Monolith - One of the Most Fun Roguelikes This Year
After previewing Team D-13's shoot'em up roguelike Monolith just over a week ago, I was left wondering to myself, what more could they do to make an already outstanding game even better. The game released yesterday, and I was surprised to see just how much polish and refinement really went into it.
What is Monolith?
For those who may not know what Monolith is, it is a roguelike that uses similar level design and mechanics to The Binding of Isaac and combines them with good old-fashioned shoot'em up gameplay. The player takes on the role of a small ship that enters a long-abanded facility in search of wealth, power and an effort to piece together the past.
Throughout your journey, you will have to defeat all kinds of enemies along with enormous and powerful bosses, collect debris (money), buy upgrades and weapons from merchants and find secret rooms containing additional upgrades and supplies.
So, now that we have the gist of what Monolith is about, let's get down to the nitty-gritty details.
Roguelike level design and mechanics and shoot'em up are a perfect match
Awhile ago, if someone told me, "how cool would it be to combine a roguelike with a shoot'em up?" I would have probably looked at them with a confused expression on my face. This wouldn't be because of it not being a good idea, I just wouldn't be able to get a mental image of how it would work.
But when it comes to it actually being done, it is a match made in heaven. Just like The Binding of Isaac, you move from room to room having to defeat all enemies within each to progress to the next. All the levels are randomly generated, resulting in a unique experience in every playthrough.
Along with the level design, there are also other elements from TBoI such as shops where you can buy new power ups and supplies and secret locations to unlock using your bombs. At the end of each level, you must face a boss that is only possible to fight once you have unlocked the door by killing the minibosses (Nimbus') throughout the floor.
It is within the gameplay that the game gains an identity of its own with its fast-paced, bullet hell action. To help you on your way, you have a selection of weapons at your disposal from rapid firing weapons, to charge up weapons to laser beams or fireballs.
However, these are just the weapon types. Each of the weapon types has randomly generated properties to them which gives them more possibilities such as crossfire, ricochet, freezing enemies and much more. On each floor of the facility, there is also an upgrade station that grants you an upgrade.
These upgrades come in the form of increasing your maximum health, your damage, swapping your dash ability with teleport and more. It is also worth noting that there is a feature that instead of backtracking through rooms, using the map, you can instantly teleport to any room you previously cleared. This results in there being zero backtracking between rooms to get to anywhere which is just an added bonus.
Between the randomly generated levels, weapons, upgrades and shops, no two playthroughs are the same. That mixed in with the adrenaline filled, chaotic, fast-paced action of the shoot'em up genre, creates an exhilarating experience that you will fall in love with and can't stop playing.
Awesome enemies and bosses
One of the most important aspects of a game like Monolith is to ensure that the game's enemies and bosses are not just challenging but also induce fear into the player. While the more basic enemies at the earlier stages of the game are expectantly easy, as you progress they become more unpredictable and dangerous.
This slow build of difficulty has two purposes that Monolith executes perfectly, that being a warm-up for the challenges ahead and also a false sense of security. There have been so many occasions throughout the game where I have felt invincible only to then get my ass handed to me by the tougher enemies on the next floor.
As for the bosses, they are brilliantly designed both in visual design and their balance in attacks. They are visually unique and look intimidating to a point that you know you have a battle on your hands. With the shoot'em up genre it is very easy to make a boss imbalanced, but in Monolith they are challenging, but well balanced, resulting in there always being a possibility to win. It just depends on your experience, skill, and reflexes.
The best thing about the bosses more than anything is that they are memorable. From the ginormous devourer that swallows everything to the fire blazing, firewall to the supernatural daemon. Each requires different approaches to defeat them as they all have their own form of attacks that you need avoid.
The enemies and bosses of the game are really well designed and balanced in every possible way and give the player some really memorable moments throughout their experience.
An outstanding title
Little has changed with Monolith since I previewed it little over a week ago. But there has certainly been some tweaks here and there and a good overall polishing to it. With that said, so little needed to be changed or adjusted, as it was simply just that good.
Even now I still stand by what I said in my preview, that being that it is one of the most fun roguelikes to release this year. It is a frantic game with adrenaline filled action, balanced enemies, plenty of unlockables, awesome weapons and a brilliantly fitting soundtrack to top it all off.
This isn't a game that would suit anyone who hates bullet hell gameplay but if you don't mind it and enjoy shoot'em ups and roguelikes, then Monolith is guaranteed to give you one hell of a good time that is worth its asking price.
Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this review.
Monolith is available to buy on Steam for $7.99