I played Armello this morning at PAX Prime. It’s a turn-based fantasy tactical role-playing game from Australian developer League of Geeks. I was immediately smitten with the characters, all of whom are anthromorphic animals. The setting, though, was pure fantasy—the king (a lion, of course) has gone bad, and you must fight to both depose him and get the best deal out of it for you and your people. It’s actually difficult not to describe it without pulling out “Game of Thrones” or “Redwall,” and I’m sure I’m not the first to do so.
My character was the rabbit—a magical female character wielding a yellow umbrella—but there was also a dashing rat, a stoic wolf, and an imposing-but-motherly bear. (I’m mostly making up those descriptors up based on what they looked like, but you get the idea.) I was excited to see that both the bear and the bunny were female characters, making the cast nicely even in terms of gender.
The gameplay is turn-based, with each of the four characters playable by either the computer or a friend in multiplayer. You get a pretty zoomed-out view of the realm, and each turn allows you to move a few spaces on a hexagonal grid. Some hexagons have towns that you can claim, while others have the king’s evil guards or other random obstacles. Fights are determined by a literal dice roll, along with cards you can equip that represent various magical objects, weapons, or armor. It definitely evoked some nostalgia for my early gaming days with Heroes Chronicles, as well as tabletop gaming (the dice and cards) though Armello is very different in terms of story from those old adventure games.
Basically you always approach the game with the same goal in mind—get rid of the king and come out on top. There are lots of ways of doing that, though. In some games, he might simply die of illness, and it becomes a fight between the four contenders to the throne to see who wins out in the end.
While I enjoyed my play-through (the graphics, music, and characters are great, and the gameplay entertaining) I think I would’ve liked it even better as a younger person. Armello is rated PEGI 12+, which is roughly equivalent to the ESRB’s T for Teen rating. In my demo I didn’t encounter anything particularly offensive or adult; there’s little (if any) blood, at the very least, due to the tabletop-like nature of the fighting. It definitely seemed like the kind of game I would’ve poured hours into an 8- to 12-year-old, and I can see my siblings and me taking those characters and ideas into the real world with imaginary play.
Armello is playable now in early access on Steam. It’s currently available on PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, Android, and Windows Tablets. (I highly suggest the tablet versions—my immediate reaction to the game was that it would be great on mobile.) It’s also coming to PlayStation 4, and is actually going to be part of PlayStation Now’s new Vote to Play promotion, so PSN users can log in and vote for it to become the next month’s PlayStation Plus title.