Feature Armello Hands On at E3 2015

Strategy meets role-play for hours of non-stop fun.

Liana Kerzner

Published

By Liana Kerzner @redlianak

I had no idea what Armello was when I was asked to have a look at it at E3 2015, so I Googled it. One group of medievalist fantasy anthropomorphized animals later and I said yes. Don't judge. Believe it or not, the devs didn't know about the furry community going in, but they've apparently been embraced during its time on Steam, and they praised their fur fans for their feedback and support.

Armello is, of course, more than furries. It's a strategy game with RPG elements developed for the PC and coming to the PS4. The art direction is in the artistic spirit of Disney's animated Robin Hood and Mouse Guard. But Armello is more than an art style. It's a deep, fast-paced strategy experience with a lot of character.

Using a concept called "fuzzy turns" -- again, nothing to do with furries, and even if it did have something to do with furries, that would be okay -- Armello picks up the pace of the strategy genre. Instead of passively watching your opponents move, you can manage cards and prepare defences between turns. Some choices, such as cards played during combat, are timed, so you're constantly on your toes, thinking fast, but you also have to think critically. It's still a turn-based game, so looking (and planning) before you leap is essential. If you're getting the sense that gameplay is deep and complex, you're right. It takes some time to get the hang of it.

Metaleater E3 2015 Best Strategy Game Award

Armello incorporates two types of strategy: turn-based map navigation, and collectable card style buffs, items, and special abilities. The great thing is that cards replenish at the beginning of each turn, so you don't have to horde them. This adds to the fun, since the various cards you can "burn" dramatically changes the outcome of a battle, and I liked the liberalness with which I could fling them around.

And there's plenty to praise beyond strategy fundamentals. There is a large range of characters and factions, and a lot of choice in how to play. There are also little Dualshock 4 flourishes like swiping forward on the touch pad to roll the dice.

Armello is an all ages game, offering enough challenge for older kids, discouraging them from transitioning to graphically violent games too young because they're bored of the stuff that's age appropriate. But the bulk of Armello players on the PS4 will likely be adults looking for a different experience which still has a lot of breadth, depth, and more than its share of cute.

I chose to play as the rat character -- strong in wits, politics, and evasion. It's really easy to miscalculate if you're not paying attention, and my rabbit and wolf opponents were quick to capitalize on mistakes. I hated that rabbit. But once I got the hang of the various cards, points and stats, I managed some solid victories against some ominous vultures and my bunny nemesis. Ha! Take that bunny! Behold my ratty might!

And that feeling of furry triumph is the core of the fun of Armello. There's just a head space that comes with anthro animals that's undeniably charming and it adds to the fun to play as something other than a human in a game that can get quite cut-throat.

Armello screenshot

So if you're a strategy fan, Armello's E3 demo offered compelling reasons to put your CSI-induced fear of furries aside and give the game a try. One could say it skritches your strategy itch.

Metaleater awarded Armello with our Best Strategy Game award at E3 2015.

Images courtesy of League of Geeks.