I’ve already talked before about how excited I was for the expansion pass. New areas to explore, building off what the Wild Area gave us, with new story chapters that bring some lore to those locations, and new features we had yet to see when it was first announced. I wanted this to further the idea of exploring concepts to bring the world of Pokémon into the modern age.
There’s success with that in some areas, I feel, but in other areas I’m not exactly impressed. Later trailers would show off a few new things, but would mostly show things we’d seen before. It was a telling sign that – at least for story content – things wouldn’t be as great as was first hoped.
I think many were led to believe there would be a true representation of level scaling on offer, with many sites reporting on such from a source that seemed to know what they were talking about. As such, I brought my team of mid-twenty Umbreon and Espeon to the island, and scraped through the first fight only because my opponent was a Psychic type trainer.
After that, I swapped back to the Lv:100 duo, and set to exploring without progressing any of the story. I found caves that felt like caves, and stretches of land that offered more variety than the Wild Area provided. A forest that felt like how I’d expect a forest to feel. An ocean full of smaller landmasses hiding secrets and Sharpedo that will never stop chasing you.
It all felt great, then, even if it suffered slightly from putting these various biomes together with little in the way of natural merging. In fact, the only thing missing from all this was a town – which I admit is a bit much to expect a small island to have. Such a feature would have shown how much experimentation in bringing the world to the modern age Game Freak were taking, but I’ll let them surprise me with that in the next game.
The few buildings that are around still have interiors designed with a fixed camera perspective, and are perhaps the weakest part of this world. The station is the same as we’ve seen in other small towns of the mainland. The two towers stick to the usual design of same features across multiple floors. These I can kind of see the reason for a fixed-perspective camera, since there’s nothing really to them, but the main building of the area? That’s different.
The dojo only has three open-plan rooms with nothing to hint at any other spaces around. Which, considering there’s around twenty people inside, makes it seem a bit weird. Do they all sleep on the dojo floor? It would have been nice to see a few other rooms to make it feel like a place where everyone comfortably stays, with other people within those rooms – instead of most being scattered across the small dojo floor.
The story… There’s really not a lot to it, even if there’s a few good character interactions within it. I can see what they were trying to do with the rival, but it comes across as really sudden – in both the start and end of that rivalry. And that’s because of how short the story is.
After you meet said rival at the station, where they were told to meet a newcomer to the dojo (who isn’t you, for whatever reason, but you’re forced to go along with it either way), and beat them in a battle, they fail to understand how you beat them and tell you to go away and to not show yourself at the dojo. Once you do, they’ll cover for themselves, and then you’ll be shown inside to meet everyone else. Then, the three tasks.
Yes. Three. That’s how fast the story with the rival is sorted. The natural progression feels forced, condensed because it has to be, and then finalised upon them seeing the error of their ways after just two other battles. While there’s no need for a deep story, those three tasks are short, coming one after the other, with nothing in between to see the rival in any position other than in competition with yourself.
Upon the conclusion of that part of the story, you get Kubfu and raise it ready for the final trial – evolving it. But even here things are rushed. There’s no real journey, no sense of bonding. You go to four locations and its happiness is at maximum. With that done, the hardest and final part of the story comes. That is, if Kubfu didn’t learn Aerial Ace pretty early on, making all five of those battles a cakewalk.
While the story isn’t much, then, I do like the island. It’s a fun place to explore, being diverse and quite nice to look at. Also nice is the fact we can have a following Pokémon again. While only on the Isle of Armor (and I hope the Crown Tundra when that comes), it is yet another thing I hope is a part of Game Freak experimenting with bringing the main series into the modern age.
I do hope the Crown Tundra offers a bit more on that experimentation, along with a better story – even if it is as short as this one is. There doesn’t need to be a second rival story, but I get the feeling the Crown Tundra’s story will be more exploration based. There’s definitely the feeling of expedition about what we’ve seen so far.
That’s my thoughts on this expansion, but do you agree with everything I’ve said? Are you as certain as I am that Game Freak will keep the free camera and more open areas for the next generation of games? Give your thoughts below.