After playing Pokémon Sword/Shield's first expansion, Isle of Armor this Summer I came away with pretty mixed feelings. Sure, it was nice to have a new Wild Area to explore and several new creatures to capture, but it lacked depth when it came to its story and I found myself done with it in a matter of hours. For these reasons, I had my expectations lowered when it came to the title's second DLC The Crown Tundra, but I'm pleased to report that after sinking a fair amount of time in and making my way through to the end, the second expansion is a firm step in the right direction.
When arriving in the Crown Tundra, you'll encounter Peony, a former gym leader that looks suspiciously like Chairman Rose, and his angsty teenage daughter, Peonia. After feeling suffocated by her overbearing father, Peonia decides to venture off solo and leaves the two of you to go on your adventure in the frost-covered corner of the Galar Region. This new area is filled with mysteries and rumours of legendary Pokémon and it's up to you to see whether they are fact or fiction. Despite being painfully short at just two hours long, I found the story of this DLC to be much more engaging as it delved deeper into the lore of the new island and wasn't just propped up by a bunch of repetitive fetch quests, like its predecessor.
Embarking on a quest to capture the legendary Pokémon of the land was a fun concept, but I did find tracking down some of these God-like creatures to be a little tedious. To be able to capture Cobalion, Terrakion, and Virizion, for example, I had to exhaustively search three different areas for 50 sets of footprints and there was no variation between each of them. I enjoyed finding the Regi Pokémon a lot more, as this required me to solve a Pokémon-related riddle to be able to gain access to their resting place. None of these were too perplexing, but they did at least require thought and didn't require me to do the same repetitive task.
Ultra Beasts from Sun and Moon and all legendaries not found here in the story can be found within Dynamax Adventures. These function similarly to Max Raid battles but require you to be much more strategic in preparing for the threats ahead of you. Grouping together with up to three other players, you must fight your way through a series of three Dynamax battles before facing off against a legendary Pokémon at the end. If your team's Pokémon faint more than four times or if more than ten rounds pass within a single battle, then you'll be sucked out of the den and be forced to start from the very beginning.
Upon entering the den, you and your team have to select between one of four randomised Pokémon to assemble a balanced mash-up of different types. Team members must also vote on which branching path to take in between battles. Each path reveals what type of Pokémon you'll be facing and its up to you to be careful choosing a typing that your team is best equipped to take down. Even if you personally have the advantage, there's no point in voting to take on a water type next, for example, if the majority of your team are either fire, ground, and rock types. I really liked the Dynamax Adventures as they were highly replayable, due to their randomised nature, and they pushed players to work together in a much closer fashion than the Max Raid battles did previously.
An issue that I had with The Isle of Armor was that it only added two legendary Pokémon and two new Galarian forms. Fortunately, the new DLC is much stronger in this respect. There are five new legendaries you can capture (Calyrex, Glastrier, Spectrier, Regidrago, Regieleki) and four new regional variants (Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Slowking). Along with these new additions, it also brings back more than 100 Pokémon spanning all previous generations. I found this to be a solid list of returning faces, as it included some of my personal favourites including the Hoenn starters and Absol, Metagross, and Aggron.
I do have to admit though, an area where The Isle of Armor does feel superior is within its wild area. Compared to The Crown Tundra, the previous DLC just felt much more varied with its environments as it had sandy beaches, forests, and dusty deserts to explore. The bulk of The Crown Tundra is...well, snow! That isn't to say that it isn't an area worth exploring though. I found its frosty peaks to be some of the most visually pleasing areas within the entire game and its score is an absolute delight. I also liked that it had a greater sense of vertically with cliffs that you'll need to scale before reaching the Crown Shrine.
A treat waiting for players after completing the base game and both major DLCs is the Galarian Star Tournament. This post-game competition takes a 2v2 elimination format and allows you to buddy up with past gym leaders and rivals that you've met across your journey. One attention to detail that I appreciated was that all characters have their own scripted dialogue and will react differently depending on who you're facing against. Personally, I picked Hop, as I remember how much of a pain he was to take down in the Slumbering Weald. The biggest flaw that I found with the Galarian Star Tournament though, was the difficulty. It's touted as being the toughest challenge in the game, but I had no problem steamrolling my way through with the squad with the legendary Pokémon I just acquired.
It may have its shortcomings, but The Crown Tundra demonstrates how much potential Pokémon DLC has if handled in the right way. I love how it brought back all the previous Ultra Beasts and legendary Pokémon in an engaging way through its Dynamax Adventures, and it had a much more engaging story than the Isle of Armor before it. I did, however, find the length of the story to be woefully short, and the Galarian Star Tournament was far too easy considering it was supposed to be the toughest post-game challenge. Either way, at least I have plenty more shinies to go after now.
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