Recently, the second and – bar a surprise – last of the Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC packs, The Crown Tundra, launched on Nintendo Switch. Prior to the release, a Let’s Chat was published here where Stephen Brown and I discussed the prospect of this DLC – so, now that it is out and we have had a chance to play it, we are going to offer our opinions on how it turned out. There are spoilers in this, so if you haven’t played The Crown Tundra yet, be aware of that!
-WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE CROWN TUNDRA AHEAD-
William Robinson: Hi again Stephen! After we did a Let’s Chat in the run-up to the release of The Crown Tundra, it seems right that we do another post-release! Straight into it, then; when you first got off that train and started exploring this area, how were your initial impressions of this new space they have created, especially in comparison to The Isle of Armor?
Stephen Brown: Hey William! Thanks for inviting me back, I am always happy to discuss Pokémon with anyone willing to listen. My first thoughts were that The Crown Tundra seemed more barren and closed in comparison to the openness and variety of environments on The Isle of Armor. I guess, in some ways, this is fitting as The Crown Tundra is supposed to feel more mysterious and secluded, with a prominent theme of exploration and discovery. It is not until you get past the initial first area and village that The Crown Tundra begins to open up more and really shine as a labyrinth of twists and turns hiding secrets in every corner.
WR: Personally, I am of course a fan of the snowy setting, but as you say, it often felt more enclosed than The Isle of Armor, especially the water section – the invisible wall seemed to arrive quite fast, which disappointed me. An area I appreciated was the village of Freezington – it helped The Crown Tundra feel lively with a sense of community. Speaking of which; we quickly encounter Peonia and Peony, two of the new characters. OK, here is your time to praise Peony…
SB: I agree, there are a couple of water areas that felt more like barriers and could have been better integrated. I do, however, appreciate the upgrade to cave systems. Compared to the main game, the DLC offers more elaborate caves with twists and turns that leave you scratching your head as you try to find your way through. The Wild Area was a great starting point for a more open world game and The Crown Tundra has elaborated on that, developing increasingly unique and interesting areas. I really hope they maintain this level of detail moving forward. Well, what is not to love about Peony! The man is a kind, caring soul who only wants to hang out with his daughter and give her the very best (like no Dad ever haaaas). With mountain Dad jokes and a need for legendary adventures Peony was an instant favourite to me and many others in the fandom… He is also very handsome.
WR: Considering we sort of take the place of his daughter on this expedition to search for Legendary Pokémon, I am not that convinced on his parenting skills. He is enthusiastic, though, and has a team of Steel Pokémon, which are two factors that endear him to me! After the intro, we are then tasked with these various leads on Legendary Pokémon, which is where The Crown Tundra felt closest to The Isle of Armor in my opinion, exploring, finding the new returning Pokémon, and learning your way around.
SB: She is a rebellious daughter, he knows when to give her space and not punish her for being independent. Also, if she had not run off, I would not have got to spend all that 1-on-1 time with him. Anyway, yes, you receive three clues from Peony, and shortly after are given a task by Professor Sonia, who makes a returning cameo. Although this is done to offer freedom to the player and allows us to chose which task we take on first, I felt a little overwhelmed with where to start on top of having a whole new area to explore. I think I preferred the more linear build up that The Isle of Armor offered. What about you, do you prefer the freedom of big adventures or do you prefer doing little tasks that build up from one another?
WR: Yeah, I think The Isle of Armor felt better structured, leading you from one task to another, while here it is all presented to you at once and leaves you to figure it out. To me, that is not as rewarding. The actual quests themselves were great and a step up from The Isle of Armor, just the way you played through them was not as well put together. Professor Sonia turning up was an amazing surprise! Her quest was separate to those Peony gives you, which again was a bit of a disjointed way to ask us to choose where to go. The first part I did was the Regi storyline, you?
SB: It was great to see Professor Sonia again, but I agree that her segment of this felt a little disjointed to the Legendary quests of The Crown Tundra. It could have been better connected, maybe something like Peony contacting Professor Magnolia for help and her sending her granddaughter who has excelled in the field of Legendary Pokémon studies since she helped with the Darkest Day legend. Just a thought. I ended up doing the quests in a linear order, so I started with Calyrex – the signature Mythical Pokémon of The Crown Tundra – and helping them to restore their power.
WR: Ah okay, the Calyrex story seemed to be the lead thread of The Crown Tundra and was certainly… Different? Possession, Riverdance, new Pokémon that join together… Yeah, this was something. Ultimately, I enjoyed the spectacle of it, particularly the finale, but the puzzles were all quite straightforward and it could be done quickly. That is a theme of this DLC really; it is over too soon.
SB: Yes; appearing on the official artwork and in the logo for The Crown Tundra, Calyrex was the main focus. I kinda loved that they were so bizarre – although a lot of the gameplay was a simple fetch quest, there was much info added to Calyrex and the lore of Galar. It is refreshing to see the DLCs take an intricate, story-focused approach to new Mythical Pokémon and stray away the Mystery Gift default. The result is the Pokémon are built up to be special, and makes me want to use them more than when given via download. Although both DLCs can be completed in a rather short 3-5 hours, I am not mad about it. It is the first time that Pokémon has had DLC, and if you ask me, they have done a really good job. Although the stories themselves are short, they offer more beyond that, with new Pokémon and characters to battle and compete with.
WR: One of the few surprises not revealed in the marketing was that were two new Pokémon added alongside Calyrex; Spectrier and Glastrier appear partway through. I did not expect these to be included, and the specific way they combine with Calyrex was a dynamic we have not seen prior to this. I just think that giving us a bit more narrative would have gone a long way, as there was a distinct brevity to it all. The Pokémon returning in the Pokédex is fun, but that doesn’t feel as fresh considering we have seen them before – meeting new Pokémon has a certain appeal, and more of that would have been welcome.
SB: It seems Pokémon have learnt from the Sun and Moon marketing to not reveal all of their cards, which is good. We have seen Pokémon combining before, with Kyurem and Necrozma fusing with the Legendary Pokémon on the box art of their respective games. However, those were more of a fusion, whereas here Spectrier and Glastrier remain separate Pokémon. That is reflected in their new ability As One, which allows Calyrex to have two abilities at once. I agree that it would have been nice to maybe chase them and find clues to discover where they were hidden instead of Calyrex telling us where to go. It felt like we did not get as many returning Pokémon as we did in The Isle of Armor, but that could be due to the more baron landscape. Either way, these returning Pokémon did not add too much excitement for me. Furthermore, besides Galarian Slowking and the Galarian Legendary Birds, we were not given any more regional forms. They have become very favourable within the fandom recently, and with areas as diverse as those in The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, I would have liked to have seen more regional forms exclusive to the DLC.
WR: I certainly did not get the same feeling as with The Isle of Armor, where it felt as though there was a lot of longevity in exploring and catching the numerous returning Pokémon, as well as raising the level of my new team at the same time. In The Crown Tundra it felt very much Point A to Point B without as much to do along the way. Indeed, more new Forms could have helped with that. On the other hand, I am very excited to see the return of particular Pokémon, such as the Beldum line! The focus on Steel Pokémon in this DLC was great for me.
SB: Exactly, I think that is partly due to The Isle of Armor focusing more on battles and training, whilst The Crown Tundra leans towards exploration and capturing Legendary Pokémon by solving very linear clues. I thought you would be happy about the return of Steven’s signature Pokémon! We also saw the return of many other strong and rare Pokémon, such as pseudo Legendary Pokémon and fossil Pokémon, who are now apparently very much alive and in abundance in The Crown Tundra. One group of Legendary Pokémon known for riddles is the Regi line. Along with the familiar trio we now have another two to choose from, Regieleki and Regidrago. What did you think about ‘The Terrible Titans… Lurking Locked Away!’ quest, and the puzzles we had to solve to encounter them?
WR: The idea of new Regi Pokémon is fun, and the designs are creative, but I felt as though some of the mystique of that group of Pokémon was not as well portrayed here. In Ruby and Sapphire, the Braille quest to unlock the caverns for Regirock, Regice, and Registeel was complex and had intricate steps – here, though, opening up each Temple is quite simple and not presented in Braille. For a 2nd DLC I would have preferred them to up the challenge, not lower it. You?
SB: Agreed, I felt the clues were too simple and not enough of a challenge considering that the reward is a Legendary Pokémon. I understand that Nintendo probably want everyone to enjoy the Regi Pokémon and that now we are older puzzles are easier in some ways, but still, I would have liked more than “whistle and the door will open”. Still, it was fun capturing all of them again and testing out the new moves and abilities of Regieleki and Regidrago.
WR: Which of the new Regi Pokémon did you go for? How do you feel on the subject of having to choose one or the other?
SB: I went with Regidrago; the fact that they are unfinished and just a floating head was funny, what about you? I will admit I sort of expected there to be a choice considering they shared a temple, but the marketing made it seem as though we could get both. Alas, keeping it as a choice fuels one of the key features of Pokémon games which is trading with friends.
WR: I went with Regieleki! The energetic design and enthusiastic movement are brilliant. The third quest for us to mention is capturing the new Forms of the Legendary Birds, Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno. A cutscene at the towering Dyna Tree in the south shows them battling it out before they leave to the mainland Wild Area, The Isle of Armor, and elsewhere in The Crown Tundra. We then have to try and follow them in the overworld and catch up to battle them, a new spin on the way roaming Pokémon have worked in previous games – actually seeing them as you follow is awesome. Personally, the new Form for Articuno is my favourite of the three, but I appreciate the difference in design across them – Zapdos is quite a change, running instead of flying!
SB: Yes, the Galarian Bird trio is fantastic, some really clever designs that reference the originals, and with their new types it adds a refreshing take to these familiar Pokémon. It looks like my prediction in our last Let’s Chat was right then! We see the return of roaming Legendary Pokémon, which in the landscape of an open Wild Area is thrilling, exciting, and less tedious than games of the past. There is still a challenge in finding and encountering them, particularly Zapdos with how fast they run. It is well worth the time chasing them down and a lot of fun seeing them evade your movements in the overworld. I love all the new designs, but if I had to pick one? Galarian Moltres, those red flames against the dark feathers are wickedly cool!
WR: Indeed, you were right! It sort of emphasises how we were saying more Forms in these DLCs may have improved matters; the ones they have done are creative, I wonder how many ideas they have that have not been used? So, of the three Peony Legendary Pokémon quests, which did you enjoy the most?
SB: Exactly, the simple addition of regional forms has done wonders for Pokémon in terms of expanding lore, being reflective of real world animals, and giving some less popular Pokémon a chance in the spotlight. Oh, probably tons, if the creativity within the Pokémon community is anything to go by. I think for me my favourite was definitely the bird trio, “A Legendary Tree of a Legendary Three!”. Chasing after the birds in all the different areas was exciting and felt more of a unique journey than going to places because Calyrex told me, or opening relatively easy to find temples. What about you? Which quest did you most enjoy?
WR: Mainly due to the great designs of the Legendary Birds, the same one was my favourite of the three – again, though, it was over too quickly! Can I also just note how amazing the illustrations for the clues are, haha? I wonder who drew them for the game!
SB: Maybe it was all over too quickly because we are just so pro at Pokémon haha, I agree though that there could have been some more exposition and build up to the chase. Overall, I have to admit it felt like we spent less time in The Crown Tundra compared to The Isle of Armor. It felt we had more returning Pokémon in the first round of DLC and more story focused on the new areas, whereas the second pack is more centred on the Legendary Pokémon from past games met through the new Dynamax Adventures. How do you feel about Dynamax Adventures William?
WR: Dynamax Adventures are an extensive new feature, where you go through consecutive Raid battles to get to the Legendary Pokémon at the end. If you then emerge victorious, you get to catch them! With so many Legendary Pokémon returning, this lasts a long time (as we know, we are going through them now!), and there is significant challenge with mandatory rental Pokémon; improvising to get a suited set-up for the final fight is very tactical, and we have not always won out. As was my concern beforehand, whilst Legendary Pokémon are there to catch, they are ones we have seen before and it subsequently does not feel as fresh. In that way, it is similar to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and the way Legendary Pokémon were a part of the endgame there. However, I did catch a Shiny Cresselia through Dynamax Adventures, so I am not going to complain too much!
SB: I think it was a really clever move on the part of Pokémon to make you use rental Pokémon, stopping you from steamrolling through with teams of Legendary and perfectly trained Pokémon. It makes things more challenging and think more strategically whether swapping Pokémon would be good now or later into the adventure. Like you said, it requires more tactical thinking and it is not guaranteed that you win, especially when teamed up with NPCs who make questionable decisions! Whilst the Dynamax Adventures are fun and challenging, the reward of Legendary Pokémon will not excite everyone – I suppose many have caught these Pokémon before, and will simply transfer them over from HOME. However, it does offer an opportunity for new players to gather them all, as we have seen in other games such as Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Additionally, it gives a chance to Shiny hunt and add another level of difficulty. Or you can just be lucky like you were, I am definitely not jealous haha.
WR: Maybe you’ll find a Shiny Legendary Pokémon too! Could happen. Yes, the CPU choices are, well… I mean, the combo of Helping Hand and Metal Sound is just so, so effective, right (can you detect the sarcasm?). You make a great point, for players new to the franchise this is an amazing opportunity; not everyone has Legendary Pokémon from past games. Dynamax Adventures are keeping us playing, too – like you say, if we were with our teams, it could be tiresome going through the process again and again, knowing you are set up to win. With rental Pokémon, you have to stay attentive. Away from The Crown Tundra, there is also another new feature with the Galarian Star Tournament! This was marketed beforehand, so we know there would be this double-battle tournament against characters from all over the region – and with such an all-star cast, it is a joyous experience. Have you unlocked all the characters who can appear?
SB: Huzzah! The Galarian Star Tournament! It is great pairing up with beloved characters from across Galar as well as unlocking lots of new dialogue between certain match-ups. I have just recently unlocked all of the possible partners; it was great being able to battle with some of my favourites, including Milo, Piers, Bede, and of course Peony! However, I will say that the tournament suffers the fate that Dynamax Adventures avoids. For me, going in with my high level, perfectly trained team, I found myself getting tired of the constant winning. I was just battling for the sake of completing a run with a certain character. Still, it allows you to experience new interactions and rake in more Poké Dollars than ever before. It is an alternative to repeatedly defeating the same Elite Four and Champion for extra cash like in previous games.
WR: After a while, the Galarian Star Tournament does suffer from repeated voice lines and animations, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some characters in Galar that could have been amazing entrants and accentuated this as a final flourish for Sword and Shield; as is, the final characters you unlock are actually underwhelming considering the time investment. The monetary rewards are less impactful as late on as we are, so that felt a bit hollow. Marnie was the pick for me – I did battle once with every character. Now I have done that, there is not as much motivation to go back… Which has me return to the Dynamax Adventures as the last part to do now we have finished the Pokédex. You reckon you are finished with the Galarian Star Tournament now?
SB: Agreed, it would have been great to get more of a payoff considering the time put into playing, but like you said it was still fun and it is always good to see Pokémon do new things. Yeah I am the same; I have no motivation to go back to the Star Tournament now all the characters are unlocked. I would much rather continue doing Dynamax Adventures for the strategic challenge and quality time I get to spend playing with you.
WR: Awh, aha! Outside of the topics we have discussed, how did you feel in terms of the other introductions, such as the new Ability Patch for changing to the Hidden Ability of Pokémon? Again, there were less of these quality of life additions than in The Isle of Armor, where there was Max Soup, a more plentiful selection of new fashion items, and more.
SB: Honestly, I am disappointed at the fashion options introduced in The Crown Tundra. There are some Team eyewear pieces you get from Peonia, and I think it would have been great to go one step further and have full Team Rocket, Team Skull, or Team Galactic outfits. I just feel that The Isle of Armor delivered a lot more. Items like the Ability Patch are a great addition, yet I feel like they purposely held back on a couple of these, as well as Galarian Slowking, just so they could include them in this DLC. If they included more into the second wave along with a new regional Pokémon, they could have put both Galarian Slowpoke lines in The Isle of Armor and not separated them to maintain excitement.
WR: Yeah I agree, it seems the DLC was very front-loaded on that vein of new features. The fashion options in particular; more cold-weather choices would be awesome. To me, that is an overriding theme of this DLC; the ideas and setting are intriguing, but it all feels very quick, as though there is not much to keep me venturing around the area. After The Isle of Armor, I was hoping they would kick on from that solid base and give us at least a similar amount of content, developed to have more complexities, but that didn’t really happen. Perhaps more returning Pokémon would have helped with this?
SB: The Isle of Armor was so chock full of story and Pokémon that maybe there was less time given for this second wave in terms of story, Pokémon, and items. I agree, I think more content like returning Pokémon would have helped, but we still got quitet a lot in terms of the Legendaries and two new battle structures. Additionally, if we compare both the DLC Wild Areas to that of the main game, it is incredible to see the progress made in such a short period of time in terms of assets and aesthetics. I do appreciate that we go both these areas as DLC, and were not resold the same game in some form of a sequel. Although there could have been more done, I think the first step into DLC was really successful, and I look forward to what the future brings. Who knows, maybe work for the next generation has begun!
WR: This is their first time with this approach and it has predominantly been a success, even if we have reservations and areas for improvement. Them each being entirely Wild Area is to me a hint for the future of the series. I am not sure on their plans for a potential 2021 game, perhaps it shall be Let’s Go Johto? For future generations of Pokémon, I reckon DLC is going to be a mainstay – perhaps in place of third games.
SB: I think they are definitely working towards a more open Wild Area approach moving forward. Considering the popularity and the amount of assets they now have, it is more than likely we shall see this expanded upon even further. 2021 will be the 25th Anniversary of Pokémon, so we can expect big things next year! I think DLC will definitely take the spot of any future sequels, due to its popularity and feeling more optional. Also, with the recent release of physical copies of Sword and Shield with the DLC included, people who can not access DLC digitally still have the opportunity to play this new content.
WR: Beyond finishing the Dynamax Adventures, are you going to keep playing Sword or do you think this will be the end for you?
SB: I think beyond Dynamax Adventures and any future events/gifts – such as Gigantamax Melmetal – this will be it for my Pokémon Sword playtime, but hey; 340+ hours is not bad! What about you?
WR: Aha, a snappy 340+! I may still go back to finish finding the Diglett and battling through the type trials in The Isle of Armor, and more, but it does feel as though it is getting towards the end. I very much doubt there shall be more DLC, so other than other Raids and such, we could be seeing the complete package here. I really have enjoyed my time with Shield – it is my 2019 Game of the Year – with the vibrant characters, attention to detail, and fantastic music. Where they go next is an exciting proposition!
SB: I thought we might get one more DLC pack, but with the physical release of the game with DLC I doubt they would release more. Pokémon Sword and Shield are amazing games that have made a huge impact. Along with breaking into the field of DLC, it feels as if we are entering a new era of Pokémon that will only continue to grow and expand similar to the DS/3DS era. I can not wait to see what the future holds; needless to say, there will be even more open-world aspects and great new adventures ahead! Let us just hope they include all the Pokémon next time.
WR: Oof that final sentence, aha! To me, it has not been much of an issue; there are plenty of Pokémon in the game and it has actually changed the meta depending on which are available. They are still a way off all Pokémon being in the games, so I am not sure we shall ever see them all in Galar. By the time of the next generation I imagine they will all be around.
SB: Haha, me neither, but I know the topic was of much debate/argument within the community. I have thoroughly enjoyed Sword and Shield and not found any decline in quality due to the lack of certain Pokémon. Exactly, we will probably not see them all in Galar, but there is hope for the next generation and even if they did not include them all again, I have no doubt they would still be amazing games.
WR: Well then, just as we are reaching the end of our playtime with Sword and Shield, we are reaching the end of this Let’s Chat. Unless there is particularly any other point you have in mind?
SB: Nope, I think we have covered just about everything. I could happily talk forever on Pokémon but we had best wrap things up now.
WR: OK, thanks for joining me again!
SB: Thanks for having me, it has been great!
Thanks for reading Let’s Chat! Have you played The Crown Tundra, and if so, how do you feel about it and the additions brought to the table? You can let us know in the comments! Also, for more Let’s Chat, you can go here. Have an awesome day!