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Game Info:

Arboria
Developed By: Dreamplant
Published By: All in! Games
Released: May 7, 2020 (Early Access)
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action, Role-Playing, Rogue-lite
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: single player
Price: $19.99

Thank you, All in! Games, for sending us a preview code!

The first thing that really sticks out in a game like this is its art style. Arboria is a fantasy Action Role-Playing Rogue-lite created by Dreamplant currently in Early Access but unlike other forms of fantasy, the world of Arboria is pretty dark and gritty. The characters themselves called themselves the trollz. They are these realistic-looking creatures with rough spikes on their bodies and can range from dull red, blue, gray, and green colors. It’s safe to say that the Trollz are quite grotesque in looks with their beady or bug eyes and oversized jaws. All of the characters and creatures are icky. Typically ugly characters would turn the average person away immediately, but not me. I guess you could say I have an appreciation for the “attractively-challenged.”

Starting, Arboria throws you in a tutorial as the character, Gabbok. You’ll go through the ropes on how the game controls. Whether you choose a controller or keyboard+mouse is up to you, but both methods work just fine. However, the default camera movement for keyboard+mouse is inverted so keep that in mind when starting out. People who are familiar with or have played the Dark Souls series or similar titles will feel right at home with it, with movement, attacking, dodging, and even healing feeling similar in execution. There are some differences such as the lack of a stamina meter and your “magic” recharges automatically. With that being said, it all takes place within the 3D third-person perspective where the camera is of medium distance. Enough where you can see your character and a decent amount of the environment—but obscures your field of view enough so that enemies can blindside you.

In a twist, Gabbok is not the main character of the adventure—he is actually one of the villains. After putting on a piece of headgear of unknown origin, he went mad and abandoned Rata, his fairy companion, to dive deeper into the depths of Durnar. Now it is up to another Yotun warrior to go after him. The Trollz species are a strange-looking bunch as they are already born as adults, with an even stranger dialect (anything with an 's' is pronounced as a 'z'). All of the Trollz have these vein-like lines on their rocky skin. An interesting thing to note is that the creatures of Durnar have these blue lines, but as they near death, these lines will turn red. Durnar itself has a bunch of overgrown wildlife deep in its uncharted territories, while the village of the Trollz has a more primitive setting. They are smarter than they appear as they utilize high technology to an extent.

The rogue-lite elements come into play when you enter the hub world and venture deeper into Durnar's randomly-generated rooms and floors. The hub world is where you get to choose one of three Yotun, each having specific traits. Some can be beneficial such as increased health or resistance. Others can be not so useful such as blurred vision. Sometimes, the ones with detrimental traits do have higher stats so it may just be worth the risk of choosing them. After your character is chosen, you can walk around the hub world but most things will stay locked until you progress a bit into the depths.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Responsive combat; good progression system that makes you feel stronger
Weak Points: Collision issues with certain interactables; lack of feedback when getting hit or damaged by most attacks or traps
Moral Warnings: Blood and violence—most of it green while the bloodstains on certain pieces of armor are red; your fairy companion, Rata, is stark-naked (however nothing in detail is shown); the world of Durnar is possibly one of Norse mythology as the warriors of the Trollz species are called Yotun, and the “goal” of the Yotun is to defeat Jormund the great serpent; language ranging from “a*s” to an F-bomb

Swinging your weapons does feel slow and a bit clunky at first, but takes little time to get used to, especially if you’ve played “Souls-like” games before. Three different weapons ranging from the wide swinging sword, the jack-of-all-trades axe, and the precision-striking scythe, means there is a playstyle that fits everyone. There are also three different secondary weapons that act as utility. If you need more evasive measures with a teleport, more defenses with a shield, or just a way to keep enemies off of you with shockwaves, you'll learn to rely on them. Besides the rouge-lite elements, what makes it stand out from the rest is how it uses its dodge mechanic. When you realize that every action your character takes can be canceled into your dodge is when things start to feel less restrictive and more fluid. Then, when you realize that after dodging you can resume your combo chain is the exact moment when fighting feels engaging.

You’ll come across nasty wasps that spit acid and aggressively sting at you, quadruped beasts with long tongues, and bipedal monsters that love to get close to you. Keeping the tempo of attacking and dodging is great and with weapons that all feel different, there are many ways to approach battles. There is even an elemental system that takes place in the combat with the elements being red/fire, blue/Ice, and green/bio. It’s nothing more than rock paper scissors (bio beats fire, which beats ice, which beats bio), although every piece of equipment can have an element attached to it, and bringing the right element(s) in battle does make a noticeable difference.

One thing, however, that bothers me about the combat is the lack of feedback from getting hit. Most of my deaths were simply me failing to realize that I was actually getting hurt, especially from the traps. I get that traps are hard to notice (at first) and do what they are supposed to do, but when my first ever death was caused by a trap, I was left completely dumbfounded as it wasn’t even registering in my brain that I was getting hurt, let alone even activated a trap. This also extends to enemy hits as most of their attacks won’t even make you flinch, but half of them take chunks out of your health. Only the biggest hits with the longest windup give off noticeable feedback. Even if it was as simple as numbers appearing above my character's model would be good enough. A very stark contrast as when enemies are hit they flinch, numbers appear over their heads and there are distinct visual cues.

Now with Arboria being a rogue-lite, you’re expected to live, die, and repeat. Veri is the resource used to give you permanent upgrades—gained from killing enemies or by breaking blue structures. Breaking as many Veri structures as you can is important because it pleases the "godz" and the more they are pleased, the better stats or beneficial traits your next Yotun will have. With every floor completed, you can store away your Veri to use in the hub world. If you die, A huge chunk or even all the Veri you didn’t store away is lost for good. Veri can be used to give you an extra edge such as unlocking an extra slot for your primary and secondary weapon and even giving you a bigger chance of having rarer weapons spawn. Combined with this aspect are the roots found in the levels. If you heal a root by defeating enemies or by surviving a specific amount of time, you’ll unlock more NPCs in the village and abilities.

Arboria
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay 16/20
Graphics 8/10
Sound 6/10
Stability 4/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 67%
Violence 6.5/10
Language 6/10
Sexual Content 6/10
Occult/Supernatural 6.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 8.5/10

When delving through the floors, you’ll come across weapons and armor with varying stats. Some weapons have special effects like giving you increased speed, doing more damage when enemies have lower health, and armor-piercing properties to name a few. When you do manage to complete floors, you can increase your stats (the main stats being toughness/health, strength/primary weapon, and focus/secondary). These main stats also have sub stats such as break which determines how well you can stagger enemies and resistance, which decreases the time debuffs last on you.

As with it being an Early Access title, there are some glitches and bugs present. Thankfully, most of them are simply annoying instead of being game-breaking, and are hard to replicate. An example of a bug is the game confusing an item as a form of equipment and refusing to let you pick it up. Another is the inability to use your secondary weapon even if you have one equipped. I’m not too sure if this one is a bug but sometimes the collision detection when trying to destroy blue structures to gain Veri fails to interact properly. Many sound effects are also missing such as the sound for destroying breakable walls. (It is planned for the full release to have fully voiced roles and I’m sure with that will come with the rest of the missing sound effects if they are not added earlier.)

Even though Arboria in its current state (as of this review) lacks a narrative, there are more moral warnings than one would think. There is the obvious blood and violence even if it is of the fantasy variety. Many characters don’t wear clothing but the female characters, such as your fairy companion also have more defined features to her model (although nothing graphic). There’s also some language dropped in the equipment and trait descriptions. A mild one being “a*s” when describing the shockwave weapon (which also counts as crude humor) and a strong one being the F-bomb when talking about the “bald and beautiful” trait. There is also a possibility that Durnar is based on Norse mythology as the Troll warriors are called Yotun and that one of the main reasons for going descending into the depths is to gain enough experience to defeat Jormund the great serpent. Jormund can also be a reference to or even Jörmungandr himself, the Midgard Serpent.

In the back of my head, Arboria was always reminding me about another franchise but I couldn’t pinpoint it until I started playing it. Strangely, I get reminded of the Oddworld series, with the unsightly character, the mixture of technology and fantasy nature, and how the Trollz are goofballs. As they send their warriors down under, they dance and dab and generally have silly animations. The shaman that even sends you on your way can be a bit of a jerk as he sometimes spartan kicks you down the hole or pushes you down there against your will.

There is a lot of potential to be had with Arboria. The combat is super solid and the graphics are good (even if the character designs are very subjective—I personally like them). There isn’t a whole lot of content or enemy variety at the moment, but Dreamplant and All in! Games plan on adding more of everything, with a full release sometime in 2021. There are more moral concerns than it seems so keep mindful of that too. It may on the surface look like yet-another-Souls-Clone trying to fill the void but within the depths are mechanics and features that let it stand out on its own. If you ever wanted your Souls-like experience to have a bit more “permadeath”, stay aware of Arboria.

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Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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