Review | Pokémon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra DLC
Reviewing only one half of the Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC felt rather empty. Isle of Armor was a nice distraction from the main story line, but with rather shallow post-game content. The Crown Tundra, the second half of the DLC, is the missing piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t only focus on exploration, which was lacking before, but adds perhaps the most fun multiplayer mode in the series’ history.
Contrary to the sunny Isle of Armor, The Crown Tundra takes place in the cold region of Southern Galar. The majority of the wild area is coated with ice, which already sets it apart from previous areas. Thankfully, there is some greenery for those who explore further, giving some variety in the scenery.
The story focuses on the eccentric explorer Peony. The burly man wants to spend time with his rebellious daughter Nia, only for her to deny his constant nagging. Since your character just happens to arrive at the region during an argument, Peony “enlists” you on the spot instead. Peony’s zealous nature can be abrasive, but he’s a nice and welcome addition to the cast. His daughter, however, barely appears in the story, and leaves little to no impression.
The crux of The Crown Tundra is traversing the snowy landscapes and discovering the secret behind Peony’s legendary clues. Each of the three main chapters of the story revolve around looking for specific legendary Pokémon. The most focus is on Calyrex, the fabled “King of the Harvest” of Galar that is now a distant memory. Other legendaries don’t get similar story treatment, but without spoiling much, they are definitely worth locating.
The Crown Tundra introduces another batch of Pokémon new to the eighth generation. Besides some obvious favorites like Metagross and Garchomp making the cut, it was nice to see classic fossil Pokémon like Kabuto and Omanyte return. However, at first glance, it may seem that the Pokémon selection of this expansion is much smaller than its predecessor. There aren’t many regular Pokémon returning, with zero from the previous generation for example. That’s the key word however: regular.
The biggest hook for The Crown Tundra is the welcome return of iconic Legendary Pokémon. Aside from the ones prominently featured in the DLC story, players can embark in Dynamax Adventures. This new mode is a Max Raid Adventure for up to four players. If players manage to beat three Dynamax Pokémon in their path, they can reach the final boss: one of the classic Legendary Pokémon.
To fully experience this mode though, there is a catch. Players must use rental Pokémon instead of any that were previously caught. While this may be a bummer for some, this does effectively lift the entry barrier. Regardless of if you have a team of 6 level 100 Pokémon or just started, all rental Pokémon have the same levels. Players can catch each Pokémon throughout the Dynamax Adventure and choose one of them to keep. Thankfully, there is 100% catch rate for all Pokémon, which is a fair trade considering the challenge involved.
At the start of the Dynamax Adventure, each player chooses a Pokémon from three available choices. Afterwards players must navigate in the Max Lair in order to reach the Legendary at the end. Before each Pokémon, players must choose the one they want to face. This becomes more complicated considering purple haze covers the Pokémon and the only information available is their type. For example, while you choose an electric Pokémon like Raichu and the Pokémon chosen was a water type, it may be a Water\Ground Pokémon immune to electricity like Swampert. This keeps the mode exciting since players must adapt to every situation. In addition, the legendary is a mystery as well. This makes it all the more satisfying to discover its identity at the end of the trek.
But choosing a Pokémon at a fork in the road is only half of the strategy. Along the path, there are various bonuses that trainers can utilize. Scientists can replace a Pokémon for one trainer while Backpackers can bestow a selection of held items and berries to heal HP. If the team has four of itheir Pokémon faint, the adventure is over. This may seem hard at first, but considering the amount of goodies and the ability to use the caught Pokémon, I’d say the challenge is fair. Not to mention that the odds of finding Shiny Pokémon in the Max Lair is very high.
There’s also the Galarian Star Tournament, sort of an addendum to the main Pokémon League. Players can partner with any of the main characters of the story and participate in multi-battles. This mode serves a nice distraction and a chance to see the interplay between different characters.
The biggest issue with The Crown Tundra is how abruptly it ends. After completing all of Peony’s quests, the story sort of just stops. Sure there are more Legendary Pokémon to find, but considering how well paced the story arc was in Isle of Armor, it’s rather disappointing.
As Pokémon Sword and Shield reaches its one-year anniversary, is the DLC pack worth purchasing? While I was a little iffy after Isle of Armor, and Crown Tundra does have its faults, as a complete package it’s terrific. The new items, moves, locations and of course Pokémon add a lot to the replay value. Dynamax Adventures alone are worth the price of admission for both DLC expansions. If this is the direction that the franchise is going to take from now on, I’d say that Game Freak definitely nailed it on their first try.
Final Score: 8 out of 10