DLC Review – Pokémon Sword/Shield: The Crown Tundra
Pokémon Sword and Shield‘s first DLC expansion, The Isle of Armor, wasn’t exactly the most exciting of RPG expansions out there. It didn’t feel like it was adding anything worthy to what was a less meaty Pokémon experience to begin with. You could complete it in just a couple of hours and never care about it again. That just made my expectations towards the second expansion, The Crown Tundra, grow even more. This one had to deliver. It had to make up for the bland Isle of Armor expansion. And so it did.
The Isle of Armor felt like a minuscule sidequest set in a small map with a few returning mons. The Crown Tundra felt like the proper post-game content that was sorely missing from Sword and Shield. It reminded me of the ludicrous campaigns featured in HeartGold and SoulSilver‘s postgame, after beating Red. You explore ruins and solve puzzles in order to basically acquire every single legendary released up until that point. It also features other new characters, returning monsters, and a small additional storyline that feels more fitting to this generation’s overly British aesthetic than The Isle of Armor‘s kung fu plot.
Upon arriving at the titular Crown Tundra’s train station, you’ll meet former Steel-type, Peony, and his daughter. Peony is your typical dumb yet kindhearted loudmouth, who’s here to invite you for a series of expeditions, since his daughter simply couldn’t care less about him or his plans. What are those expeditions, you might ask? Well, you’re tasked with completing three quests set in the Crown Tundra, in any order you want, and they all revolve around legendaries.
The first quest revolves around Calyrex, the expansion’s brand new legendary. Once a powerful pokémon that helped a local village with its crops and harvests, it has lost most of its power, as well as its loyal steed. All it can do is briefly possess humans in order to talk directly to the player, a creepy first for the series. Your task is to help Calyrex regain its strength and find its horse companion. This can be either a Ghost or an Ice-type, depending on the type of bait you give it. While I doubt this was intentional, Calyrex’s design, coupled with the architecture of its ruined lair, gave me massive The Witcher 3 vibes, and that’s never a bad thing.
The second quest is a nostalgia bomb for anyone who grew up playing Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. It’s time to solve riddles and catch some Regis! Registeel, Regirock, and Regice can be caught once you solve the (simple) riddles written in front of their respective temples. It’s nothing particularly complex like the braille riddles from the Gen III games, but I still loved dealing with some actual puzzle solving in a Pokémon game for a change. I also appreciated having to work hard to acquire legendaries with ridiculously low catch rates like back in the day, since Pokémon Sword and Shield just handed over their pitiful amount of legendaries on a silver platter, with little to no effort required.
Upon catching the three old Regis, you’ll be able to capture one of the two new Regis included in this expansion, Regieleki and Regidrago. I particularly disliked their stupidly simplistic designs, however. Solving their puzzles and working hard to obtain them was more enjoyable than actually having them in my PC box, that’s for certain.
The third quest revolves around Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, in their brand new Galarian forms. They are now Psychic, Fighting, and Dark-type birds, respectively. Upon meeting them in this map’s equivalent to Loch Ness (this is based on Scotland after all), they will run away. Articuno can be found roaming around the Crown Tundra, Zapdos will be running around the Wild Area, and Moltres will be flying around the Isle of Armor. Catch them all (they won’t run away if you fight them) and you’ll complete the third and final mainline quest in this expansion. But don’t you think that’s all The Crown Tundra has to offer.
You can meet up with Sonia and unlock a small sidequest in which you need to find footsteps for each of the three Swords of Justice (Terrakion, Cobalion, Virizion), and then capture them in the wild. Having all three of them in your party will also trigger a small event that will let you capture a wild Keldeo for the first time in the franchise’s history. Just like with the Regis and the legendary birds, they are extremely hard to catch, offering a challenge that was absent from the base game.
Finally, there’s the best thing not only from The Crown Tundra expansion, but all of Gen VIII in general: the Max Lair. This is a small, randomly generated dungeon that forces you to fight against three Dynamaxed pokémon before battling a legendary at the fourth (and last) fight. Two things worth mentioning are that, upon defeating these legendaries, you have a 100% rate of catching them, meaning that even a mere Poké Ball is a guaranteed catch, and that you cannot use your own pokémon in battle.
That’s right: in true Pokémon Stadium fashion, you can only use rentals! You are offered one of four rentals before entering a new dungeon, and you’re able to swap your monster upon defeating (and catching) any other pokémon you defeat inside of it. You can also acquire small health boosts and the chance of getting a held item for your buddy depending on the dungeon’s layout. Think of it as Pokémon Stadium meets Darkest Dungeon. It’s a genius idea and it works like a charm.
You can catch literally any of the previously released legendaries from all previous generations inside the Max Lair. From Mewtwo to Zygarde, from Xerneas to Latios, they’re all here, showing up randomly at the end of a run. Upon completing all three mainline expansion quests, you will also be able to capture Ultra Beasts from Gen VII in the Max Lair. If that isn’t a gigantic middle finger towards people who have subscribed to Pokémon HOME, then I don’t know what is. I’m just thankful I waited before being showered with more legendaries I can possibly handle.
The Crown Tundra is more than just a small expansion with a slightly expanded pokédex and a brand new legendary to catch. This is one hell of a meaty campaign with some interesting puzzle-solving mechanics, a labyrinthine map to explore, tons of returning legendaries, and a roguelike mode that is way more addictive than it should have ever been. Whereas The Isle of Armor felt too short and undercooked, The Crown Tundra is absolutely worth buying if you own Sword or Shield. Hell, it would be worth checking out for the roguelike mode alone.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Pokémon Sword/Shield: The Crown Tundra is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.