Sunday, 14 October 2018 12:21

REVIEW: Armello (Nintendo Switch)

Written by RiotArms
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As I punch in the code to redeem Armello on the Nintendo eShop, I paused and thought what I was getting myself into. As a long fan of tabletop games and the fantasy genre I couldn’t help but set some kind of bar when it came to games like this. Upon first glance the game drew me in with their unique art style and proposed gameplay.

Armello was initially released in 2015 on Steam and GoG via an extremely successful kickstart campaign; promising a unique style of play with tabletops, cards and dice. Brought into this world by the cool cats at League of Geeks, and true-blue Aussie Indie (say that 3 times fast) located in the culture capital of Australia Melbourne, Armello is their exciting debut into the gaming world.

When discovering that this game was assisted by Screen Australia; an Australian government initiative to give grants to developers to take a slice of the billion-dollar industry that is gaming, I was ecstatic.

Let me set the mood: you are in Ye Old Medieval times, the mood is dark with magic filling the air. Living in the kingdoms are clans ruled under a mad king. As all fairy tales go, there is turmoil and unrest in the kingdom as the corrupted king is making rash and unruly decisions that affect the citizens of Armello. It is up to you to restore the throne, whether it is by killing the king, cleansing the king or assuming it via corruption. Oh, did I mention that the factions are made of a mixture of anthropomorphic animals? Talking ANIMALS PEOPLE! It got me hooked so let’s look at the world that is Armello.

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The King’s a jerk!

Upon starting the single player, you are regaled with a visual show of the characters and the king. It’s a sombre mood drawing you in as the player, setting the stage for what is Armello. There are multiple warnings to the player, informing them that this game isn’t a dive in and get it done game, but a marriage of tactics, complex gameplay and instruction that needs to be respected. When you start the single player, you are met with 4 prologues that you must finish prior diving into the main game.

These prologues serve 3 purposes; showcasing the clans that are playable within the game, teaching the player the ins and outs of Armello and lastly the lore that binds the game.

Let me tell you this; vie played some games with steep earning curves but this game takes the cake. There are a multitude of things to worry about such as movements, stats and items to name a few. The combination of the above you have will determine how close to victory you will be or defeat.

The first 2 prologue campaigns teach you how to move, fight and deploy cards. They follow Thane of the wolf clan and Mercurio of the rat clan. As I get a feel of the game, I can’t help but think that I’m at the tip of the iceberg. You get taught the basics of combat and making simple decisions such as moving costs in AP (AP being action points). You get a certain amount of AP to use for movement or actions such as combat. The combat system was interesting and in-depth. You roll dice; the number depending of certain attributes such as items, points in certain slots and environmental conditions. Your offensive is depicted by swords, defence shields, Sun grants additional offence in daylight and moon night. There are also rot which causes misses and lastly the wyld-tree which is like a critical hit. I would like to note that this drew me in the most, trusting all might RNGesus in granting you a favourable roll. The combat sequences are ‘cute’ pictures moving and swiping with their weaponry. It’s nothing flash but does have a picture book feel to it which has its own appear.

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The prologues conclude once the mission is completed leading you onto the next character in the 2nd prologue with Mercurio you are introduced to playing cards and their effect. As a master of stealth and subterfuge; this rogue character will guide you on how to distract and manipulate the game to your advantage. As combat is not his strength; thus, mission imparts tact and tactics suited to those who don’t like front on combat.

The 3rd and 4th prologues introduce you to even more facets of the game. This includes spellcasting and restoration. You are also exposed to the rot; an evil presence that has permeated throughout Armello, corrupting her citizens. My mind was blown when they added another level of depth only akin to RPGs. Each character has an affinity that aids or impairs them. Thane the warrior has Strength whilst Mercurio has Wit to act as multipliers to their gameplay. As mentioned before you are also introduced to the ways of winning; Defeat the king, cleanse the king, be his political aid or absorb the king through corruption.

The prologue was a quick way to teach you the basics; but the battle has just begun.

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Its war!

So were all prepped and ready to take the throne! Armed with knowledge and a repository of swear words that would impress even the burliest of pirate; I set forth and setup my first match. The hero selection has increased to 8 with promises to add more. Each character has a hero move or special ability. The character I choose which was the huntress attacks first with +1 damage. Further from that screen you are required to select amulets and rings to assist you in your adventures. Most of these are unlocked and require gameplay to acquire them. These items can have advantageous effects such as Gain +2 Magic from any battle to +1 wit always. This addition was a nice to have as it makes the player work for rewards which always improves playability.

After smashing out the character select were off. The gameplay is exactly the same as the prologues except the prompts. The quests are vaster, and the consequences are less forgiving. I know what you’re thinking; I had to wait for the AI to complete the turn! Fret not noble person, a quick hold of the R button speeds through their turn. This is good and bad in the sense that it is always better to look at the enemy’s intent, so you can plan however I’m an impatient person so skippididodah it is!

You really get the appreciate the character make up and tactics that you need to employ to win. Its not just about collecting and killing, it’s how you are going to achieve it. This is only possible through watching your opponent’s gameplay and their tactics.
Shortly into the game you are introduced to Banes, corrupted fiends borne out of dungeons with the sole purpose of spreading their taint. Negative multipliers can be brought forward from the corrupt king to bolster these Banes up to near impossible levels to kill, one of many random things that this game can launch at you.

Like the Blue shell in Mario Kart; certain cards will turn things upside down. You could lose all your prestige; points needed to gain favour from the king and start all over again. This means if you didn’t pursue a secondary way of acquiring the throne then you are bust. Cutthroat and accountable for your actions. What a game!

With a few battles and games out of the way with a couple of them resulting in wins, I’m happy with the game and ready to BREAK IT DOWN!

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The kingdom in a nutshell

The music was melodically hypnotic; with its chords setting the tone for exploration, combat and conflict. With the scores composed by award winning people such as Lisa Gerrard and Michael Allen, you can be assured that your ears will lap up the story told by musical notes. SFX were on point with small voice overs and character nuisances that tie the player to the character they are commanding.

Graphics were unique and to the stylings of a lost picture book found from the old times. The art style was what drew me into the game in the first place, with its simple but detailed strokes down to the animation of the characters. It was a simple and perfect marriage of story telling art and detailed sprite style. You get a deeper connection with your characters looking at how they are drawn and how they articulate in movement or battle. I must make a comment on the main screen. I sat there for a good 10 minutes admiring the old-style mural depicting the lion king in his former glory. Small things do make a huge impact. A+!

Gameplay was something else. I wouldn’t call it a negative, but the learning curb is steep. The multiple foundation skills and level of elements a player must keep in mind needs to be respected. I felt the prologue was enough to get the player started however it did limit a few things that were present in the main game such as Banes and the ability that the King can perform.

The GUI (new addition to breakdowns) was intuitive and to the point however some areas felt unpolished. As this was a port I assume some things didn’t go to plan. Example would be the Game Guide not being able to scroll all the way down to the cut scenes that flicker the main menu at points. Small things to worry about in the grand scheme of things.


Riots Remarks

Games like this push the boundary for new games. The inception of cards, table tops and die makes me feel like I’m in some solo D&D world, playing to my geekiness. The adorable nature of the characters and the way they are drawn juxtaposed against the doom and gloom of the kingdom setting makes for a great story.

I was pleased and satisfied with the way this game was executed. Get it; you won’t regretti spaghetti.


Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Developer: League of Geeks
  • Genre: Multiplayer, Indie