Armello – Expanalysis

This article gives our impressions on the PS4 version of the game.

Funded by Kickstarter and developed by a new independent gaming studio from Australia, Armello is one of the most striking looking games to release in the last few years. League of Geeks have created something truly memorable and eye-catching and it’s translated into a compelling release that could become a sleeper hit come the end of the year.

Set in a far-away Kingdom filled with animals, the King has become afflicted by a mysterious, horrifying disease known as The Rot. The Rot will drain a soul and corrupt an individual to the point of madness until the people around them no longer recognise what they’ve become. As his death draws near, great clans have banded together and called upon their heroes in their efforts to assume the throne. During these desperate times, they will do whatever is necessary to claim it.

As expected, the aim of the game is to become King or Queen or Armello, whether you decide to take it by force, manipulation, cunning or by becoming the throne’s natural successor.

You play as either Thane, a wolf with a Cloud Strife esque super-sized sword, Amber a rabbit with a slightly smaller blade and an umbrella … for reasons, Mercurio, a sneaky rat who always has a plan and Sana, a big cuddly bear who wields a staff with magic powers.

Armello is a turn-based title that has elements of both role-playing and tabletop board games within it. Players must roll a dice and draw cards in order to progress their journey and perform actions. The game allows for up to four players to go head-to-head at any one time and each character has a specific attribute, whether they can attack from range, or they have casting abilities, or if they would use their wits than wills.

The board itself is built around the Royal Palace of Armello. At the center, you’ll see The King, dying from the rot, roaring out commands to his subjects. Sometimes he’ll send his guards out to fight heroes, placing bounties on their head, demanding taxes from the people, or placing territory borders on nearby villages. Game boards are all procedurally generated but will always be fair, making sure the right balance of things are in-tact on the board, such as defensive positions and fair spawn points.

Armello

Throughout Armello, you’ll find dungeons which you can raid to claim money or find hidden gems. There’ll also be traps set in unexpected locations to catch would-be adventurers off guard. Players will need to equip weapons, items with attributes and develop talents within a tier tree unique to each character in order to build up their abilities.

The game has over 100 different cards and each one does something different. Cards you pick up can have both positive and negative effects. You can recruit followers to your cause, set traps for unsuspecting players known as Perils, get better weapons, strong spells, even create alliances. What’s more, even when your turn has ended, you can still play cards on the board, or you can equip items to yourself while you’re waiting for your turn to come back around. Strategy is a core part of the Armello experience.

There are several ways for a hero to become King or Queen of Armello. Either you gain enough followers and skills to face the King head on in combat and seize the throne. A player can also collect Spirit Stones which randomly pop up the map during play. You can present four of them to the King in the hope of using their healing properties. You can also play the political route and become the King’s right hand, performing his mad commands, positioning yourself for the greatest promotion, or you can take on the taint of the Rot and corrupt the land to become the master of darkness. You can adapt your hero as you see fit and there’s no set way to play the game or to develop any one character.

Thane_Trailer

The game has a day and night cycle which impacts the gameplay, meaning certain creatures will only come out at a different time of day, certain cards will only work at night and the environment can be used to an advantage. If you park yourself in trees or mountains, then you can gain defensive advantages, and also conceal yourself from the enemy.

It all sounds great, but there are some stumbling blocks for the game. While the game has a Prologue with story elements that serves as a tutorial of how to play, there is no direct campaign. You effectively play the game out as a match, with the quests changing your experience along the way, narrating your direction. With such a compelling, engaging world here, more could be done to tell us about it, about the heroes, where The Rot came from and what will happen to the Kingdom if a certain clan takes control. What about the rest of Armello? What do they think of the power struggle? LOG mentioned on the Kickstarter that DLC was a possibility and that novellas were happening, so I look forward to seeing if they’ll go ahead with this and really bring us into this world. Playing the game, I started visualising the possibility of a full campaign where the player builds up to that final confrontation with The King. If you’ve ever played Hero Quest or Space Crusade, then you’ll know there are several missions you can play out before that final confrontation. It would have been great to see some of that here.

As it stands, however, you can either play against AI in stand-alone matches or go online and test your skills against the rest of the world. With matches going on upwards of an hour, it’ll certainly require a degree of concentration, yet it remains compelling and interesting as no match will be the same. I am concerned, however, that the base package doesn’t offer quite enough versatility in modes for long-term replayability. Also, the fact that local play didn’t make it in from the off is massively disappointing.

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The good news is, from an Expansive perspective, Armello has a ton of possibilities available to it, more than most games available today. Whether League of Geeks keep adding new characters, new story quests (perhaps a seperate campaign where you are now ruling the Kingdom and how you achieved that feat), new locations and maps, more cards and expanded talent trees. Maybe even cross-platform play or cross-saving. Armello feels like the bare bones of something brilliant and it’s a game that could be expanded upon and developed for years to come. Hell, I’d even like to play a physical version.

There’s absolutely nothing like this out for PS4 right now – the closest thing being Hand of Fate, but even that is completely different – and it’s wonderful to see advanced strategy titles making their way onto the platform. It’s a fresh online experience and I genuinely feel like it could be a big hit. Whether you’re heading into battle, burning cards to guarantee a specific action or you’re sitting back, letting others fight each other while you gather stones, Armello does suit a particular play style, making this a game for everyone. It can seem a little intimidating from the off with so much going on at once, but once you’re immersed in the experience, you’ll find everything comes together quite naturally.

Still, I can’t help but think Armello feels a little unfinished at times. Local multiplayer for a game like this should have been in from the start, especially on a generation where local multiplayer seems to have been all but neglected and forgotten about. Armello had a chance to be the exception and it’s a shame it hasn’t taken the opportunity to do that. A more elaborate campaign would have also benefited the product, given us more background on the clans and heroes and the world and made the struggle against the King even more interesting.

Still, as it’s our speciality to talk about how a game can progress and develop from its release, there is plenty for us to get excited about for future patch reviews, content updates, DLC and more.
If you want some real strategic spice on PS4 and a different kind of online gaming experience from your traditional runs on Destiny or COD, Armello is definitely the place to spend your money. League of Geeks clearly have huge plans for the game and we’ll be paying very close attention when they’re ready to share them.

Plus, cute animals. What more could you possibly want???

The Good Stuff

  • Beautiful art
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Fresh multiplayer take for consoles
  • Engaging, compelling action that really works and plays well
  • Endless expansive possibilities.

The Bad Stuff

  • Limited modes
  • No local multiplayer
  • Should have campaign with more exploration of narrative

Final Analysis

Happy-Face

Joy Award

After playing this, we had a smile on our faces. The experience was enjoyable, memorable and fulfilling. We’d definitely recommend

 

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,