Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass for Nintendo Switch review — Is the DLC worth buying?

Pokemon Sword Shield Expansion Pass Kubfu And Player
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: This DLC allows Sword and Shield players to explore the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra. There are more Pokémon to capture, new rivals to meet, and more challenges to complete. Plus, you can capture Legendary Pokémon from past games.


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    New Pokémon to catch

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    Catch Legendary Pokémon in Crown Tundra

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    Can teach Pokémon to G-Max in Isle of Armor

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    Pokémon follow you in the overworld

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    New areas to explore

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    Diglett scavenger hunt


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    Isle of Armor/Crown Tundra stories are short

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Back in November 2019, the highly anticipated Pokémon Sword and Shield games finally released on Nintendo Switch. They brought with them several new experiences, locations, and Pokémon that we hadn't previously seen in core Pokémon games.

Since then, both halves of the Pokémon Expansion Pass have released bringing even more areas to explore and more Pokémon to capture. However, is this extra content worth the high $30 price tag?

After spending several days playing this DLC, I can definitely say that the Expansion Pass is a worthwhile experience for any Pokémon fan. There are several Pokémon to capture that we didn't see in the original Galar region, new features, and new activities to keep players entertained. It's definitely something you should consider purchasing if you enjoyed the base game, which is one of the best Nintendo Switch games of all time.

Pokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass review What I like

Pokemon Sword Shield Expansion Pass Klara

Pokemon Sword Shield Expansion Pass Klara (Image credit: iMore)

By now the subject of Dexit has been talked to death. Not every Pokémon from the previous games made it into Sword and Shield. However, the Isle of Armor DLC brings several more of these Pokémon into Gen 8. For instance, players get to choose between getting a Bulbasaur or a Squirtle at one point during the main storyline. Additionally, players receive a new Legendary Pokémon named Kubfu who can actually evolve into a Fighting/Dark-type Urshifu or a Fighting/Water-type Urshifu, depending on what you choose.

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CategoryPokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass
TitlePokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass
DeveloperGame Freak
PublisherThe Pokémon Company
Launch Price$30

Several other creatures can be found while exploring the caves, foresty location, snowy mountains, oceans, or deserts in the DLC. As with the original games, some Pokémon can only be encountered in the Sword version of DLC while others will only be seen in the Shield version. Additionally, players are given an expanded Pokédex and can earn a reward for completing it. That definitely gives players a reason to trade with others and gives them a goal to work towards after the main storyline is completed.

Klara and Avery are better rivals than Hop

Pokemon Shield Expansion Pass Avery (Image credit: iMore)

Klara and Avery offer more of a challenge as rivals than Hop ever did.

Within the original games, Hop is designated as your rival friend and leads you through a tutorial throughout your Galar-region journey. However, in the Expansion Pass, players encounter a new rival at the Isle of Armor. Those playing Sword meet Klara, a Poison-type trainer who dreams of becoming a gym leader. Shield players meet Avery, a Psychic-type trainer who also aspires to become a gym leader.

Hop was always a lackluster rival in the base game. He's obviously weaker than you, so your battles never feel impactful. Meanwhile, these new rivals are mean. They cheat and do everything they can to push the player away from victory. Plus, they're actually competent during battle, unlike Hop. As you make your way through the Isle of Armor, they inadvertently explain to the player exactly what you need to do in order to progress throughout the DLC. This way, it doesn't feel like a massive tutorial that's talking down to you the whole time.

You can teach certain Pokémon to Gigantamax

Pokemon Sword Shield Expansion Pass No Shadow (Image credit: iMore)

One of the frustrating things for me while playing the base Sword and Shield games was realizing that one of my favorite Pokémon couldn't Gigantamax even though its species had the potential to do so.

The Isle of Armor solves this problem. Feeding Max Soup to a Pokémon with G-Max potential makes it learn how to G-Max. The DLC's main story that surrounds Kubfu and Urshifu basically serves as a massive tutorial to teach you how to create Max Soup and feed it to your other Pokémon from the Galar region who also have the potential to Gigantamax.

Pokémon can now follow you in the overworld

Pokemon Sword Shield Expansion Pass No Shadow (Image credit: iMore)

I was upset when I learned that Pokémon couldn't follow you around in the original Sword and Shield games. This had been something that had been implemented in a few previous games including Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!

When I realized that the Isle of Armor finally made it possible for my favorite Pokémon to follow me around, I became ecstatic. I don't know how many hours I've spent swapping out the first Pokémon in my party and taking pictures of my favorite Pokémon trailing behind me.

Diglett scavenger hunt

Near the start of the Isle of Armor DLC, I came across an NPC who told me he had lost his Alolan Digletts. I was expecting him to ask me to find 5-10 of them, but he surprised me by sending me on a full-fledged Diglett scavenger hunt with 150 of the little guys to find. I initially rolled my eyes figuring this was a cheap way for Game Freak to prolong gameplay on the Isle of Armor.

However, when I finally started hunting for these little diggers I got sucked in. It was kind of like the relaxation I feel when running around my Animal Crossing island looking for weeds. The difference is with the Pokémon DLC, I got rewarded with Alolan Pokémon whenever I reached a certain milestone for the number of Digletts found. This was a fun addition that kept me exploring for quite a bit.

Catching Legendary Pokémon

Pokemon Dynamax Adventures Suicune (Image credit: iMore)

The story surrounding the Crown Tundra revolves around a new Legendary Pokémon called, Calyrex. I wasn't very impressed with him, but fortunately, there are plenty of other Legendary Pokémon to catch in this snowy region.

In addition to Calyrex, you can also catch the Galarian version of the three Legendary birds from Gen 1, and if you explore the Crown Tundra's Max Lairs with other players, you'll get the chance to fight and catch Legendary Pokémon from past games each time you reach the end of the cavern.

Shiny Pokémon

Pokemon Dynamax Adventures Shiny Vileplume (Image credit: iMore)

There also seems to be a higher chance of catching shiny Pokémon in the Max Lair. I caught a shiny Vileplume early on and each of my friends who also purchased the Expansion Pass has also caught at least one shiny Pokémon while in the caves. If you're a shiny hunter, that might just make the Expansion Pass worth getting.

Pokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass review What I don't like

Pokemon Sword Shield Expansion Pass Calyrex (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

Game Freak has traditionally released a follow-up game of some kind after releasing the first set of games in any given Generation. For example, after the launch of Ruby and Sapphire, Game Freak released Emerald. Similarly, after Sun and Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon followed. So it wasn't too surprising that the Japanese game developers created some extra DLC for Sword and Shield. However, it is a bit costly considering what you're getting.

I was able to beat both the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra's main storylines in just a few hours.

All in all, I was able to finish the main storylines for both the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra within a few hours. Granted, this was partial because my Pokémon were already at high levels from playing the original game, so the Expansion Pass battles weren't very challenging for me. That being said, Klara and Mustard's Pokémon were all between level 60 and level 75, so they won't be a walk in the park for everyone.

Beyond the new story details, filling in the expanded Pokédex and finding the previously mentioned Digletts do add a lot of time to your Expansion Pass experience. I realize that a lot of work had to go into creating all of these additional Pokémon and locations, but I feel like the DLC was a bit overpriced. But if you like the idea of being able to catch multiple Legendaries from previous games, you definitely ought to buy it.

Pokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass review Bottom Line

Pokemon Sword Shield Crown Tundra Dragonite (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

The Expansion Pass is a fun little splash of extra content that gives players more of the Galar region to enjoy. Key among these new experiences are the brand new storylines surrounding the Legendary Pokémon Kubfu and Calyrex. I also love having the ability to walk around the Isle of Armor or the Crown Tundra with my favorite Pokémon trailing behind me as I discover new places.

Considering how short the DLC storyline is, the $30 price tag is a bit costly. However, if you're the kind of person that loves filling out a Pokédex and meeting new Pokémon then this will definitely be a fun way to expand upon that.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.