Technician (except maybe Scyther and Scizor, who have just been added to Sword and Shield).
    • Expanding Force: Psychic, special, 80 base power; power increases (not clear how much) and hits all enemies on Psychic Terrain. Again, Psychic Terrain also boosts Psychic-type damage, so this is situationally very strong, especially in doubles where it can be a party-friendly AoE. 80 base power without its favoured terrain is also a lot more palatable than the 70 of Rising Voltage.
    • Skitter Smack: Bug, physical, 70 base power and 90% accuracy; lowers the target’s special attack. Lol, nope.
    • Meteor Beam: Rock, special, 120 base power and 90% accuracy; charges for one turn and boosts special attack, then hits on the second turn. This is… on the one hand, clearly bad, but on the other hand, a lot better than Solarbeam (without sun support, anyway). The free special attack boost makes me think maybe this is workable with a Power Herb. Also notable that Rock has basically no good special attacks.
    • Poltergeist: Ghost, physical, 110 base power and 90% accuracy; fails if the target isn’t holding an item. Usually bad in single-player until you get to the Battle Tower, but this could be a godsend in competitive battles, where almost all Pokémon will have items. A widely-available Ghost-type physical attack with that kind of power seems like a big deal to me.
    • Scale Shot: Dragon, physical, 25 base power and 90% accuracy; hits 2-5 times and boosts speed but lowers defence. Similar to Rock Blast and Icicle Spear, which are bad without Skill Link, and no Dragon-types get Skill Link. There might be a couple of Pokémon who want the speed boost, though…
    • Lash Out: Dark, physical, 75 base power; double power if the user’s stats were lowered this turn. Big upside, but way too situational.
    • Steel Roller: Steel, physical, 130 base power; destroys terrain, but fails if there is no terrain to destroy. This is here as a potential counter to terrain-focused teams in case one of the new terrain synergy moves turns out to be overpowered. In a vacuum, it seems too situational to be usable.
    • Misty Explosion: Fairy, special, 100 base power; damages all Pokémon and has increased power on Misty Terrain, but knocks out the user. Explosion hasn’t been a popular move in a long time, and it does much more damage than this. If you aren’t on Misty Terrain, this is barely stronger than Moonblast, and unlike the other terrain effects, Misty Terrain doesn’t give a bonus to all Fairy attacks. I can’t see Misty Explosion being good.
  • The expansion adds Dunsparce to the game. I can now die happy.
  • Trial number 2 is to collect some Max Mushrooms, the secret ingredient of Max Soup – a magical soup prepared in the Master Dojo that can grant Pokémon the ability to Gigantamax (or, if they could already Gigantamax, allow them to Dynamax normally instead).
    • After finishing this quest, you can make more Max Soup any time by collecting additional shrooms. They apparently grow as a result of Galar particles being scattered by Dynamax battles, so you can make more appear by fighting raid battles against wild Dynamax Pokémon on the Isle of Armour.
  • Mustard sends all the students to the wrong part of the island to look for the mushrooms, possibly because he is a moron, possibly because he’s trying to teach some kind of obscure lesson about self-reliance. As a result, by the end of the second trial, only the player and Avery are still in the game.
    • Avery tries to poach your mushrooms once you find them, but still manages to find some of his own after failing.
  • Trial number 3 is pretty straightforward: a Dynamax battle between the two remaining students. The Isle of Armour has some level scaling so you can play it at any time after first reaching the Wild Area, but the scaling doesn’t seem to go much past the end of the main story, so Avery is a bit of a pushover, even after he sneaks onto the battlefield early to set up Psychic Terrain ahead of time.
  • Mustard reveals he’s known all along about everything Avery’s done to try to sabotage the player, but is willing to let him off with a slap on the wrist and some character-building extra chores. Avery is sufficiently contrite. Well, I guess it’s… a character arc.
  • The “secret armour” we were promised turns out to be the Pokémon Kubfu, who gets a cute little introduction cutscene. Apparently Mustard refers to it as the “secret armour” of the dojo because it will “see you through any battle, just like a suit of armour,” which is… weak reasoning on his part, honestly; I think the writers just came up with the Sword/Shield/Armour/Crown naming scheme and then tried to twist the events of the expansion to fit.
  • The next step is apparently to train with Kubfu and befriend it. But I have some other writing to work on, so that’ll do for today!

4 thoughts on “Isle of Armour time!

  1. To quick comments Chris: to my understanding Avery is Shield exclusive and Klara is Sword exclusive, not the other way around. Additionally, the Boiled Egg, Moomoo Cheese, and Fruit Bunch have been available from the start, so I think you might have missed some recipes in your initial play-through?

    Lastly, would you so far reckon the expansion is worth it? (I know, I know, it’s very subjective)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s about what I’d expect from a Pokémon “expansion” game like Emerald or Platinum. Nothing special, but it’s frankly about time we’re being charged accordingly for a package like that, rather than buying a second copy of essentially the same game.

      Thanks for the corrections; will edit notes accordingly.

      Like

      1. Thanks for the feedback, I ended up not bothering with a pre-ordering, but now I’ll probably get it once I escape my island in Animal Crossing New Horizons. 15 euros/dollars/whatevers (or thereabouts) for third version content seems reasonable

        Like

  2. Among the Pokemon returning in this expansion is some serious DPP nostalgia: SkarmBliss is back! (Yes, both Pokemon were introduced in GSC, but DPP was their peak: Skarmory finally had its own recovery move and Eviolite was still another generation out… plus it was the only generation where I actually made a semi-competitive team, so it’s nostalgic for me at least)

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