Developers have found various ways to reward gamers over the years: access to invaluable gear, bonus levels, and the satisfaction of victory are just a few forms of rewards that can be found in games. Armello combines many popular forms of satisfaction with an intricate gameplay design and stylish animations. It’s a pleasant surprise of a video game that only features a few hiccups.
Armello is a digital recreation of a traditional tabletop roleplaying fantasy game and was originally released via Steam’s early access in January earlier this year. The game features several clans: the Bear, Wolf, Rat, and Rabbit clans. Players can choose between one of eight characters in a four player game. The story revolves around the Rot, which has invaded the world where our anthropomorphic animal friends reside. The Rot has infected the King, and players are tasked with taking control of the King and kingdom. Absent of any proper campaign mode, Armello’s story and world are shared with the player through cleverly placed quests and short stories that can be seen throughout a single game.
The world is very similar to that of Redwall, with cute animations and dialogue that reflects the charm of the game. The character designs are very good as well, as each character you can control has his or her own distinct appearance. No two members of the same clan look alike, as each character represents his or her clan’s characteristics through their garb. Thane of the Wolf clan is depicted as wearing light chain mail and armor, as he prepares for combat, signifying the warrior culture of the Wolf Clan. Amber of the Rabbit Clan symbolizes the sophisticated, yet adventurous, nature of her clan, with her umbrella in one hand and her sword resting on her opposite hilt. Such diversity in character models adds to the colorful world of the game.
While the cute and colorful character depictions may indicate a game that is light on gameplay that is not the case with Armello. Based off of tabletop roleplaying adventures, players are tasked with taking control of the kingdom as the King, who is infected with a dark substance called Rot, by any means necessary. You’ll guide your characters over various terrains and towns, which will offer buffs and debuffs depending on the circumstances, in your attempt to win the crown. Random rolls of the dice depend on how you’ll fare in battle and players will come to rely on the proper use of their equipped cards if they want to win.
This game isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the time and patience to tinker around with the system and carefully read and reread every instruction, then this game isn’t for you. It helps that the prologue is great, setting up the story and clearly explaining how to play the game. What is here is a game that is rich with detail and rewards that are fairly obtained. You’re never beating the system, but instead it requires careful planning and knowledge of the rules to win. From mastering the various ways to lay traps to winning battle after battle, I was amazed at how many strategies were available to myself, a newcomer to tabletop roleplaying adventures.
However, such content and deep gameplay systems also have some setbacks. The king has nine hearts, but loses one heart at the end of each day as the game progresses. Now, the game has a day and night cycle. One full day passes when players have taken part in both one turn at night and one turn during the day. This means games can last up to 18 turns, which typically take five minutes each. The king can also regain health and players can be prevented from winning the game very easily, meaning game sessions can easily last one hour, an hour and a half. Once again, I welcome the length of time each individual game of Armello takes, as it makes up for the lack of a campaign mode. This feature may alienate other players, as not everyone wants to sit down and take part in such long play sessions.
There are also minor annoyances, as I had trouble reading the text in some instances. The small text did affect how often I read the additional story information, but I was still able to read the powers each card granted my character. I also felt that the Banes, Rot infused enemies that appear over the course of a game, played too big a factor in the game. Oftentimes, I found them much harder to slay than the knights, as they further populated the playing field. Moving around the game map was a lot harder to get to quests when multiple Banes were in play, but completing quests or a desired objective felt much more satisfying as I carefully weaved out and around of Banes and other player characters to complete my current objective.
Armello is a deep game that offers dozens of hours of gameplay in a unique tabletop board game fantasy setting. While a single game of Armello is a significant time commitment, it also is a rewarding and diverse experience.
+ Deep, rewarding, but fair gameplay
+ Colorful world and character designs
– Small, technical issues
– Gameplay sessions are long
– Can be too complicated for some
Armello is a fun take on tabletop fantasy games that offers deep, rewarding gameplay and replayability that is warranted.
Liam Crossey is the Executive Editor of Features for The Game Bolt who is becoming increasingly obsessed with the impending zombie apocalypse. Follow him on Twitter for updates on video games, books, movies, tv, and a heck of a ton of retweets.