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From dust we came, and to dust we shall return in Arboria

It’s as if we could never escape the chains of mother nature that binds us. To transcend beyond the grasp of the very earth that gave us birth, it’s still the stuff of imagination. But that doesn’t stop humanity from looking forward to escaping the arms of the mother, to unshackle the vines that hold us down. And yet, there exist indigenous tribes that go the other way i.e. bond with nature till they become dust. There are instances where some tribes are known to practice deadly rituals of growing plants inside their bodies – a painful process to become one with nature. It’s as if they are trying to follow the lifestyle of wood trolls that have barks covering their body parts instead of skin. Or maybe they are Groot!

Arboria let me in the shoes of such wood trolls, where you are as much part of nature as it is of you.

Tree people and…stuff

Arboria is a hack-n-slash, rogue-like adventure where you control wood trolls called Yotunz (like Jotun from the Nordic mythology). In order to protect your clan from the wrath of gods and heal the roots of your Father Tree Yggr (like the world tree of Yggdrasil) you’ve to venture into the underworlds of Durnar, into the ever shape-shifting dungeons where the roots of the Father Tree lie. And of course, fight a lot of bugs, golems, and rock mutts. Guiding you is a fairy named Rata who had witnessed the impact of the corruption on Yotunz firsthand. And so she has made it her sole mission to cleanse the Father Tree of the source of corruption. That’s the basic narrative. Quite simple, I know.

There’s scope for some lore since I had found some notes in the lower echelons of Dunrar, scribbled in troll language akin to what 13-year-old use on Facebook.  In Yotunz-speak, “S” is replaced by “Z”, “This” becomes “Dis” and so on, maybe for the immersion, or maybe to show how uncannily these trolls resemble humans. It’s like the current generation of social media addicted human beings have merged with the nature. I..I mean look at their appearances! Even in closeup shots, I couldn’t find an iota of flesh on the Yotun bodies.

To strengthen this fact, these Yotunz warriors are literally incubated from their head inside sap filled trees to nourish them, and when they are called for action, the just break out with full-grown bodies spilling sap all around. Then these troll tribes have this weirdly funny dancing ritual when the Yotun jumps down into the chasm and begin its mission. And when the Yotun dies, Rata carrier off its head back to the pit topside, and a new Yotun is created from the sap. The cycle repeats as long as the Yotunz you control keep dying until all the roots of the Father Tree are cleansed.

How does it play?

Let me clarify this here, you are part rock, part creature and your weapons are symbiotic in nature, literally a part of your body, Remember Scorn’s teaser from last year, where your gun is a living creature and so is its ammo? Well, Arboria is not entirely like that, but the concept of your weapons growing into your bark-covered hand feels as if it’s taken from Prototype. But unlike Prototype, all you can do is a light attack, a heavy attack and some magic attack, and a roll-dodge to avoid incoming attacks. So, basically similar to Dark Souls (gaming journalism 1010), considering most of the environment is cradled in pitch blackness and its only Rata’s bio-luminescence that lightly illuminates the dungeons. Enemy attacks all follow their scripted pattern so they are highly exploitable if you time your dodge right, then follow up with mana-based attacks like sending shock waves in 360 degrees or sending it directionally to hurl the enemies backward.


And when I thought it can’t anymore souls-like, bam! You get the Estus flas…. I mean the healing potion. But I’m so glad that unlike Dark Souls where the enemy lunges at you the moment you drink from Estus flask, in Arboria I can just run away from the enemy to drink the potion. But what I found lacking was that the battles can get pretty dull after a few enemy encounters. Since Arboria is still in Early Access, the enemy variant is limited. And since the enemy variant is limited, you won’t have to think much when devising tactics to defeat them.

The bugs, the small ones charge at you when they see you, so they can easily be roll-dodged. Then there are bugs they through slow-moving, easily-avoidable fireballs. One light attack, one heavy attack plus area-denial shockwave can wreak havoc on any enemy. As for the big creatures like rock-golems that roll or lunge at you, use directional shockwaves to throw and stun them, get close do a heavy attack, retreat, then repeat. Watch out for the self-filling mana-meter though, else you’ll be spamming buttons without any effect. Also unlike Dark Souls (Bless the Godz), rolling and dodging doesn’t consume anything, but it can only protect you from attacks for so long. And if you a mistake, you die.


Death is something you’ll experience a multiple times in Arboria, because you’re meant to, as then the roguelike nature kicks in. Post-death, you’ve to donate the Veri to the Godz to unlock new upgrades, though you have the option to keep it for yourself and make the Godz go angry (as if any of it matters in any way). These upgrades are for the future Yotunz that you’ll take control after one’s death, after their birth from their heads that Rata carries back. And these Veri can be farmed by destroying the blue crystals in Arboria’s procedurally generated dungeons. Although there are post-humous upgrades, whatever armor, weapons, skills, or XP you acquired are gone forever.


How does it look and sound?

The concept of Arboria is intriguing, but the game doesn’t do a stellar job of presenting itself to you. The game seems to be using some form of low-quality FXAA across all settings, resulting in the game looking heavily blurred. Due to this, its hard to discern things in the distance as well as make out details in the environment. As for the ever-changing dungeons. every time you die, it felt as if the same set of props are just randomized to create the levels, a rock here, a lift there, some blue crystals, some roots, some healing temples, some chests, some fiery pits, etc.

As for the performance, there’s no issue, no game-breaking bugs, no glitches. It’s still pretty solid on that side.

But the main issue is with the sound. It’s as if no SFX is there besides the customary background sounds like water dripping, attacking swishes, blast effects, and all. What I meant to say is, in the first cutscene when your Yotun is thrown into the ground, there’s no sound effect for that. Moments like these made me feel as if I was watching a silent movie. Full audio and voice acting are promised to be added during its stay in Early Access, so that’s a relief.

Early Access- Worth it?

For the first few hours Arboria delivers an enjoyable romp through dark, mushy dungeons but after a certain point it falls into the slimy pit of repetitiveness. The fact that the enemy roster is quite limited only worsened this feel. But hey, you could practice your skills on them. Besides, since Arboria is still Early Access, let’s cut some slack. However, the devs need more time to execute this properly. It’s a got potential to be something good, but the state it is in now, you might want to wait a while.


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