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Platform(s): Android, PC, Xbox One, iOS
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XOne/Android/iOS/PC Preview - 'Alluris'

by Thomas Wilde on Sept. 19, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

In Alluris, play as a reluctant hero or villain to save the world — or save a colony of bears from some lumberjacks. However you play, you're sure to walk away with a few crazy stories about your adventure.

Alluris's marketing materials claim that it's what you'd get if you asked, "What if someone mixed Oregon Trail, Dungeons & Dragons, Hearthstone, and Tinder?"

Frankly, I think it's a bit of a misnomer. For one thing, if Alluris is sexy enough to earn the Tinder comparison, I sure didn't see it in my time with the game. It's really more like Bumble.

For another, Alluris is probably better described as a card-based game of Choose Your Own Adventure, high-fantasy edition. You begin the game by picking a gender, race, and starting job for your brave adventurer, which also determines your starting point and beginning stats.

From there, you move forward into the game, selecting from a binary choice at every step, as represented by a pair of cards. You swipe left or right to continue with your game, avoiding or instigating conflicts or new adventures, with each choice potentially costing, earning, and/or regaining experience levels, gold, health, and karma. You can train in various skills along the way to make certain options easier or at least more likely to succeed, spend gold to gain new options and equipment, and make moral choices to raise or lower your karma, which in turn can close and open new paths in the game.

The earliest, easiest choices also result in the most typical sorts of fantasy scenarios; a human fighter, for example, starts off helping their uncle deliver a cart of goods to market before being interrupted by a roadside attack. Each trip through the story, however, gradually unlocks additional starting options for future runs through Alluris, which introduces some dramatically different elements to the stories you can tell. You can begin as a bard, which gives you the option to sell out immediately, grabbing a huge pile of money and a deal to go on a sponsored musical tour throughout distant kingdoms, or play as elves or ratfolk.

It should be noted here that Alluris is a roguelike. It's very easy to die, especially if you begin as a class with relatively low base health, and dying sends you back to the title screen with nothing but any progress you've made towards unlocks. The game was available for play at this year's Penny Arcade Expo, tucked into a small makeshift "tavern" in the corner of the fourth floor of the convention center, and in the 15 minutes I spent with it, I managed to die three times.

(Mostly, it was because of the treacherous path up to the local monastery. Apparently, Alluris's monks have not so much retreated to a life of scholarly contemplation as gotten themselves into a mountaintop fortress that they can't leave without taking 90% of their health in ice damage. It's a little weird!)

Still, it's an absorbing enough experience. Alluris doesn't take itself particularly seriously. It's a fast-paced game that seems like it's designed for people who really enjoy exploring branching narratives. Just in the short period of time I spent with it, I found several new areas, a number of different locations, a bunch of new encounters, and the possibility of lowering my karma to such an extent that I got chosen as a dark force's avatar. I don't think I dare put this on my phone, or I'll never be on time for anything again.

Alluris was made with Unreal by 562 Interactive, a three-person indie studio based in Maryland and partnered with Epic Games. It's 562's second completed project, following the VR tower defense game Snailiens, and has been in development since last April. It's spent the summer doing the convention circuit, picking up awards from Dreamhack, GameDaily Connect, Quakecon, and the Rooster Teeth Expo before it arrived at PAX West.

The plan is for Alluris to arrive on Discord, Macintosh, Steam, Xbox, Android and iOS around the end of the month, selling for $10.

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