Andrew Barker
E3 2015: Armello Impressions
Possibly the best video-board game I've seen.
06.20.15 - 12:15 AM

We've seen video game versions of board games before, but none have combined the power of both to create an entirely new experience. Armello brings together a turn-based board game with the ability to act in real-time on other players' turns. The game features a fairy-tale theme of bright colours, high mountains, dense forests and animal characters. Or, as one of the developers described it, "Kung Fu Panda crossed with Game of Thrones... without the sex." As I was walked through the game, it was clear that was an accurate description. Underneath the whimsy was a complex, detailed and hardcore game experience.

The game board is viewed from a top-down angle on a grid similar to 4X strategy games like Civilization. You take on the role of a particular animal character and can also choose initial starting perks, some of which are unique to each character. The ultimate goal of the game is to take control of the castle in the centre of the randomly-generated board. The current king who resides there is heartless, and there are a number of ways to dethrone him and claim victory: you can collect spirit stones and purify the land, take the castle by force, or wait for the king to die of natural causes and seize power by political manoeuvring.

It's possible to forge alliances with other players, though Armello is ultimately a competitive game. There's online but no local play, though there's a good reason for the omission: when you end your turn, you can continue to act. This can include using cards to lay traps, build up your defences, or simply examine what other players are up to. You can take advantage of your powers while the opponent is focusing on their own turn and may not even notice you laying a trap. It's a fun system that encourages quick and creative thinking.

The visuals are beautiful, and the game is colourful and fantastical in its aesthetics. While there are duplicates of some basic cards, most are unique and feature stunning artwork and even the artist's signature. Armello is definitely a game to look forward to and will be available on PlayStation 4 later this year. It's also available now on Steam as an Early Access title.