In a market saturated with MOBAs and collectible card games such as Dota 2 and Hearthstone, several developers are trying to find new ways to twist and turn the genres on their heads. One such developer is Maximum Games and their new take on a console real-time strategy game, ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny, a game designed and developed exclusively for the PlayStation 4. While the game was originally released last year in Asian territories, it has finally made its way to Western shores this year.
Mixing It Up
ArmaGallant fuses elements from several genres and games to form an experience that’s part real-time strategy (RTS) and part collectible card game. Instead of building bases to train units, players use cards and mana to summon units they can command or cast spells to help defeat the enemy player. ArmaGallant obviously takes inspiration from game’s like Blizzard’s Hearthstone collectible card game and Supercell’s Clash Royale.
Getting into ArmaGallant was made incredibly easy with its multi-stage tutorial, which taught the game’s basic mechanics, such as controlling units and using cards, and its control scheme, which is undeniably once of the game’s strengths. While it may take a few games to get used to, the controls are very intuitive and work well with the game’s two layers of mechanics – controlling units around the map and using the player’s hand of cards.
After the tutorial, players can jump into one of ArmaGallant’s three games modes – ranked online matchmaking, private lobbies, and a versus AI practice mode. While the ranked online matchmaking mode is limited to 1v1 bouts, private lobbies can be played either 1v1 or 2v2. The game currently has no story or single-player campaign to speak of though and there’s nothing in the game that explains or delves into the game’s lore, which is disappointing given how interesting some of the game’s cards are.
Once players get into a match they’ll start with a small hand of cards but will automatically gain more as the game goes on. As with other collectible card games, each card has a mana cost and, in ArmaGallant, player automatically gain mana with time. The game’s cards are divided into five types – Water, Fire, Earth, Light and Dark – and many cards have effects that work with other cards from the same type, allowing players to chain or combo several cards for better effects.
Victory can be achieved by either completely depleting the enemy’s life bar or having more health by the end of the 15-minute time limit. Players can damage their opponent’s life bar in several ways, such as destroying enemy units and taking advantage of a map’s objectives. Map objectives can vary from capturing specific points that gradually do damage to the opponent’s life bar to taking occasionally spawned crystals to deal a one-time chunk of damage.
Having All the Right Cards
More cards can be unlocked or collected either by playing matches, which gives players experience points to gain player levels which unlock specific cards depending on the level reached, or by buying card packs either using in-game gold or purchasing crystals with real money. Gold can be earned through quests that spawn daily but only one quest can be taken and finished at a time. Card packs aren’t incredibly expensive when purchased with gold though
Outside of matches, players can enter the Card Collection menu where they can look through their roster of cards and build their decks of cards for battle. Currently, players can only build up to three decks with each holding up to 40 cards. Each deck can have a single Commander Card that doesn’t get discarded after being used in matches but will instead have cooldown timer so it can be used repeatedly during the match.
A large part of your time with ArmaGallant could possibly be spent in the Card Collection as browsing through the game’s library of cards can get tedious once you’ve unlocked a sizable number of them as cards can only be sorted by element, name, and cost. More sorting options, a search feature, and a more complex filtering feature, such as those found in other deckbuilding games like Hearthstone, would have been a welcome addition to the game.
Not Much for More
For a game developed exclusively for the PS4, the graphics of ArmaGallant aren’t incredibly impressive. While some of the game’s special effects look great, the textures of both the creatures and the map elements just look a tad dated and feel more like they were made for a mobile game rather than something for the PS4. It must be said though that the game’s art and character design both in-game and for the card illustrations are noteworthy.
One of the biggest issues of ArmaGallant though isn’t found in the game itself. While the titles it takes inspiration from are all free-to-play with microtransactions, ArmaGallant prices itself at $20 and still offers microtransactions. That’s $20 for two maps played in either a ranked online matchmaking mode, private lobbies, or against the AI. In addition to that, PS Plus is required to play to of the game’s three modes, leaving you with only the “vs AI” mode otherwise.
ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny is an interesting concept that falls a bit short in execution and presentation. While it does do a few things well, such as its control scheme and card mechanics, it is incredibly lacking in content and misses several key things that would’ve made it great and worth getting through the relatively steep barrier to entry. The game definitely has the potential to become one of the better RTS experiences on the PS4 but it will definitely need a few large content and feature updates if it wants to get there.
Review code for ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.