A Turn Based Strategy Game Relying Too Heavily On Luck
Originally released in 2015, Armello’s Special Edition is largely the same game (which we’ll review below) but does come with the soundtrack included as part of this package. It also doesn’t include any of the extra downloadable content released after its initial launch is not included in this edition which is a little disappointing and worth bearing in mind when looking to pick this one up.
For those who have never played Armello, this is a turn based strategy game that combines role-playing elements with a card based system to varying degrees of success. On the one hand, Armello is aesthetically beautiful and the various character animations and cards are excellent. Those new to turn based strategy games may well be out of their depth with this one and the over-reliance on cards swing this one a little too heavily toward luck rather than skill making Armello quite the mixed experience when playing.
The various cards allow for a good dose of strategic tactics
After a brief prologue introducing the basic mechanics of the game, Armello opens up and is played as a series of individual battles that see you try to outsmart 3 other characters (playable or computer controlled) to take the crown to rule over the kingdom of Armello before the King dies after a set number of moves. There are a variety of ways to do this to keep gameplay interesting and this adds an extra dimension of strategy to the game.
A “Spirit Stone victory” involves collecting 4 stones dotted around the Kingdom to banish the King and cleanse the kingdom, a “Prestige victory” comes down to how highly ranked you are in the Kingdom by collecting gold and increasing your fame with the King, a “kingdom victory” is a straight forward task of slaying the King and usurping the throne and finally a “rot victory” involves poisoning yourself to a higher level than the King and defeating him in battle. This variety really helps give Armello some much-needed variety and examining which approach to take in any given battle is part of the strategy adopted with this game and partly what makes this strategy game so addictive when you start getting into the flow of battle and how the game works properly.
Armello does rely a little too heavily on its card based luck system
Each battle plays out like a traditional board game with each player given a specific starting point on a hexagonal board with the King and his guardsmen usually located in the centre of the map. At the beginning of each turn you can choose up to three cards to play – one item, one spell or one trickery – to try to swing the tide of battle in your favour through enhancing your own ability in battle or debilitating your opponent. Furthermore, you’re given 3 moves each turn where you can navigate across the board through different terrain that either works against you or for you depending on where you land. There’s also the option to occupy territories in the form of villages and plunder for treasure in nearby caves with the option to gain more gold or infamy in the kingdom. When confronting enemies or undertaking quests in the Kingdom, a lot of this is decided through the roll of a dice which emphasises the reliance on luck through a lot of this. You can of course swing luck in your favour through burning cards which grant a specific symbol on dice but there’s a little too much luck involved here to make this a sound strategy.
The various animations including spells are really nicely rendered
On paper, this all sounds very enthralling and exciting and there’s no denying that many battles do have an element of tension to them, especially as you and the other characters grow closer to your objective. Unfortunately, the slow-paced gameplay and inability to fast forward through opposition moves make this more of a slog to play through than it should. Armello certainly isn’t the sort of game you can pick up and play quickly either. To really understand the nuances of Armello, a considerable amount of time is needed to understand the flow of battles, trying out the various characters to see which fit with your play style and a lot of trial of error to discover ways that work for you. The more time you spend playing the game, the more understanding you have of how all the mechanics work together and when you gain this knowledge, Armello is a surprisingly addictive game. All of this would be fine if the battles played out at a decent pace but the painfully slow gameplay, even with the option to speed up enemy moves, makes for a really tiring experience.
The game plays out on a hexagonal board
Armello is ultimately a bit of a conundrum. The various gameplay systems are deep enough to please hardcore fans of the genre and the beautiful graphics and animations make Armello a slick, good-looking strategy game. Add on top of that the board game structure and dice rolls, there’s no denying that Armello feels like a living, breathing strategy board game and could easily have been one of 2018’s biggest surprises. Unfortunately, Armello plays out painfully slow, especially when you have to sit and watch an enemy quest in various unoccupied areas that has no bearing on the outcome of each game. There’s also an over-reliance on luck with cards and dice too that might put some people off and the difficult to master mechanics make this a really unforgiving game for newcomers. There is fun to be had here but you really have to be incredibly patient with this one and the various issues hindering the bulk of the game may well turn some away from what’s otherwise a pretty impressive turn based strategy game.
Verdict - 6.5/10