Thursday, April 6, 2017

ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny (PS4)

Taking inspiration from games like 'League of Legends', 'Hearthstone', and even 'Magic the Gathering' the game that is 'ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny' heads to consoles at a budget price along with it's fair share of downsides. For around twenty dollars you can get into this server based, and champion focused card game hybrid in order to grind away for the ultimate deck in hopes of reigning supreme on the game's non-existent leaderboard. The 1v1 and 2v2 centered experience that is offered in-game is seemingly inviting at first, but through the mixed mechanics it quickly becomes a repetitive, and short lived series of fights to merely rid your opposition of collective team health. An objective which is made possible by quick troop switching via shoulder button shortcuts, and a card selection system that is just as quickly applied. The problem therein lies with the fact that the objective steals the thunder from the champions, card art, and summoned creature units. The end goal that is life depletion is such a focal point that you hardly get to enjoy any of these things. In my opinion the overly simplistic yet dominant goal coupled with the hectic mechanic management dooms this game's chances from the start. It's very hard to enjoy the game when you are managing two attention thieving systems of gameplay while constantly switching focus between them.

In 'ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny' you'll begin by playing through a monotonous hands-on tutorial which doesn't take all that much to comprehend. The female voice-over talent which acts as your guide throughout the tutorial sounds about as inspired as the game is, and in a less than enthusiastic voice she will explain away the mechanics in several stages that each reward you gold currency which can be later spent on purchasing  your first single card booster pack from the game's store. Things like the goals, champion selection, troop management, and even card management will be explained well enough through the lackluster tutorial playthrough. Should you ever need to refresh your learned skills from said tutorial you can find it listed as a gameplay option in the main menu's "Tutorial" listing for that very purpose, minus the gold earnings.

Much like 'LoL' you'll find that the battle of ArmaGallant takes place on a small to medium semi-top down map with two spawning points, and several midway focal points meant to help you deplete the team health of the opposing team. These focal points include circular monolith pads that must be stood upon by your ordered troops/units until it fills with your team's color (Red/Blue). Capturing a monolith will deal a small percentage of damage over time for as long as it remains in your team's possession. Aside from that base goal you'll also have side objectives which give you a better view of the map's more lucrative point depleting offerings, as well as objectives that quicken the games pace through actual large scale health depletion. These side points include crystal capture points where crystals spawn as well as a center vision capture point where you can have insight on when the crystals spawn. Whenever a crystal does spawn you'll have to hightail your summoned troop units to the crystal spawn point in question, and capture it much like you would a monolith. Doing so will deplete a hefty chunk of health from the opposing team's health meter. It goes without saying that the team that more properly manages resources, troop direction, and spells will gain the upper hand ultimately winning once the opponent's life is fully gone.

While the maps in ArmaGallant aren't particularly big it is a good thing that Maximum Games included a snap system that utilizes both the 'L1 + Dpad Directions', and 'R1 + Face Buttons' functions to snap to troops who are in need of moving, or who need some assistance in dealing with the enemy threat. Otherwise you'd be scanning the map with your slow moving cursor as you go from troop unit to troop unit. Holding down either L1, or R1 and following up with the appropriate button press will snap focus to the assigned troop for ease of access. Afterwards you can press 'TRIANGLE' when the cursor is on top of them to select them, and follow up with a pressing of 'X' when you bring your cursor from them to the next desired designation. Troops can move in collective groups so having more than one troop assigned to a single area is possible. Moving troops isn't the only thing you'll be tasked with though. You'll also have to use spells to heal them, buff them, and assist them when the are confronted by other enemy troops. This is where card management comes into play.

When you first start a game, whether it be 'Ranked', 'Private', or against the AI you will have to first choose a champion which will act as a permanent perk-like fixture for every card that is used thereafter. Once the champion is assigned you can move them forward to the first monolith, and wait for your mana pool to build up. Once your mana pool is filled enough you will be able to summon other troop units which can then be directed to other objective points. Those objective points including monoliths, or side objectives. You can even position them within the jungles out of view to ambush any unaware troops that might pass too close to your captured areas. Using any card in the game simply requires a pressing of "SQUARE" after highlighting the card, and following up said pressing with "X" once you have enough points in your constantly refilling mana pool. The troop, and spell cards in the game each have their own cost that must be kept in mind when selected as well including the addition of accompanying RPG-like stats along with some card specific perks. They are even ranked by star count, and made rare by color. Choosing which card to use will depend fully on the situation, but any time you can get troops out onto the map you definitely should. Keep in mind though that you can only have 8 troop units out at a time.

Back at the main menu you will be able to access the in-game store, or "Card Merchant" to purchase standard booster packs ($1,000) which are themselves reflective of your current player level as well as a more costly premium booster pack ($2,800) option for a chance at, at least one higher ranked card of the three or above star rating. In the game you level up numerically in rank via experience points gained from end battle results. This ranking will only effect your booster packs if you choose to go with a standard pack purchase. As far as gold is concerned it is earned through both won, and lost matches, but more so through won matches. It can be spent on standard or premium packs alike. This is of course where the need to grind comes in.

When it comes to managing your amassed card collection that too can be done via the main menu listing. By accessing the "Deck Post" sub-menu option of "Deck Setup" you can select one champion, and up to 20 additional troop or spell cards. This can include multiples of the same card. Always keep in mind though that you need to factor in the types of cards as well as their mana cost in order to create a more efficient deck. In this management mode you will be able to save, and store up to three decks of your own pairing. Also in the "Deck Outpost" are the "Card Collection", "Ranked Profile", and "Inbox" sub-menus. The "Card Collection" is as it sounds, and includes a library of all the cards you've obtained. The "Ranked Profile", on the other hand includes a somewhat detailed stat breakdown of ranked battles, card usage, and troop unit combat outcomes. Obviously for bragging rights. Lastly the 'Inbox' is a sort of mailbox I'm guessing is used for invitations between players. It's not really explained in the game though. For those of you looking for some other objectives outside of core gameplay you'll find that at the main menu the L3 "Quest" option. Quests in ArmaGallant are optional, and will reward you with a handsome amount of in-game currency for using cards in a specific manner if you are able to complete them. Only one quest can be selected at a time though. They must be chosen after pressing "L3" at the main menu by following up with your choice of quest bonuses via 'X'.

As far as the matchmaking goes your options are fairly limited. In the main "To Battle" menu, and further into the 'Ranked' and 'AI Practice Game' sub-menu listings you can choose the map via the 'Settings' option. In the 'AI Practice Game' specifically you can also choose AI difficulty (Normal - Insane). The only 'create a match' option comes on the form of the 2v2 'Private' match type, and includes only a map selection, and invitation options. This is for online play only from what I can figure. You must have two teams of two to play it as well.

The Presentation ...

ArmaGallant is a decent looking game. The starting screen art is what you'd expect to see from such an experience as are the card, and creature designs. Unfortunately the bulk of this attractiveness is lost in the frantic multiplayer modes that have you paying less attention to said features, and more attention to a simple goal. Even the music is good, but also lost in the usage of the attention stealing mechanics mash-up. It's sad to see a game that is obviously meant to bring to light it's more artistic features be lost to gameplay elements.

The Verdict ...

ArmaGallant had potential, but I think that potential was lost when Maximum Games tried to mix and match two genres of games. The game doesn't seem as fun as it could mostly, because the focus is stolen from your champions, troops, and spells. The focus is mostly on team health depletion, making said elements less than interesting. The depletion goal itself is ruined by it's own brand of simplicity. Had the developer actually put objectives similar to that of 'Paragon' in the game it could have been great, and less spastic than it feels. Snapping from one troop unit to the other quickly grows annoying, and takes focus from the combat, or objective chasing at hand. The game tries to do too many things, in my opinion, and never really masters the proper feeling for any. Not only that, but with it being locked behind server access the game fails to deliver a proper paid for product. It's a niche game, and in locking the game away through servers it steals future ownership, and access from the gamer should the servers become unavailable. This game is gonna be a pass for me. Even at it's budget pricing I can't recommend it.

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