There seems to be this new trend among the indie scene with making digital board game-style RPGs. This includes games like the recently funded Kickstarter game For the King, Hex Heroes, and today’s review of Armello for the PlayStation 4 and PC. This was a successfully funded Kickstarter game developed by a studio called League of Geek. It was one of the first three games, alongside Zombie Vikings and Grow Home, that was voted to be free for September PlayStation Plus members. Unfortunately, Grow Home won, but I still ended up buying Armello because I loved the idea of the game. So, how is the game? Well, despite some flaws, I do think this is one of the more interesting RPGs/indie games to come out of this year.
The game is set in a world that reminds me of Redwall and The Secret of Nihm, if they were set in the Game of Thrones’ universe. Different clans set out to take down the evil corrupt king that is destroying the land. The game is not very story-oriented, but it does end up having a very interesting world. It just makes me wish that there was more focus on the story. I found the world charming and fun to be in. I mean, who doesn’t want to be in a world that looks like something Don Bluth would do?
Armello is a tactical-turn-based-RPG board game that really does place emphasis on more than one person playing. You choose from a roster of different characters (with new ones coming soon), and your main goal is to somehow take down the evil king and become the new ruler of the land. Each character has his or her own unique abilities, like being able to be stealthy during forest spots, or being able to hold more cards. The cards you carry can range in abilities, like wearable items, potions, ways to cause some havoc to your opponent, and so on. You will even be able to burn cards in order to help you out in certain spots. The main goal, like I have said, is to take down the king, but there are many ways to take him down. You could wait it out and finish quests, attack him directly, purify the corruption using magical stones, or become even more corrupt to beat him silly. If you do encounter other players or enemies, you will be flung into the battle screen where you will roll dice that will determine whether you will win, lose, or be in a stalemate. Alongside the main single-player mode, you have your multi-player mode, which is basically you finding other players to compete against.
Graphically, Armello is very pleasing to the eye. It has bright/lush colors, a fun cartoony art style, and downright gorgeous music. The music itself is probably one of the highlights of the overall game. This is partly due to one of the composers being Lisa Gerrard, who is mostly known for her work on the films like Gladiator, Whale Rider, and on the video game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s a good, beautiful package.
Unfortunately, this game has one major element that can ruin the entire game for you. Armello has a huge fetish/reliance on the random-number-generator, or as it’s simply known as, RNG. This means that you really can’t predict where your opponents will go, do, what cards you gain, what the layout of the map will be, and so on. The problem with this RNG is that the game leans too heavily on it. Most of the time, the game is offering you multiple ways to beat the game, but due to how random everything is, you really can’t find a strategy that will work for you in every round. Sure, you can go around and complete quests, but most of the time, quests are located not close-by, but all the way across the field. You could find those glowing stones to purify the king, but they appear randomly, and usually take too long. Really, all you want to do is to build up your prestige and wait it out until the king dies. You just never seem to get the right cards or luck to get anywhere that the AI or other really lucky players will get instead of you. It’s not all that fair. Plus, why do I have to compete with other clans? I thought these clans were brought together in peace. I feel like this should have been some kind of cooperative-party-tactical-RPG where you play with friends to take down the corrupt kingdom.
I also find it funny that this game that is meant to be played with multiple friends is only playable through local online multi-player. This would make such a good party game, but I guess the party will have to take place over four different houses. Another problem I have, and many others have had, is the fact that it takes such a long time to get through one turn. This is especially true if you are playing by yourself and the opponents move at a somewhat sluggish pace.
As of right now, I do like this game, and I hope they fix it up more in the future. They need to rebalance the RNG to make it not such a chore to deal with, speed up the gameplay, make getting rid of cards easier with some kind of system, and add in local offline multi-player. This easily could have been one of the best hidden RPGs of the year, but is again bogged down by the RNG and a few tedious design choices. I don’t know if I could fully recommend it at the current price point at $20, but if you love games like this, then pick it up. I know a lot of people have enjoyed this game, and I am in that same pool of people. I just think it could have been better.
This game gets a 7 out of 10