ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny not only boasts a magnificently grandiose title but, even as a game, it admirably tries to accomplish a fair amount.
Taking a tip or two from RTS, MOBA and table top card games, this multiplayer title has a steep learning curve and is, if nothing else, unique.
The PS4 has become home to an impressive array of indie games, ones designed to scratch a far-reaching itch that more mainstream AAA releases just might not be designed tor each. From obscure and minimalistic experimental platformers like 140 to ambient mood pieces like Firewatch, there is something for everyone. ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny continues that trend, with deck-building gameplay harping back to the days of Magic: The Gathering.
With no single player campaign, ArmaGallant is a multiplayer experience – and one that is not particularly friendly to newcomers. As someone who is not exactly an expert in deck-building games, most of my early battles felt less like a contest and more like lambs being led to slaughter. Although there is a five step tutorial system, this only teaches the basic controls to give you a basic idea of how the game works.
Each player has 40 cards in their deck, with the standard variety of summons, magic, and elemental options. A one-on-one match places players in the same 3D map, with the aim being to reduce the other player’s health to zero. Besides the goal of killing each other’s monsters, checkpoints are scattered across the field which can be possessed by either party.
The monster cards are by far the best aspect of ArmaGallant. There is an impressive selection available, of varying shapes and awesomeness, which can be unleashed to duke it out. The cards themselves are really well-designed and surprisingly colourful, but what really brings it home is how well their 3D counterparts are animated. Seeing your Ogre transition from the flat-faced card to the massive three-dimensional entity on the battlefield never fails to be exciting.
There are five elemental types (Fire, Water, Earth, Light, and Dark) that can be mixed and matched to create a balanced party. Unfortunately, due to the lack of single player campaign, there really is not much of a way to test the waters before being forced to jump into the deep end. I would have appreciated a blank canvas that would allow for some trial and error, but ArmaGallant is not one to hand hold. So, sink or swim.
Players can choose to take part in a ranked or exhibition match. Both play out identically to each other, but the latter would be the best starting point for newbies. Each player has a turn points counter which will automatically go up every few seconds. Any card requires a set amount of points to be summoned, so there is a risk/reward system in place, as the best cards would leave you lighter on the battlefield for awhile.
ArmaGallant works surprisingly well on PlayStation 4. Controls for RTS titles are notoriously hit and miss on a console, but the straightforward nature of the title and well thought out button mapping makes summoning monsters and controlling them easy enough. Your army will be divided into separate subsections which can be individually controlled by pressing R1 + another button, depending on the order they were summoned. Unfortunately, there does seem to be a slight lag from when the command is entered to your warriors actually being selected, but it is a minor complaint.
Is this a game that anyone can enjoy? No, definitely not. Yes, it is designed to be picked up for a quick match, but its difficulty and lack of variety makes it hard to truly get into. Only once I had developed my own deck, with cards I had earned, did I really start to appreciate my time with ArmaGallant. But a few battles later, boredom quickly set in. There are only two maps available along with only one real match type, so it doesn’t take look for ArmaGallant to become very repetitive. After a while, matches all started to feel the same.
For its asking price of $19.99/£19.99, ArmaGallant feels short on content. Yes, it does offer a unique and polished experience, but with its very limited amount of maps and game types, it almost feels like it should be a free-to-play version of the full title. That said, I’ll be keeping a keen eye on ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny for the foreseeable future, as I hope new elements are added to it over time. At its current state, it might not be worth the price of admission, but with a few updates, it could be a worthwhile experience.