Of Might and Macros – Arena.xlsm

For this review to make sense, I need to tell you a little something about myself first.

I love spreadsheets. I will take any excuse to make a spreadsheet. Budget? Spreadsheet. Fitness stuff? Spreadsheet. How to optimise a Stardew Valley farm? Spreadsheet. Hell, my new blog post upload schedule (which FINALLY EXISTS, and has a couple stream ideas) is a spreadsheet.

I will take any and all opportunities to make a spreadsheet.

But not like this guy. Oh no.

Chartered Accountant, Cary Walkin, made a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet containing over 2000 enemies, over 1000 item combinations, pre-programmed and procedurally generated maps, spells, and 100 achievements. Oh, and a story – with multiple endings.

Can someone give this guy an award?

So my wonderful other-half sent me a link to the download page, and I played it. I streamed my experience, though honestly, this game deserves a full playthrough video.

It got intense. Quick.

The emperor is trying to kill you before you start a revolution, so here you are, in the arena. Fighting wasps. Then a Queen Bee. Then a dragon. Wait a second, that doesn’t seem like a fair jump!

But the story itself, of betrayal and heartbreak and loss, was compelling. I’ve played legit RPGs with less emotional tugging than this one, and this is an Excel Workbook.

It’s also surprisingly difficult. Not the mechanics, oddly enough, those are pretty smooth all things considering. No, the difficulty of the combat is the problem. I get to one particular point in the plot and just die. And my brain was like “ugh, it’s a Rogue-like, I need to go back to the start”… But you don’t need to do that, do you? Because what do you do with a spreadsheet?

You can save them. Save your playthrough as a copy of the spreadsheet, and you can continue your game, like any other RPG.

One of the many maps – you are the little 🙂 and }} is an enemy,. The other blocks are the environment.

And, like any other RPG, there is a wiki with the enemy types, their strengths and weaknesses, what they might drop. There is a list of achievements and how to get them, and cheat codes. This game has cheat codes. I can’t tell you how detailed the wiki is, I didn’t use it, but this is a Workbook with a wiki and I love that.

A spreadsheet video game… Love it. So much. And I’m pretty sure I just scratched the surface with the story! I will update with a link if/when I ever do a full playthrough of the game.

A Song Of Cells and Formula

The game is free to download, with links from Cary’s website, but there are 3 things to keep in mind:

  1. This game needs to be played on Microsoft Excel. It was properly tested on the 2007, 2010, and 2013 versions though I played it fine on the 2016 edition.
  2. This game is not (or at least was not) compatible with Mac versions of Excel. I can only assume that it is the macros causing problems.
  3. You do need to enable the macros to play. This game is made up of macros, and you need to enable them to use them – check the yellow bar at the top of the window.

Give it a go, and remember – spreadsheets are awesome.

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