The second DLC expansion for Pokémon Scarlet & Violet looks set to feature the game’s most challenging content to date.
The first half of Pokémon Scarlet & Violet’s DLC expansion, The Teal Mask, had a lot going for it, but it was held back by a lack of difficulty and the ongoing technical issues fans have complained about since the base game’s launch.
The second slice of DLC, called The Indigo Disk, is due next month and having played a small section of it, it seems at least one of those issues will be addressed. The bad news is that it’s not the performance problems.
It’s too early to tell how the final package will perform but even in our short time with it, we witnessed choppy frame rates and awkward graphical pop-in. We didn’t expect these sorts of issues to be resolved until the next mainline games but it’s still a shame they’re set to remain a part of Scarlet & Violet’s legacy.
On the plus side, The Indigo Disk promises to offer the sort of challenge that was missing from The Teal Mask, and which will hopefully make it a more substantial post-game adventure than even what was available in the base game.
First things first, whereas The Teal Mask was akin to a school trip, The Indigo Disk functions more like a student exchange programme, as you visit Blueberry Academy, which has a particular focus on pokémon battles. It also has its own underwater Terarium consisting of four biomes, home to more pokémon that were excluded from the base game, including, for the first time ever, all the starters from previous games, from Bulbasaur to Sobble.
Much like the base game’s overworld, it’s easy to get distracted and lost while exploring the Terarium, as you continuously spot new pokémon, areas, and items.
The biomes are rather lacking in personality, though. The entire area is just one big circle and, from what we saw, none of the are are visually interesting, barring random structures made of cubes which stick out like a sore thumb.
The savannah, for example, looks like any typical desert area, with the only noteworthy thing about it being the pokémon that inhabit it. This is perfect for collectors, though, who only care about filling their pokédex.
With any luck, the story will pick up the slack. So far, the premise simply involves battling against the school’s own elite four, comprised of unusually experienced students, which is quite the downgrade after The Teal Mask’s attempts at tackling deeper themes.
However, unlike Sword & Shield’s DLC expansion, the two halves are inextricably linked (you can’t even start The Indigo Disk without beating The Teal Mask), with certain characters set to return so, with any luck, The Indigo Disk will carry over unresolved plot threads.
However, the main draw, as we alluded to earlier, comes from the challenge. One of The Teal Mask’s problems was that you could easily breeze through it with an endgame team; something most players would already have in the possession. That team, however, may very well struggle in The Indigo Disk and you’ll have to regularly rethink your strategies with every major battle.
Wild encounters will likely be a non-issue, but they can still prove dangerous. The weakest pokémon we encountered were around level 50 and you can run into fully evolved pokémon that ususally never appear in the wild. On top of that, common variety trainers boast pokémon upwards of level 70 and higher – although the real challenge comes from The Indigo Disk’s emphasis on double battles.
These popped up occasionally in the base game, but every trainer encounter we experienced in The Indigo Disk was a double battle, meaning you need to take into account having two targets at once and ensuring your own party members are compatible with each other.
Some trainers also make use of held items or have teams that take full advantage of the double battle format, like one trainer that sent out two pokémon with the Intimidate ability, meaning our starting pokémon’s attack was seriously nerfed from the get-go.
Our preview ended with a chance to take on Amarys, the first of the elite four, and while her prerequisite challenge was hilariously easy (you just fly Koraidon/Miraidon through a set of rings like it’s Spyro The Dragon), we were taken aback by how ruthless she was in battle.
We’re not allowed to reveal the specifics of her team, but it felt like an actual competitive team someone would use, rather than a random assortment of high level pokémon.
It’s the sort of team that could force newbie players to do proper research into team synergies, held items, and abilities rather than brute force their way to a solution. Amarys sets a strong precedent for the rest of the DLC and hopefully it’ll be a hit with those who felt the base game was too easy.
Although The Indigo Disk doesn’t look like it’ll meaningfully fix Scarlet & Violet’s more glaring issues, everything about it so far seems tailor-made for hardcore fans who love catching more pokémon and winning tough battles.
On its own, that’d be fine enough but when combined with The Teal Mask, this could make The Hidden Treasure Of Area Zero one of the more meaningful post-game additions and hopefully serve as a new baseline for future DLC plans.
Pokémon Scarlet & Violet: The Indigo Disk launches for Nintendo Switch on December 14.
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