Animal Kingdom

Armello is a game of strategy, cautious backstabbing and clever manoeuvring. One turn can completely change the lay of the field, not to mention the numerous traps and effects outside of your control. It’s board game action at its best, meshed with gorgeous art and music – above any shortcomings Armello is really a delight to play and watch.

Enter a world of Miyazaki-esque animal kingdoms, once united under the rule of a lion king. After being afflicted by the plague like ‘rot’ causing him to lose his mind, the creatures of the realm step up to be the one to sit atop the throne of Armello. It’s all very Game of Thrones with stunning animal characters – balancing diplomacy with deceit and combat to ensure your longevity.armello1It’s a simple premise but one that allows for a lot of turn-to-turn storytelling to occur. One of my favourite aspects of Armello comes in the quest log, added to when you complete assigned missions in game. Some missions have story effecting outcomes too, all which wrap up in a nice little log. It has a very boardgame feel to it, a strong point of its design, and developers League of Geeks have managed to use the best of tabletop games to enhance the experience of Armello.

Before entering a game you get to choose a character, representative of an in game faction. These factions share the traits of the animal species represented, with a spymaster rat, a hulking bear warrior and an elegant & diplomatic rabbit. All eight playable characters have quirks and abilities that make them feel unique, and once you start adding and unlocking signet rings and amulets to fill the customisation spots the possibilities for each role unfold exponentially.

The idea of easy to learn, hard to master is a concept that quite obviously comes into the way Armello plays. You can jump in after the tutorial and succeed in the world, but the game rewards those who invest the time in specific characters with unlocks that allow more advanced strategies. For these reasons it has quite a wide appeal; you could easily play Armello with a child or let them play it themselves, likely to be enjoyed regardless of age. It’s serious without anything too dark or mature, finding a fantastic balance of fantasy and style.Armello02Starting a new game in Armello procedurally generates the landscape of the map. While the same basic size and key elements remain, the placement of towns as well as natural features like mountains and forests makes certain you’re not playing the same thing over and over. A dynamic quest system also helps this along, leading to the original storytelling I mentioned earlier.

“developers League of Geeks have managed to use the best of tabletop games to enhance the experience of Armello.”

The game plays out turn by turn, with a day and night cycle. You move once in the day and once at night, before the king loses one point of health every morning. He’s essentially a timer ticking down – the game ends when he dies or is defeated, when the champion or top ranking player takes out the top spot. Managing your cards (traps, spells and items to equip) becomes as important as managing your attributes, with the quests you choose to complete helping to buff your character toward their goal. Being able to play a card that buffs your health before a fight can mean all the difference between winning or a major setback, but it all feels fairly balanced between the combatants.Armello08Armello’s battles are one of the most table top inspired aspects of the game. The amount of die you have can be buffed or damaged by cards played as well as items equipped, something to always keep in mind before attacking. It’s a nice system that has a real feeling of chance to it – a bad roll from you or your foe can end even the most prepared warriors run.

My only issue with single player is that some of the enemy turn cycles can be agonisingly long. After you’ve had your turn all other AI players, plus the kings guard and shadowy banes must move, and when you’re not chatting to friends or strategising the best way to beat them it can get quite boring. Luckily, this is why multiplayer is easily one of the best aspects of the title.

Playing with friends throughout the Early Access life of Armello was a lot of fun – even more so when chatting during the long turns. Even if silent, looking at what each player is doing and figuring out what they’re up to is a lot more important with real humans than the AI, making the game quite engaging. Be it tense battles or last minute rushes for that top spot, like any board game Armello is at its best when you’re playing with people you know. It’s a real blast that can really engage people in competitive fun!

Armello01

Overall

All in all Armello is a joy to play. It takes the best of tabletop games and mixes them with a gorgeous artstyle and epic score. It’s great fun alone and even more so with a few friends that’s delivered a lot from it’s Kickstarter and Early Access development. Armello is an example of how good an indie game can be, definitely worthy of your time and maybe even a prized spot amongst your favourite digital board games.

Developer: League of Geeks
Platform: PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Armello Review
Gorgeous character design & soundtrackMultiplayer is fantasticVariety of characters to customise and masterCards mix up gameplay nicely
Can get a little repetitiveOverly long AI turns in single player
90%Overall Score