So, I’m thinking Arboria is going to be your normal rogue-lite, and while mechanically it blends third person action roleplaying games into that rogue-lite formula, that’s not the strange part. I mean, all the rest of it is the strange part, because Arboria is unlike any game I’ve seen since at least the early 2000s. Back then, casual body-horror, organic overgrowth and a type of odd silliness to tie it all together was pretty normal, with games like Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and others emphasizing the gross—but at least Abe didn’t dab.
In Arboria, you will be playing as several different, uh… heads, that grow bodies. You’re a plant person in a society of plant people, living amongst the trees with what appears to be some technology—but life seems mostly tribal. But you won’t enjoy the village life, as you’re tasked to jump from the treetops, accompanied by your creepy fairy companion into the lower forest below, to fight against a corruption that is eating away at the forest and life within.
The combat in Arboria is described best as soulslike. I’ve been increasingly trying not to use that term to describe games with slightly Dark Souls-ish qualities, but for Arboria the comparison is hard to ignore. Combat feels very soulslike, with a dodge/dash mechanic thrown in to tie the whole experience together. Your off hand can wield powerful magic abilities, or even a shield to block incoming damage—if that’s your preference. Sadly, the weapons you use to fight these enemies are not very interesting, and amount to either slow, fast, normal speed axe, scythe or sword.
The enemies you face are semi-interesting. You’ll be fighting glowing bugs and other animals that attack you on sight. You have to dodge projectiles and lunging attacks, sometimes from swarms of enemies at once. And while they’re certainly challenging, they sometimes feel like damage sponges. If you want to see how much health a specific enemy has left, you’re forced to target it—something that makes fast and efficient target acquisition difficult.
Each time you jump into the lower forests, it’s a new experience. The forest is made up of procedurally generated levels that make exploring different each time. Unfortunately, most of the areas you will be in are flat, and without any verticality. They’re also often cramped, and always dark. It does a good job of conveying the lower levels of a jungle or a forest, but that’s about as interesting as it gets.
Arboria’s rogue-lite elements are incorporated very well into the whole experience. Each of your plant warriors have advantages or disadvantages. You might choose one that is great with axes, for instance, but he’s got really bad eyesight, so everything past a few feet is blurry and hard to make out. It’s not something that’s unique to Arboria, but the implementation is done well. And it’s interesting that something like eyesight doesn’t affect your stats, but your actual ability to see what you’re doing. It adds another layer to it, but some might find that layer annoying.
With rogue-lite elements, it means that there’s a background progression system that transcends character death. You will die eventually, and when you do, you’re dead. But the ”veri” that you gather is saved. That’s your main currency for progression, even between runs. It’s offered up to the “Godz” to improve your relationship with them. And the Godz seem like beings you don’t want to anger.
Arboria will release on Steam as an Early Access title. It has a full planned release for 2021. The developers say that they will have more weapons, items, abilities, weapons, skills, enemies, bosses, locations, etc. Basically, more of everything—which is good, because despite how interesting and strange Arboria has, most of what it has to offer can be seen within the first few hours—at least, that was my impression. But as an Early Access game, it is solid, and feels almost like a full release title—it’s just a little sparse on the features. The full release will bring along full voice acting too, and that’s something I’m morbidly curious about. Any complaint I have about Arboria seems to be planned for.
Arboria is strange, but strange is good. I’m tired of seeing the same ultra-edgy protagonists, fighting their same modern or future wars. I’m even sick of half dead knights running around creepy abandoned medieval settings. Sometimes it’s nice to romp around the lower canopies of a corrupted forest, dabbing my way to certain death.
Arboria will be available on Steam Early Access on May 7th
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