As if he just got out of bed, you play Gobbock in the Arboria demo, currently on Steam, who has zero clue what is going on, so you follow Rata – a fairy-like creature into an underground labyrinth of mystery and unusual, alien life-forms.
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On the hunt for the traitor Raggar, you follow him into the murky depths, only to find out he’s dead. Retrieving his magic hat, you too turn doolally, and Rata has to return to tell the chief to make some new warriors to now go in and find Gobbock.
Making warriors here isn’t about training up those with potential but the actual creation of a warrior from the primordial goop. Once they’re ready, they chuck them into the abyss to go sort it out. Y’see, Arboria from Dreamplant and All in! Games is a Souls-like rogue-like. After gathering that Gobbock wasn’t the character you’d be playing throughout, I was mildly disappointed that the chap I was now playing would disappear for good upon death.
Death is not the beginning here, but it is as common as starting your day with a coffee. Fortunately, your warrior – known as a Yotun – will be forever mortalised with their head on a pike, well, plant, if they’re able to do a good job and please the Godz. Of course, we have to keep these swines happy by showering them with a substance called Veri, meeting killing objectives, levelling up to this, that or the other, and so on.
Arboria was quite overwhelming at first. Not in the emotional sense, nor looking at the controller blankly, not knowing how to attack. No, it was the flurry of terminology, character names and the lairy colours and textures the game uses. Combat-wise, it’s on par with Dark Souls, though your Yotun can sprint, and they’re pretty damn agile. It’s the environment that’s mental. The demo is layer upon layer of darkness packed with all sorts of creatures, bizarre technology and booby traps. Heh – booby.
Character creation is randomised, and upon death, you will lose all your stats and abilities. The Veri remains as you can build your base with upgrades and character perks (permanent), and if you have a particularly good run and make the Godz happy, the randomness of getting a decent build improves. Usually, the warrior will have a trait unique to them – maybe their health or some modifier. You can change their name too!
But one thing that remains with all of them – they’re bloody ugly. They have this rock-like skin where a light underneath shines through, changing colour based on their health. Despite having a name and looking different from one another, they are pretty much expendable, but by my fourth run, I’d managed to nail it and found a build that worked for me. Unsurprisingly, a strength build.
Initially, you have one weapon and some armour to equip, but levelling unlocks switchable gear, so you have a fast attacking weapon and maybe a slower but higher damage hammer. On top of this, there’s also your magical based attack which is essentially a support function, but you can do some damage. Arboria uses the same tried and tested methods seen in a Souls-like with health, mana and stamina type gauges. In all honesty, I had no problem with stamina and, in some cases, was button mashing with an oversized hammer.
The combat is pretty damn fluid, and the evade skill is one of the better ones I’ve seen in the genre. Once I’d learned the patterns of the creatures, evading them and countering without any lag was a regular occurrence. Even though the controls were very good, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy game, as some of the enemies did scale up and became more challenging.
Through the areas, you’ll find an elevator that allows you to send back Veri to your village, swap out a modifier and watch a hologram of the plank Gobbock. This feature will no doubt continue in the full game. Sending back Veri is wise, as apart from upgrading with a rare merchant, you can use this to invest in your skills and tip the scales to improve your standing with the Godz. Another aspect of the game is healing trees. When you locate one, Rata will heal it why you have to see off a series of waves. Once completed, you’ll get a token that allows you to buy a ‘stand’ back home – i.e. the weapons master.
Back For More?
I won’t go into much else about all the lore and terminology as I’m hoping to cover Arboria in due course. First impressions were… ok. The recent trailer made the game rather comical, but the game had a relatively serious tone for a while. Then I lost the first Yotun, and seeing the village chief kicking my newly formed character into the abyss 300 style, then him landing flat on his face was amusing – as is the end of the run sections where you see your head mounted on a plant. By the time of the end title to confirm the end of the demo, I was hooked and wanted more.
Surprisingly, there’s much more to say about the Arboria demo, but I’ll hold on to that next time. In the meantime, I highly recommend you try the demo for yourself if you like Dark Souls and are up for a bit of variety in character design. All it will cost you is your time.