The King of Armello ruled over his land peacefully for years. Suddenly, a poisonous energy called Rot began to infect him, numbering his days. As he slowly enters the realm of death, he became more insane, making ridiculous decrees and locking himself in his tower. With the fate of Armello at stake and the throne ripe for the taking, champions from the four different clans started making their moves against the king.
This is the premise of Armello, a strategy RPG that has just made its way to the Switch. With heavy influences from tabletop RPGs but on a local and online gaming format, is this game worthy of a spot in your library?
Right away, Armello is clearly a different kind of game. Despite presenting itself as a grand adventure at times, this is a tabletop RPG through and through. The goal is to become the king of Armello. Each person picks a character with unique stats, strengths, and weaknesses, and has to devise a strategy to acquire the throne.
As someone familiar with tabletop strategy games, there’s a certain anxiety that builds through each play session with Armello. This is because there are four different ways to win the game: storming the king’s castle, collecting four Spirit Stones, having the highest prestige, and having a higher level of Rot. Each of these four strategies requires a different play style. What makes it challenging is carefully selecting each move so that you can achieve your goal while impeding your opponents. Though, in my experience, some ways of winning are easier than others.
The strategy comes when you have limited resources, and you have to decide whether to give yourself a new weapon for better performance in battle, or place a trap to hinder someone else’s progress. It’s all about making decisions, and it can get quite stressful. One wrong move, and you might just get killed. Make no mistake, though, it’s a well-constructed tabletop game. It has many moving parts, but the game keeps track of it all automatically.
Armello doesn’t hold back on its inspiration from games like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons either. Your character always has a quest that they can go accomplish with an accompanying short narrative with it. They can collect allies, equipment, spells, and traps along the way to make themselves stronger in the face of danger. However, it’s all given a spark of immersion by having the setting generated before your very eyes. In that sense, Armello makes excellent use of being a video game.
There was some noticeable stuttering in the Switch version, though. When there were a lot of things happening on the board, the frame rate would take a hit, and that never really went away. It’s something that could likely be resolved with a patch, I’m sure.
More Reason to Play
One aspect of Armello that surprised me is that it rewards you for playing the game. As you play games, you unlock items that can be selected at the start of each match for a stat boost in an area of your choice. The more you play, the more of these items you unlock. Furthermore, with a roster of seven characters available at the start, players are encouraged to experiment and try different strategies.
If you don’t have any friends to enjoy Armello with, the game also sports an online mode. In my tests, it worked well. Of course, games can go on quite long as you wait for other players to make decisions. However, playing with real people is the best way to play the game, even if you need to go online to do that.
While there are options for changing your characters, equipment, and methods of playing the game, Armello only has two boards to choose from with the base version: each based on summer and winter (and they’re not all that different). It’s still a fair value at $19.99, especially if you’re into tabletop games. However, if you want tons of extra characters, quests, and two more maps, then you can get the complete version for just $20 more. That’s an upgrade I’d only recommend if you get really into the game, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t get that much mileage out of it.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Armello was provided by Stride PR.