The Isle of Armor, arriving this week as the first of two expansions to Pokémon Sword and Shield, sounds a lot like a new and improved Wild Area. It can be accessed as soon as you've reached the original Wild Area in the main games, meaning you won't have to beat the game's eight gyms or finish the story to get there.
That's according to a clarification given by Nintendo's product marketing specialist Demetrius Boggs to IGN, alongside a brief hands-off preview of the DLC.
Pokémon will also apparently "level scale", although it's unsure exactly what this means in practice. You can enter the Isle of Armor with a low level party after first reaching the Wild Area, and the Pokémon there would be at your current level, and likewise opposing trainers' Pokémon were "around level 60" in the gameplay that was seen. The suggestion is that they'll at least scale to your party's level on first entering the area, but it's not known if they'll continue to scale as you go - say, if you first entered the DLC with a party of Level 30-somethings which soon levelled up beyond that.
The most likely situation is that the Isle of Armor's levelling will work similarly to that of the regular Wild Area. The demo apparently confirmed "the entirety of the island is basically one big massive wild area", with varied terrain types - the regular one had Pokémon appearing at set levels as low as Level 12 in different sections, which then were all scaled up to a flat Level 60 once you defeated all eight gyms. (Nintendo has confirmed that opponent levels will go right up to 100, so it's just a case of how exactly that scaling can change as you play - via in-game achievements like beating Gyms or story moments, or adapting to your party itself).
Other information about the expansion includes the existence of sidequests, such as one to collect 150 Alolan Diglett, an EXP Charm that allows you to focus experience into a single Pokémon instead of sharing it across your team, and an Amorite Ore item that "lets your squad learn new moves" (via Gamesradar).
Finally, there's the point made across previews that the Isle of Armor expansion focuses on "growth", "training" and "strength", while the later Crown Tundra DLC will be the one to deliver more story, adventure and exploration. That certainly tallies with the latest trailers, with expedition-like raids, environmental puzzles and legendaries new and old appearing in Crown Tundra, and dojos and combative 'mon the emphasis in Isle of Armor.
Hopefully there'll at least be some interesting additions to competitive training methods in Isle of Armor, then - if you're anything like me, dabbling in the raiding scene post-game will mean you already have a raft of Pokémon at or around Level 100, thanks to the abundance of spare EXP Candy from recent giveaways and raid rewards that have been doled out in "preparation" for the DLC.
Finally, a quick PSA: be sure to buy the right DLC if you're planning on it - there's a separate Isle of Armor expansion for Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield, so don't assume the first expansion you see will automatically work with your version! If you're looking to really swot up, meanwhile, give our full Pokémon Sword and Shield expansion pass guide a look over too.