Armello is already marked as one of Australia’s success stories when it comes to the thriving indie scene down under. Mixing turn-based tabletop gameplay with anthropomorphized animals, League of Geeks have shown a deft hand in creating quite the engaging experience, now available on Nintendo Switch (where all good indies wind up now).
If you’ve somehow missed this Aussie gem up until now, a quick lesson: Armello tasks you with aiding (or overthrowing) the king, who has been taken ill with a plague known as The Rot. The structure of the gameplay takes place on a top-down grid landscape, where you move from space to space, encountering foes and balancing various status effects.
Action points allow for you to move around the board. and each quest has different requirements around how to “win”. There’s a variety of characters with their own strengths and weaknesses – some suited better to combat and others to espionage – so juggling these depending on each scenario is important. Armello also features dynamic events that can really turn the tide of a mission, forcing you to adjust on the fly.
Combat is done via dice-roll, but there’s more to it than just luck. Each character build can be adjusted with new weapons and equipment dealt through cards, which you gain as you progress. While a tragic unlucky outcome can feel unfair, these don’t happen often, as usually you’re able to judge the probable outcomes from your tactical decisions. It means that each move is important but has a layer of uncertainty – much like tabletop games IRL – which gives Armello a distinct flavour that is at once risky but also accessible.
For me, the presentation of the game is what stands out straight away. It’s truly gorgeous, with some hand-drawn elements leading to a colourful board that’s crowded with detail. Animations are slick and the cel-shaded look of the character models makes for a game that is very pleasing to look at. The dialogue is well-written and the soundtrack perfectly matches the tone. It all runs pretty seamlessly on the Switch, too, apart from the odd slowdown in frame-rate when in handheld mode.
The downside is that the adventure feels slightly overwhelming at first. Lots of information is given to you early, and I found it tricky to wrestle with all of these mechanics at first. After I got used to what I was doing and understood the gameplay loop it was fine, but it definitely took some getting used to, and the text was a little tricky to read in handheld mode so I’d recommend playing on the big-screen while you learn the basics. There’s also no local multiplayer option so you’ll need to cut your teeth online against others, which may be intimidating.
Still, while the learning curve may be steep and the UI a little too busy for a handheld, the gorgeous art-style and strong identity crafted by the development team at League of Geeks still makes for an engaging experience that is far more complex than its “pretty” art-style makes it seem.
It’s worth noting that Armello on Switch also includes a large range of DLC that has been made available over the years, making it a complete package worth recommending, especially given how well it works on-the-go. I’m glad to have finally experienced it and think that the Switch version leaves you no excuse but to try it out for yourself. After all,