By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on May 15, 2015
Well, let's see; a chimera here and a dragon there... and don't forget to feed the beholder... oh hi, I didn't see you there. Welcome to my humble but awesome home! And what's this? You've brought me a gift. Thank you very much... and now SCRAM or you will be next meal of my pet Cerberus. What's up with people just barging into a man's house unannounced and expect hospitality? Oh well, at least I have a gift to show for it. Hmmm... Armello? Early access?! I think I'll just give it a try and see if I can find anything to rage on about.
A King, plagued by a curse; strange monsters ravaging the land. Four clans send one hero to save the land and, in doing so, become the successor of the old king. Who will it be and how will this person bring peace to the kingdom once more? This, my friends, is the story as well as the goal of a brand new game: Armello. And trust me when I say this one's a keeper! I mean, who wouldn't want to be king or at least be the savior of one?!
Let's have a look at the gameplay which, incidentally, is right up my alley! The game is built like a hex grid board. You can move your clan's hero across this board, according to his speed. At your disposal are: magic cards, items and gear that can help you, money with which you can buy new stuff or curse the other clans' heroes. Whenever you get into a battle you roll dice (HUUUUUUUGE PLUS in my book) and then duke it out. As you play, you will from time to time encounter obstacles or dungeons. When this happens, you roll the dice to see if you successfully traverse the obstacle in question or if you fumble and fall flat on your face, wrecking your nose as well as your pride. Armello feels and plays like a board game. This is just what the developers were going for and trust me when I say they did an outstanding job!
But... I wouldn't be me if I didn't find something to complain about. In Armello, it's the victory conditions. There are three ways to win this game: heal the king of the curse by collecting four spirit stones, kill the king in battle either with lower or higher rot, this makes a small difference in the achievements but he will still be dead either way, OR just waiting it out till the old king finally decides to croak, leaving his throne unguarded. If, at this point, you have the highest influence (gained by killing other players, completing quest, etc), you automatically win.
Now, you may think: "what's wrong with that?" Well... basically nothing. It's just not quite balanced, in my opinion. The first two paths to victory (healing the king or killing him in battle) are much harder than the third. Why? Sit back and I'll explain... What makes them more difficult is the fact that both these paths require you to enter the castle, which features a really difficult challenge. If you fail this challenge, you get kicked out and, in the process, take an amount of damage. During your next turn, you can try again. But this gets harder and harder, because of the additional challenge... Oh cruel fate, what heinous trick hast thou played upon me...?!
But let's move past this minor annoyance of mine. Armello looks, sounds and plays great! Awesome art, nice music, a decent control scheme and cool heroes. Furthermore, I can't wait to see what the developers will add to the game next. A little birdie told me that more heroes are already planned and I'm secretly hoping for more maps and new cards, but that might just be me. I already love this game and now I have to have more; more heroes, more challenges, more everything... I just can't wait!
Armello is basically a digital board game and really well executed; it looks, feels and plays great. The only minor annoyance at this time is the repetitiveness due to the lack of content and the slight imbalance of the victory conditions. But since Armello is still in its early access stage, I wouldn't worry too much about these two minor issues. There's still a lot of time to tweak everything to perfection. But for now, this Dungeon Master has really high hopes for this game.
League of Geeks