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E3 2015: Armello Gets Treacherous On PlayStation 4

The king has gone mad and his throne is available to anyone strong enough to take it from him. In Armello, a virtual board game coming to the PlayStation 4, players will vie for control of the kingdom using cunning, diplomacy and some good old-fashioned warfare. Also, you play as armor-clad animals, so that's cool too.

I had the opportunity to discuss Armello's long road to home consoles with Director Trent Kusters during E3 2015, chatting about everything from the development process and game mechanics to why he believes Armello has already earned loads of praise as an Early Access game on Steam.

Armello is a digital board game brought to life, essentially. So imagine Game of Thrones meets Fung Fu Panda,” Kusters said. “You've got a king in the center of the board, and he's dying of this dark force called The Rot. It's twisting him into madness and he's basically taking the kingdom down with him, so the clans that were once loyal to him are now rising up, and they've sent out their heroes to claim the throne.”

Kusters described Armello as a rat race to claim the throne, quite literally if you're playing as the rat race, I suppose.

The development team at League of Geeks recently announced that Armello will be adding the PS4 to its launch lineup of platforms that already includes PC, Mac and Linux through Steam, with an expected launch on all fronts come September. The Early Access version of the game goes for $24.99, so we're expecting that to be around the final price point.

“We've spent a lot of time on the controls, to make sure everything feels good on the PS4,” Kusters continued. “We're doing this right. We don't want this to be just some shitty port.”

During E3, the Armello team was showing off its latest hero to be added to the herd, a massive bear by the name of Brawn. When the game launches, players will be able to play as one of eight such heroes, two coming from each of the four clans. Clans include bears, rats, wolves and rabbits.

Armello, at a glance, looks similar to other hex-based war games in both the physical and virtual board game space. The map will be constructed of random tiles, including elements like forest, plains and mountains. The different regions will grant various abilities and hindrances, too, meaning that positioning and moving your hero around the map will be just as important as what actions you take through cards and the like. This also means that players can expect a lot of variety, as no two Armello boards will ever be the exact same. Special tiles will also pop up on the map, such as settlements that grant gold to the player who controls them, dungeons you can battle through for treasure and the like.

This is also one of the strong arguments for Armello being made as an original board game, but in the virtual space. Along with all of the nifty animations and varied board layouts, players won't have to worry about keeping track of a wide variety of stats, effects and the like. Based on what I saw while visiting League of Geeks, Armello probably could be done as a physical game, but I don't even want to think about how many markers, counters and the like would need to be crowded on a board to keep track of everything. As a digital game, everything is kept in order for you, and presented with some fantastic artwork and animations to boot.

Gameplay proceeds with players moving their hero, activating abilities, playing cards, achieving quests and occasionally entering into combat. Along the way, you'll be earning Prestige, which Kusters explained is a very important currency in the world of Armello.

“Each dawn [turn], a King's Declaration will be announced, which is a new global rule that will affect gameplay,” Kusters said. “The player with the highest prestige gets to advise the king as to what they think that Declaration should be. Players earn Prestige by completing heroic feats or playing the political side of the game.”

Armello is a four-player game with online support, though there is no option to experience the game locally. That's actually due to the nature of the game, rather than any sort of technical limitation. Each player's resources and cards need to remain secret, which is impossible if everyone is staring at the same screen. And even though players carry out their actions in turn order, Armello is built so that there's little downtime. Even when your turn is over, you'll want to explore the board, see what your options are and carry out various functions to prepare for your next go. Again, that wouldn't work with four people tethered to one screen.

“One of the other things that's great is that Armello can be understood and played by pretty much anybody,” Kusters continued. “One of our team members plays with his twins who are seven years old, and then comes into the studio and plays it with us. The games are very different. Playing with his twins, everyone is just rolling around the board and having a blast. With us, it can get pretty cutthroat. This is the type of games where you lose friends.”

Kusters said that's because of the very open, indirect way Armello guides players in how to tackle the game.

Armello is indirectly competitive,” he explained. “We just say, 'You have to become king or queen.' We don't say you have to kill the other player or achieve that goal in any other way. There are actually cards you can play that will benefit more than one player, so you don't have to work against one another. But only one person can win the game, so even if we've made a pact earlier in the game, we both know that at some point one of us is going to stab the other one in the back. It's a wondrous, treacherous thing.”

You can grab Armello on Steam Early Access right this very minute, or you can get the complete game when it launches for Steam platforms and PlayStation 4 later this summer.

Ryan Winslett

Staff Writer for CinemaBlend.