Video game fans who also happen to be board game fans have a lot to love these days. The fantastic Tabletop Sim hosts all manner of virtual board games, of course, but there are also new tabletop options that are native to the digital platform. League of Geeks’ Armello, for instance, is a tabletop adventure reminiscent of the classics that takes full advantage of its status as a video game to enhance its gameplay. It’s a good time, and its recent DLC offering The Usurpers Hero Pack helps reinvigorate it just a bit. It’s a must-have for fans of the core game.
Well, sort of. We’ll get to that.
The biggest feature of The Usurpers are the new characters introduced to the game. You’ve got one newbie for each clan. My personal favorite was the Wolf Magna, a bulky canine with a giant shield who’s practically invincible with the right build. The Rats get Sargon, a mystic with the ability to predict what cards he’ll draw, while the Bears get Ghor, a shapeshifting were-treant who can use the power of forests to reduce magic costs. Finally, you’ll come to hate Elyssia of the Rabbits, who can fortify Towns to slow other heroes down and make the map much more irritating to move across.
There are also new bonus-granting rings for each clan as well, though the boosts offered by these aren’t as significant as the gameplay-shifting changes from the new heroes. My group and I loved the new characters, especially Elyssia…well, for certain definitions of “love.” Their new powers add a lot of strategic depth to a game that was already fairly involved despite its simple mechanics, making this DLC a must-have.
Well, maybe, but we’ll get to that.
There are some new cards and mechanics in play since the game’s initial launch as well, though much of this was free and doesn’t necessarily require the DLC to enjoy. Reflection, for instance, allows you to charge your defense dice to damage an opponent when they strike you, while Poison causes that status effect when you strike with empowered attack dice.There’s also a new (and irritating) recruitable helper called the Stranger, who shoves his way into your group at times and can move your character in directions you didn’t intend for them to go. The Stranger forcing you around the map can be annoying…but it can also be useful if he pushes you in a direction you planned on moving anyway, or if you stop next to an opposing hero and he decides to join them instead!
Not all is well in the kingdom of Armello, though, and we’re not just talking about the Rot-infested King. Here’s the clincher about this DLC, and it’s really more significant than the new characters or rings: The Usurpers is not and will not be available for the DRM-free version of Armello sold on GOG.com. Necropolis, an action-RPG we checked out back in July, had a similar issue in that the GOG version of the game doesn’t have the multiplayer aspect of the Steam version…and to this day it still doesn’t.
This is the state of indie games in 2016, folks – retailer-exclusive DLC and features, the exact kind of thing that everyone rails against when they talk about why they’re never supporting those big, mean publishers ever again. At least GOG is offering refunds for owners of their version of Armello who aren’t happy with this. Even that falls short of the policy shift that retailer could stand to make to prevent this sort of nonsense.
Look, I understand that there are financial and logistical reasons for this decision. At the same time, I also understand that if Blizzard said you could only play Legion on versions of World of Warcraft purchased from GameStop, people would lose their minds; replace Blizzard and WoW with EA and The Sims, Microsoft and Halo and so on. Further, I understand that Armello ran a Kickstarter campaign that earned over $200,000 on the promises of a game with a DRM-free version that one would assume would be fully supported. We are, frankly, past the honeymoon period when it comes to indie developers, and it’s time to address bad practices as the bad practices they are instead of accepting excuses.
So while I’m recommending The Usurpers Hero Pack because the new content is legitimately fun and enjoyable if you’re playing the Steam version, I think we all need to look at what’s happened with this DLC and keep it in the back of our mind. We’ve seen a lot of shenanigans from the indie sector of the industry lately, what with crowdfunding disasters, outright lying about features (see No Man’s Sky for a prime example) and now retailer-exclusive DLC. It’s sad that a great expansion for a great game needs to be overshadowed by this sort of thing, but that’s the state of games these days.