Developer: Moi Rai Games
Release Date: 28th August
Genre: Metroidvania RPG, Turn Based Combat
Price: £13.99 Early Access from Humble
Tomas stirred from his thoughts, the long descent through the cave system had taken much out of him and once he’d reached the wide open cavern it was the easiest decision to stop and rest for a while. His eyes scanned slowly in all directions, searching for the source of the noise that had stolen him from his reverie, though the faint light from above combined with his torch was nowhere near powerful enough to pierce the thick blackness that owned the edges of this space.
Again, the faint scurrying seemed almost deafening amongst the silence that had existed only moments before. Tomas was not alone, though he hadn’t been alone in the first place, as Amra raised her head, ears pricked, now also searching for the watcher in the dark. Tomas calmed himself, fear was anathema to his kind, and accompanied by a Spectral Lion as fierce as Amra there really was no rational reason to be afraid of much in this world.
Suddenly a trio of creatures burst from the dark, seemingly born of the shadows that only moments before had harboured nothing but the promise of exploration. Amra rose, slowly, deliberately, haunched over and coiled like a tight spring, she did not move but stared intently on the intruders, teeth bared in challenge.
Tomas rose, the monsters charging across the cavern floor, closing the space between them in quick fashion. One short breath, Tomas smiled, glanced down at Amra and clicked his finger. Flame burst across her back, illuminating the cavern and overpowering the darkness that had held dominion, and as she leapt towards her foe the sound of a deep guttural roar shook the walls themselves.
Monster Sanctuary is the Early Access release that has us all reminiscing about Pokemon & Terraria, and make no mistake, it is a monster battling, training, spelunking bundle of gaming goodness! Though while it may take some inspiration from such games, you’d be gravely mistaken if you assumed it didn’t bring anything fresh to the table, and even with my relatively limited time in the game I’m already watching development of the game with an excited anticipation.
While the battles themselves will have a familiar feel for any gamer, all the way down to the strong/weak elemental system, you can see the depth that lies underneath the basic battle sequences of picking abilities and targeting your enemy monsters. Battles take place between two sides of up to three monsters; and this is where the fun begins, the buffs, debuffs, passive abilities and offensive attacks available even in the early stages allow for some creative sequences of moves as well as a variety of ways to tackle the foes before you. These choices become more important when you begin to take advantage of the ‘combo’ system, as your team uses its abilities they stack up to provide a team buff for the rest of the turn. Choosing the right order for your monsters to make their move builds this combo bonus up, so that you can hit far harder with the right ability to finish your turn, sometimes to devastating effect!
Outside of battle you can see the beginnings of a true RPG style progression and customisation system, as your monsters begin to level up you are introduced to the unique skill trees they have access to. Not simply limited to new offensive abilities, you can choose to level up specific stats as well as interesting passive passive abilities to begin creating a well balanced team of monsters fully designed to compliment each other and tackle whatever foe’s may come your way. These skill tree choices can be further enhanced through the equipment and foods you choose to give to your monsters, yes that’s right, they have equipment slots to help boost certain stats, and can be fed meals to give them an extra boost!
The game already holds some real challenge in the “champion” monsters that inhabit the world, rarer than normal encounters these bosses take more of a beating, hit harder, and can use more than one ability in a turn. They prove a real challenge if you are unprepared for the fight, and rightly act as a measure of progression within the game.
The game does currently have some design choices which can be jarring, as there is no functionality for mouse usage which continually proved a frustration, coupled with D-Pad movement as a default keybinding rather than a standard WASD format it leads to instinctive keystrokes causing all manner of menus and actions to occur when you simply want to make a basic move, not game breaking by any stretch it does make you sigh as you have to correct yourself.
Overall, Monster Sanctuary may initially look and feel like the lovechild of other very well known, if not legendary, games but it already feels like it has something new and refreshing to bring to the table, and is definitely a game to watch very closely as it continues its journey through the Early Access development phase!
Let me know below if you've taken the game for a spin, and how you're feeling about it!