Pokemon: The Isle of Armor Expansion Review

Pokémon has released its first DLC for a main title game on the Nintendo Switch being The Isle of Armor expansion for Pokémon Sword and Shield. With the announcement coming several months ago, I wrote a post about how it can be good and bad to have DLC’s for these games. I wasn’t entirely on board, but also suggested some advantages they could have and different ideas for where they could go with it, but overall I was skeptical going in. It wasn’t until a few weeks before its release that I was reminded that it was coming out so soon and began to get excited again. The last few months leading up to this expansion, I actually hadn’t been playing that much having mostly found myself being a bit bored.

The few days before the release renewed my excitement and I began playing again. It was the anticipation of having an expanded world in the game that got me so excited into playing again. I really didn’t read that much into the expansion before release and really only knew about the addition of Kubfu the new legendary Pokémon that was to be gifted to you with two different Gigantamax forms. I was super excited to get my hands on this new Pokémon not only because it was a new legendary but I love the design of both.

The expansion came and I began playing. The first thing I noticed was how simple it was to get to the Isle of Armor. You update the game after buying the expansion of course and then as soon as the game boots up it informs you of the update and lets you know to go to the rail station to travel to the new Isle. After arriving, travel becomes easier as you are able to simply fly to and from the rest of the Galar region and the Isle of Armor. They could have easily gone the more complicated and senseless route of making all of this more complicated but thankfully they didn’t and I appreciate that a lot. It’s just easily accessible as long as you have the expansion.

The word “expansion” is interesting because it can mean just about anything. It’s not specific to like adding new Pokémon or actually adding story or even specifically a post-game story like we typically have for many of the main series games. It seemed that going the route of DLC’s rather than releasing a sequel like Black 2/White 2 or Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon meant that maybe we would just expansions that did give us more story and more game to actually play. That was my biggest worry because I wanted something that was going to make me stay invested into the game that I had grown somewhat bored of.

Thankfully there is a story in the Isle of Armor, albeit not one that take entirely long to play through but at least it wasn’t just a new place to find newly added Pokémon. It actually made you work for that new Pokémon Kubfu which on one hand I just wanted them to give it to me because I was so excited to train it while on the other hand I felt like it was smart to actually make you work for it, so I count that as a win. The story doesn’t take entirely long as you have to complete different trials by Master Mustard (weird name) and then eventually you get a Kubfu. After that you have to train it and gain a friendship with it until Mustard says you’re good to go and then you get to pick one of the towers to train in.

I feel like this decision was one of the better decisions that they made because rather than forcing you to only be able to evolve it into a game specific form, you actually get to choose which one you want with it be the Fighting/Dark or Fighting/Water typing. I feel like this is a unique decision that could be more interesting to play around with in future games. I understand the advantage profit wise of wanting to have two different games for each of the box cover legendries but it would also be cool to see them allow you to choose which one you want while also giving up the other. It just poses some interesting questions as to where you could actually take that concept in the future and it could have some implications of what to expect in the next expansion The Crown Tundra. We know that there are two new “Regi” forms that could also serve as a means to allow you to choose one and give up the other or it may be that you actually get both, so we’ll see which is the case in a few weeks.

Before you can actually go into the tower though, there is a suggestion that your Kubfu be at least Lv. 70 before entering. I’m not sure if it prevents you from going in if you’re under that level because I trained mine to about 73 before I tried to enter, but even still it sets it up as being  difficult challenge especially since you don’t get to take any other Pokémon with you. Now training of course carries over from the rest of the game where you can train normal or just use the candies that you get from raid battles to just level it up quick. The candies are the quick and not as fun way of leveling up so I suggest the grinding way just to go back to the old days when you had to do that. It does however bring up the issue I have of the NPC’s on the Isle.

Despite everything this expansion does have, the one thing it doesn’t have is actual trainers to battle outside of Mustard and Klara/Avery. I feel like this is a missed opportunity to give us a chance to go back to the old ways of grinding to level up by going through various trainers. I also wish that in the expansion there was some sort of inclusion of re-battling trainers. It could have been the perfect place for us to have a spot to continuously battle trainers to train rather than the easy way out of just using the Exp candies. With the theme being a dojo it just seemed like it was a missed opportunity to do this.

That does bring me to the theme of this expansion being the dojo and the inclusion of the new outfit which I personally really like and continue to use now. I wish there was more customization to the outfit, but either way I really like it. The theme doesn’t reach much further after you get through the story part as it resorts back to just being a new “Wild Area”. This is what I mean by missed opportunity though. If their intention is to put a lot of focus on these game and expanding upon them then they should have put more effort into really making this unique to the dojo/ martial arts theme. As in, they should have made it the ultimate training spot, not just full of new Pokémon and Raids, but also plenty of NPC trainers for you to continuously battle to level up your Pokémon.

It even would have been awesome to see some cameos from some past trainers known for martial arts that are visiting to train their Pokémon like Chuck, Bruno, and many others. Rather than having that inclusion, we have a new form of battling being the type restricted battling at the dojo. While it is cool and does pose a challenge, it does bring me back to the worst part about the Battle Tower or other things that follow that model being that you don’t actually get experience for your Pokémon which ultimately sucks. To me, it’s about training your Pokémon and I feel like outside of the raid battles and the raid candies, they don’t give us enough to actually do that which sucks. I want strong trainers in-game that are difficult to battle and that will give us experience for our Pokémon.

Once you defeat Mustard and evolve your Kubfu into Urshifu then you get another side mission of finding a specific item that will be used to allow your Urshifu to Gigantamax. It’s a cool little side final mission that brings you back to Hop, but ultimately doesn’t allow you to actually battle Hop at any point which is a real shame. Another missed opportunity for a great rival throughout the game. You don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with your Urshifu after that point unless you really like it because it’s already almost at level 100. For me, I still use it a lot because I like the Pokémon, but I see others throwing it in the boxes and forgetting about it at this point.

After finishing the final side mission, you have a few other things you can do like upgrading the dojo, finding all of the Alolan Diglett, or exploring the new isle and the added Pokémon. It does bring in question again the issue everyone had with not including the National Dex because while they do bring in various new Pokémon that we all love, it still leaves much to be desired as far as all of the missing Pokémon. Some of which are being included in the next Expansion, but the others are still out there waiting for inclusion in the new games. I will say though that I like the Isle of Armor more than the Wild Area due to the uniqueness of the design and how fun it is to just explore the island. I also enjoy how open world it seems like being able to go out to the ocean and explore smaller islands. The biggest surprise for me was when I first showed up and there was just a giant Wailord in the ocean which was a pretty sweet visual that I think they intended on doing to make some sort of statement.

Ultimately, after playing through the expansion and logging several hours, I have come to the conclusion that yes the Isle of Armor is worth it to buy for the expansion itself, the new Pokémon and the effect of making you go back to the game, however there is still much to be desired. A lot can be made up in the next expansion, The Crown Tundra, but as of right now I think that Game Freak needs to focus more on giving players a reason to stick with it rather than just capturing players for a few days or weeks. The expansion offers a lot for someone to come back to, but doesn’t give you much reason to continue after you complete the “story”. We do get some new Gigantamax forms for Venusaur, Blastoise, and the other Galarian starters, but even that isn’t enough to save this from being something that I will soon forget about and become bored of until the next expansion.

Pokémon needs to focus on expanding the games to a point where there is so much to do in these games that it gives players plenty of reason to not grow bored after defeating the main story. The DLC’s are indeed an opportunity for them to keep players engaged and sticking around, but more can be done to make it successful. At this point I feel like people are very much engaged, but with the relatively short amount of time between the expansions I think they will be fine in keeping people invested, but it will be after the next expansion where I start to get worried about the interest staying high. I am excited for The Crown Tundra, but for now if you have played through The Isle of Armor than let me know what you think and if not then definitely give it a shot to see if you like it.

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Titanfall 2 is More like Titanfall BLEW!

I need to step back already, and say that the game does not blow. The overall gameplay is satisfying on a moment to moment level. The mechanical enjoyment (of the shooting) was good enough, but everything else did not meet expectations.

The original Titanfall we can ignore, other than say that it has no story mode and was xbox exclusive. The sequel came out to good reviews, but not great sales due to competition. I only ever heard good details about it so the PlayStation + chance to play it seemed perfect, and by the title and preamble you know where this is going.

It was a letdown.

Multiplayer driven first person shooter campaigns are limiting. They have been since going back to the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. You follow people, get into shootouts, and have a mechanical mixup for a level where the controls change a little, but the acts you’re doing stay the same. This story was supposed to be a big change. A good story. It just did not hit its mark. It doesn’t start that way. It has a good setup and potential.

Okay, for context let’s just go through the basic plot. We play as Rifleman Jack Cooper (a very memorable name for sure). We get some basic training in a VR system before being forced onto the battlefield and knocked out when an enemy Titan arrives. We awake just in time to see our mentor getting killed. He survives long enough to entrust his Titan BT to us. With BT in hand we must complete the mission. There are of course larger details to the story (which we will get into), but aside from the sides fighting, the villains and their plot it really is that simple. Fight through these different locations to accomplish the mission and be friends with a robot tank.

The first few levels: a stint in this mountainous region to repair BT, to a couple different factories; a water treatment centers, and then end in a terrain assembly facility is all solid. The cap off with the terrain assembly facility is killer. It feels like a real test of all your skills outside of BT that the game does not have after this moment. It also feels like it has a flow. You go from the mountains to the factories and facilities in an order like their next to each other. The story repeats a lot. You and BT enter an area, get separated, fight to get back to him, beat some Titans and move to the next base down the road. It’s a strong formula.

It’s next move makes sense on paper. You go to a meetup point that was supposed to be the end of the mission, only you find the person you’re supposed to meet dead, and lab destroyed and in ruins. Through some investigation you discover there are time anomalies that send you back in time. You’re able to get a time shifting device to go between the ruins and the old lab whenever you want. It is supposed to be THE level everyone loved and talked about. I was having none of it.

The shooting was still good, the movement was fine. The controller doesn’t feel like the way to play it. The sticks did not always connect when doing a wall run so I had many unnecessary deaths. With all that out of the way, you spend a lot of time killing animals in the present. The animals are the worst enemy type. They’re the same model repeated, they take way more bullets to kill (which makes world building sense, but it’s the first enemy and you empty a clip into it to kill it. Seems like a bad idea, like all enemies are that hard. Their not), and hit for more damage. It’s a pain that I had no patience for them. The soldiers and robots in the past are fun normal enemies, but the end conflict with that is just the same mech and shooting galleries as before, nothing special with the time distortions or anything. It was fine. Not that special, or build the world out in an interesting (oh, I’ve never seen that,) way like the terrain assembly station.

At the end of the level you get a new mission, the villains got a larger time phase device that can destroy planets. The next mission is to send a message to the rest of your group to stop them and save their home world. This takes you into a generator room, and satellite tower to eventually send the message, test your maneuvering via adjustable walls, and join up with a surviving group of your army.

That feels like an end. We got our final tests, but we see that BT still has a couple more combat types left so you know we got a couple missions, so we join the main unit of our army to try and bring down the ship with the time device. It’s cool to fight alongside other soldiers and take a ship, but it is not building onto what we learned… until we try to board the final ship and are attacked by a jetpack Titan, and the final test of the Titan fights. It’s hard, but not hard in a way that’s enjoyable. You take on some side Titans while fighting the jetpack Titan. Once it turns one on one there is really only one solution. None of the other fights with the boss Titans felt that way. Every other one could be done using any load out. The jetpack seemed to want you to use the sniper. It packs the biggest hit, the pilot gives you time to build up and stop to take the shot and is what he uses. You could try to use other weapons but none of them hit hard enough to take him out before he takes you out. The cluttered ship deck also feels difficult to maneuver around in. Has too many flaps you can run into (even as they’re helpful to hide). It felt good to beat him, but also unfair in a way none of the others were.

The battle ends with the ship crashing and getting taken hostage. The villain destroys BT and leaves you for dead. From this point on the tests are over. It just is a coast to the end. BT is not dead, he has a brain and a gun that locks onto all enemies for an immediate kill and no bullets. You rush through with ease to get to a new Titan, that using the brain type face you took from your old Titan takes over as the same BT in a new shell. It’s thrilling to do, but also no challenge to any of it.

Once you have BT it’s a full invasion to the enemy base with a turret. You work your way through the base until the final boss battle against one of the easiest bosses so just had a laser beam in a tiny lab building. It’s really easy, and not very climactic. BT sacrifices himself to destroy the time device, you escape in a simple maneuvering puzzle, and jump into an ending where you become a full pilot and join the team.

Before I continue I’ll just say it’s fine. I’m hard on it and will be hard on it in a minute, but it’s fine. If you like good shooters with no game industry BS this is it. The story isn’t great and has a weird difficulty curve, but it’s fine. Most people will not notice. You will have a good time. It’s fine.

It’s not fine, it copies a lot of Star Wars. Now, yeah Star Wars changed everything so much it is hard not to see comparisons in other films and stories, but boy does it copy Star Wars. Some of it is just a hero’s journey thing that everything does. You have a mentor (who gives you something and dies), go on a journey, return home different. All the steps. But also you are a member of the rebel group the Militia (the least memorable name for a group of that kind). The villains scheme uses a planet killer weapon in the shape of a sphere. There is a run on the planet killer, you invade the ship to try and stop it, and one of the villains you face is a masked man. There is a mastermind we only see in hologram. I joke, this is fine, but also really noticeable.

What is not noticeable, not like Star Wars (the movie’s at least), and not fun. Your main villains are a group of mercenaries. That’s cool if you’ve heard scary tales about them, then in a game had to face them all. Making them all the villains in this game, and them doing the bidding of a bigger bad guy of the army you should be fighting is not great for a first outing (I know it’s the second game, but first story that everyone could play). In this we don’t really fight the opposing army (this could be a commentary on mercenary groups in real life, and how fighting them is pointless against real armies, but that isn’t pronounced enough). BT sacrificing himself in the end also feels wrong because his old body just died a level ago. He has a new body and is supposed to be a new character with the same brain (ghost in the shell and all that). But we mourned him just to do it an hour or so later. This all makes the final battle feels more hollow than if we’d met the captain at the lab in the first third and done what was originally planned.

The reason for that hollowness is built into how the game progression/difficulty curve is laid out. So, say it with me, it starts out fine enough. The training sequence at the beginning works well. It feels wrong you can’t go back later once the plot starts to see if you get better. It works in the moment. The mountains and facilities work out to help you with your mobility skills and enemies (you do fight the beasts first, which feels wrong for the reasons above). When you get into BT you get a good tutorial for him, and fight against enemy pilots. The difficulty increases gradually until it climaxes at the terrain assembly plant.

The terrain assembly plant is the best level because it forces you to use all the mobility moves, then put you through a gauntlet of a shooting gallery in one of the terrains, and end in a battle with a rival pilot while the plant explodes. It’s action packed, forces you to make lots of decisions, cinematic in terms of narrative, really forces you to test what you know. It’s great, then the game keeps going.

None of the combat ground combat challenges really get harder than the terrain facility. The time warp is hard because of the beasts, and some platforming problems control had (I know it’s easy to say that as an excuse but it was true. I probably didn’t hit it in time, but felt like I did). The only Titan challenge comes near the end when we battle the jetpack Titan on the ship. This is due to his increased mobility and dodging as compared to the actual final boss. The actual final boss is just fought in some cramped lab and shoots a laser that is easy to dodge. It makes the ending not as satisfying as when you beat the jetpack Titan.

All of this makes the curve be a steady increase only to drop down below and only pick up once before rushing to the end. It just does not live up to the expectations I had based on how everyone talked about it.

Most FPS players don’t care about the contents of the plot. Based on the outcry the previous game in this series, Star War Battlefront 2015, and Call of Duty Black Ops 4, this game needed one and I would not have played it if it didn’t. This game’s story is also leagues better than most. The good Call of Duty games had a barely understandable narrative. This has one you can follow and critique at all.

Respawn and the other teams that worked on it did do a good job that I would play a 3rd game in the series. I want them to be better. It has potential, just didn’t capitalize on it. It’s cool that Apex Legends came from this universe, that’s fun. I won’t play it, but that’s fun. Jedi: Fallen Order came out. It got good reviews so we will see what I think of it once I play it. It does have a lot to live up to since Star Wars Force Unleashed was way better than it had any right to be.

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