An entertaining Souls-like that's not afraid to kill off your character on each run, but without the fear of being unable to see them again. Their head will be mounted on a plant. Arboria can be repetitive and requires some time to unlock your warrior's potential, but it's worth it - for the Refuge setpieces along.
Once more, we’re entering the Red Room, déjà vu, and all that jazz – it’s an Arboria review. This is the first of its kind on this site unless you consider the preview of the demo; it’s just that this game feels as routine as a bowl of Cornflakes.
Not routine like a rut, but switching on my computer and putting on Steam results in a quick game of this rogue-like with a very Dark Souls flavour. Hours later and the Refuge is starting to flourish. Presentation-wise, it’s Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. You play a series of troll warriors (or trollz) known as Yotun.
Your tribe is running on empty, and after two Youtunz go A.W.O.L., you perpetually send in ‘new builds’ to search the depths of Durnar – a series of organic dungeons full of nasty elemental types that really don’t like you. Arboria is all about killing and being killed, as the village chief says so indifferently.
I didn’t like the visuals at first. It feels like a lot is going on, but that adds to the unpredictable nature of this procedurally generated game. Sure, some areas look the same, but everything is exotic as intended: Durnar is not the natural habitat of the Yotunz. As a result, it’s occasionally disorientating and definitely hostile.
Arboria, by Dreamplant and published by All in! Games, is a rogue-like, Souls-like, third-person dungeon crawler. For each run, you’ll spawn a new warrior with randomly assigned traits. This is influenced by appeasing the Godz and investing in the vendors throughout your base, the Refuge.
Through each run, a butt-ugly fairy named Rata will follow you and, upon death, will return your head to be planted in a hall of fame memorial. Besides this enviable job description, she also carries the game’s currency, veri, as well as a host of items she can use to assist you.
Veri is stored up in destroyable crystals and through widespread killing. As long as you bank what you retrieve, it can be used to appease – even bribe the Godz for new Yotun with better stats, but more importantly, it’s used for upgrading your permanent stats with the vendors at your base.
From here, you can craft new gear, improve and unlock new abilities and so forth, but you must spend all of it before starting a new run, or it’ll disappear. Likewise, if you die without banking it, it’s lost for good. Unlike a similar rogue-like such as GRIME, you can’t retrieve veri as you’re dead. You can, however, find some cadavers on your journey that award you with new gear if you can beat the champions that spawn.
The starting abilities at the start of Arboria gameplay are reasonable, but the more you play and bank veri, you’ll be able to unlock inventory slots, slots for Rata, mana-based attacks, and be able to switch between weapons – i.e. alternate elemental attacks or a fast versus slow loadout.
Elemental, My Dear Yotun
Combat in Arboria is essentially three core areas. Strength focuses on melee damage, toughness is your health and stability (similar to poise), and focus is suited to magical attacks and light weaponry. There are numerous weapons – all one-handed – that vary in speed and power, and they can all have elements infused.
The elements are the usual ones of fire, ice, dark, shock and bio. Naturally, each has their for and against, and you can equip/craft the tools suited to the job. This also applies to your armour and magical item, including a shield, projectiles, flamethrowers, and more.
Unlike similar titles, there’s no fear of missing out on stamina and depending on the gear equipped; your character can speed through most levels and evade at the tap of a button repeatedly.
Rinse And Repeat
On that note, the game can get pretty repetitive, and if you have a case of frequently bad runs (not curry-related), the Yotun you start with are progressively worse. What’s worse is if you can’t reach the pitstops that allow you to send back veri and also enhance your warrior, it can take a while to get back on track, with plenty of deaths along the way.
The story is somewhat weak, but it makes up for it in satisfying gameplay and incremental gains. Unless you’re really shit at the game. It’s pretty forgiving, but not without a fair amount of challenge. However, Arboria lacks that mysticism of the Dark Souls series, and perhaps the scenery too. If you like to ‘hail to the sun’, you’re barking up the wrong father tree here as it’s all underground.
There’s a ton of features, skill paths and playstyles on offer, that if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll be in your element here. Arboria doesn’t break any new ground as such, but it’s a solid experience, albeit a bit of a grind. If you’re willing to put in the time, the rewards are great, and it’s easy to lose loads of hours exploring Durnnar for the future of your fellow trollz.