Almost a year on from its initial release, ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny is a struggling title. In its own words, it’s a MORPG where a player “creates a battle deck to bring to fast paced real time strategy battles”. It follows on from the success of other popular MMORPGs, such as league of legends and Dota 2, with its generally similar gameplay style, objectives, and map. ArmaGallant does something a little different though, combining the familiar gameplay with an added sprinkling of card game strategy, which I don’t doubt is a nod to Hearthstone’s immense success. Overall, you get the sense that there was quite a lot of love and respect for these other titles that inspired ArmaGallant, but it suffers from a lack of finesse and overall poor execution.
ArmaGallant immediately drops you into the tutorial stages before you even see a menu screen. This isn’t really a problem so much as it is a QA issue. It just seems quite jarring. There are four tutorial stages: Introduction (to explain basic movement and game objectives), Basic (explaining how to attack and control multiple units), Advanced (which explains the concept of champion cards and casting spells), and Training (a practice match against the game’s AI). Playing through the intro and the basics, I felt somewhat optimistic, if a little wary. The concept seemed intriguing, but the controls were already seeming a little bit finicky.
Once I got to the advanced stage, I’d already begun to lose track of things like long presses and multiple button bindings for the same functions (that didn’t seem to work sometimes anyway). Maybe I hadn’t been paying enough attention, but I think that says a lot about ArmaGallant too. There are lots of thing here that make the game come across as lazy. For example, there’s an overbearing sense that there’s a lot of unspoken lore behind all these character cards, champions, units, and whatnot but it just isn’t explained. It seems a shame to have all that in-game jargon and no evidence to back up its ‘history’, leaving the player with the sense that it’s all a façade.
Then there’s the strange voiceover. It wouldn’t normally be an issue, but it really added to a feeling of a lack of 'finishing polish' as the disinterested voice narrated everything that happened on screen. It didn’t really fill me with enthusiasm or fit with the overall atmosphere of the game. It’s a tiny issue, but I still felt the need to mention it.
Above all, the main problem I encountered with ArmaGallant is that there's simply no-one else playing it. It's managed to suffer from the same lack of user base as titles like the brilliantly clever Runbow for Wii U: You can’t play it because you need people to play it with. I played the PlayStation 4 version and, for the sake of this review, sat in the ironically named 'queue' and let the game search for a match for 15 whole minutes. Not a single soul. It's honestly a little bit heart-breaking, but lots of titles that rely on an online base of players at launch in order to really function as games will suffer from this issue. It's the kind of genre that basically requires hype, but unfortunately for ArmaGallant, that hype just wasn't, and still isn't there.
While it has a lot of flaws, ArmaGallant is still playable. If you pay attention to the tutorials properly, and can wait over 15 minutes for a match, then by all means it’ll be a fun, challenging experience. The deck-building aspect is pretty fun too and really brings out the MTG deck builder in me. It adds that extra layer of strategy before the actual strategy of the gameplay begins. There’s also a pretty decent soundtrack both in-game and in menus, which is always a plus in my book. Maybe in time Maximum Games will revisit and refresh ArmaGallant, kindling some much-needed hype to bring in more players and save the game.