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Armello Review: Game of Throne

/ Sep 22nd, 2015 No Comments

Armello

Performing a coup d’etat sounds like a simple task. It’s just crafting a plan, executing it without anything going wrong, and disposing a standing leader. Just child’s play, right?

Armello is a game about power struggles. Whether playing with friends, strangers or computers, the fight to rule Armello is heated, with every player using cunning and strategy to achieve victory. The game offers a great amount of depth to gameplay with exciting and addictive multiplayer.

A Kingdom Under Madness

The kingdom of Armello enjoyed peace for a time with all the clans united under the rule of the King. But it didn’t last. The peace started to break down when the King began acting bizarre. All of the King’s decrees were getting increasingly erratic, prompting the clans to investigate why. It turns out the King had been infected with rot, and the corruption began driving him mad.
 

Armello

Never forget you don’t want to run afoul of the King.

It is now up to members of the wolf, bear, rabbit and rat clans to make things right in Armello. Each clan has its own idea of how to restore peace. Most of these methods involve deposing the Mad King through direct conflict. Regardless of the means, the end is the same; these four clans are all vying to be the new ruler of Armello.

The conceit of Armello is very straightforward; four different heroes are all actively trying to become king or queen. What is compelling about this setup is the four ways to accomplish this goal all tell a subtle narrative. How you earn victory could tell a story of currying political favor to get the kingdom on your side or preserve the status quo.
 

Armello

It is up to four heroes to restore balance to Armello by defeating the Mad King.

No hero is restricted to any specific method of defeating the King. This allows for creativity when playing, and means narratives can shift depending on circumstances. This means a hero can try to go a peaceful route by collecting spirit stones, but change gears if infected by rot. Instead of going for peace, they decide to become more corrupted than the King. The simple plot allows for a good deal of narrative depth through gameplay.

Flexible Coups

Armello is a game based around revolution because each player has aims of becoming the new king or queen of the kingdom. To accomplish this, one of the four heroes needs to figure out a way to defeat the Mad King and penetrate the fiercely guarded castle where he resides. Four different heroes, each with the aspiration to become the new ruler, use whatever means necessary to defeat each other and the Mad King. To facilitate this, there are four methods to victory.

Players can choose four routes to winning the game: kingslayer, prestige, spirit stones and rot. Kingslayer involves defeating the king in direct combat and requires players to invest heavily in increasing their warrior prowess. Prestige is a political game where a player completes quests, bests other heroes and vanquishes banes. Collecting spirit stones is a peaceful way to victory since it cleanses the King of his corruption.

Rot is a dangerous method because it involves finding ways to increase your rot level, which can be done by using specific spell, item and trickery cards, or being defeated by banes. However, increasing your rot high enough will gain you a good deal of dice in battle (rot battles involve the weaker rot combatant’s rot level being added as available dice).

Each method offers its own advantages and disadvantages. A spirit stone victory is unpredictable and requires a heavy time investment. Prestige forces a much more careful play style, where players try to maintain the Prestige Leader title. Kingslayer can bring players afoul of the king, making them targets. Rot victory makes it impossible to enter stone circles and every dawn players will take damage.

While any method is viable to win and open to any hero, certain routes to victory can shut off others once you get too deep. However, a beauty of the game is the ability to stack victory methods and possibly win in multiple ways or switch gear early on in the game. Say you’re trying to Prestige victory, but you’ve increased your fighting prowess quite high then you can try and take on the King in singular combat if the opportunity presents itself.
 

Armello

The hero that curries the most prestige becomes the Prestige Leader allowing them to issue decrees affecting the entire kingdom.

Aiding in a hero’s quest to become king or queen are item, spell and trickery cards. These cards are drawn at the beginning of each turn, and a certain number of cards from each category can be drawn. Item cards activate with gold and generally increase battle readiness by granting players equipment that makes them deadlier in combat, or they can heal or damage enemies. Spells use magic and often grant buffs or can curse other players or tiles. While trickery cards are generally traps using gold or play off political power.

Certain heroes are better equipped to employ specific cards. For instance, Amber’s ability to gather gold from settlements and dungeons make her uniquely poised to use item cards. Brun’s special ability increases his fight ability with every spell he casts in a turn. Knowing when and what cards to play is an important part of the game. A match can be made by a player using a spell card right before another hero is about to enter the castle and defeat the King. Playing specific cards at key times can turn the tides of victory in your favor.

Getting into an online match usually is pretty quick. Playing with another player in your party results in some issues gathering additional players online, but adding AI usually fixes any long wait times. While playing with four human players is always preferred, if you’re looking for a faster game, playing with a friend and two AI opponents is a better option. A full online match is a rather large time investment because contending with four different players plotting and scheming toward victory takes time. However, if you have time set aside there is nothing more exhilarating and dynamic than playing a game of Armello against three others.

Overall

Armello combines the instant gratification of a video game with the depth and cunning of a board game. Unlike an actual board game, players can immediately start playing Armello without having to spend six hours reading an instruction manual. It is easy to lose hours in a day trying to best other competitors in an attempt to rule Armello.

Armello was reviewed on PS4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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ARMELLO REVIEW: GAME OF THRONE

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall87%

GAMEPLAY9

Armello is easy to pick up, but difficult to master. The level of depth the gameplay offers makes playing games online heated and exciting.

GRAPHICS8.5

The game looks gorgeous with a great design and style for the anthropomorphic animals of Armello.

SOUND8.5

The soundtrack is fantastic making the medieval fantasy setting come alive.

STORY9

While the conceit of the story is somewhat basic, the opportunities for player-created stories through gameplay can be unique and nuanced.