Reviews

Armello Review

Who said that intrigue was only a human construct? If anyone did, no one told League of Geeks, the developers and publishers of Armello. The turn-based, tabletop-RPG-inspired video game features a large cast of animals trying to plan and scheme their way to royalty.

Armello Icon

Developer: League of Geeks
Publisher: League of Geeks
11 Hours Played / Review Copy Provided / $19.99

My first moments with Armello were playing the prologue while the realization that there isn’t a single-player campaign slowly washed over me. Starting the game places you in what seems to be the beginning of a story mode: a cutscene is shown, you control a named character, and NPCs talk to you. About halfway through this tutorial, I realized that this was going to be a one-time thing. I assumed that there would be a story mode since Armello looks like the kind of game that has an amazing narrative. To its credit, it does, but all of the lore and story is not featured in the game.

A lie told to you by Armello DevelopersI don’t think it’s silly to think that this leads to a story mode.

The lack of a story mode is a bummer, but I misunderstood the trailer. This is actually an online multiplayer game. I like those. The whole game revolves around a corrupted king and various ways to usurp his rule. Two methods involve assassination, another cleanses his corruption, and the last involves waiting for the corruption to kill him.

Cards are drawn and then used as spells, traps, or equippable items. The map is large and movement points are scarce enough that traversal feels like a journey. Combat is dice-based, so whether you attack, defend or miss is random. The game includes a few ways to rise above the RNG though.

Unfortunately, Armello comes with problems when it comes to being an online multiplayer game. Namely, almost no one is playing it on Switch. I tried. I really tried to find multiple multiplayer matches in Armello.  This isn’t a game that will sell millions of copies, so I didn’t expect to find a match in five minutes. However, I did expect to actually find a match eventually.

Below is a list of some of my first attempts to find a match in the multiplayer queue. These are in the normal multiplayer queue only. There are alternate queues like “Fury Fridays” and “Stranger Games.” Those are time-limited and change certain aspects of the game such as game length or number of neutral enemies.

  • Saturday – Start 4:15 PM – End 5:00 PM – Queue Length 45 minutes – No match found
  • Sunday – Start 5:00 PM – End 7:45 PM – Queue Length 2 Hours 45 Minutes – No match found
Armello GameplayUnless you play versus the AI while searching for a match, you’ll be seeing this screen a lot.

During the three-hour queue on Sunday, I had time to watch the entirety of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, make then eat a sandwich, walk my dog, and power down my switch since it was about to die. That queue was longer than my Switch had battery. Also during this queue, I saw five unique individuals. There were enough people playing to find one match over that three-hour period, but they didn’t have the steel to wait the time necessary. One particularly hopeful person stayed with me for over an hour. If only the rest of the player base had that person’s dedication.

I went to the internet to see if anyone else was having problems finding a match on the Switch or if I was just deficient. I ended up on the Armello Reddit. Unfortunately, a number of posts were complaining about the challenge of finding a multiplayer game. Even more unfortunate, is that there were a number of post complaining about multiplayer games crashing or freezing on the last turn. League of Geeks has posted that they are working on a fix for the issue, so I’m inclined to believe that this is a recurring problem.

Armello ComplaintsI’m more shocked that these two found more than one game.

I couldn’t give up on Armello yet. The game deserves a fair shake. This was also the weekend that Pokemon Let’s Go! released, which could have had an effect on queue lengths. Below are my final attempts at finding an online match.

  • Tuesday – Start 7:30 PM – End 8:10 PM – Queue Length 40 minutes – No match found
  • Wednesday – Start 6:45 PM – End 7:45 PM – Queue Length 1 hour – No match found
  • Saturday – Start 1:00 PM – End 1:15 PM – Queue Length 15 minutes – Match Found (!!!)

Finally! I finally found a match! There are at a minimum three other people playing Armello! It even didn’t crash! The method of victory wasn’t the same one featured in reports, so it’s inconclusive whether or not this is a problem. Again, the developers have posted about crashes happening, so it likely is. I’m just unable to confirm it.

Here’s the thing that makes this whole thing sad: Armello has potential. Each selectable character played differently. The path to victory (prestige, rot, assassination, spirit stone) each player chose requires different techniques to hinder their momentum. Using the spells or traps in clever ways feels great. Match length would have been right, but the player allotted time for each turn is too long plus the king’s turn is frustratingly slow. Unfortunately, it took me a little less than six hours and multiple days to find one match, which is honestly ridiculous.

Two people who wanted to waste my time in ArmelloTwo people who have zero respect for my time

Only taking the good in Armello, there is some fun to be had playing against the computer; this is the only way to play the game when not online. Up until you realize that the AI is awful at the game. During my first game of Armello past the prologue, I won. I still hadn’t grasped the basic notions of the game. Yet, I won. Not because I’m an Armellian God, but because I don’t think the AI is actually trying to win the game. One bot always seems to be going for a prestige victory, the method of winning by having the most prestige points when the king dies. Other than that, no bot has come close to victory by any other method. Chasing achievements (of which there are many) in the Versus AI mode can be fun for a time, but I fear it’s more going through the motions than an actual test of skill and strategy.

Achievements in ArmelloThere are a lot of achievements.

I spent a long time running Armello on my Switch, but I wasn’t able to spend very much time playing it. It’s possible to play against the AI while the multiplayer queue is searching. I originally thought this was a nice allowance by the development team, but it’s actually a necessity. It’s less burning time until the game finds a match and more like you’re playing Armello the only way possible while hoping beyond hope that there is anyone else out there. There is a lot of potential in Armello, but how can I recommend an online multiplayer game that almost no one is playing on the Switch? A potentially buggy mess of one at that? I can’t.

Armello Joys & Cons

Something similar but focused on single-player is The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Enjoy RPGs, but don’t like dice? Knights of Pen and Paper might be more your cup of tea. Share your thoughts with us by joining our Discord. Nindie Nexus is an ad-free passion project – consider buying us a coffee.

Just a person trying to do their best. On Nindie Nexus specifically, just a person trying to do their best writing about Nindies.

Favorite Genres – Roguelike, First/Third Person Shooters, Action RPGs

Favorite Nindies – Has-Been Heroes, Night in the Woods, Cave Story, Hollow Knight

Favorite Switch Game – Splatoon 2