Monster Sanctuary Early Access Impressions: Monster Mash

Monster Sanctuary is an excellent Early Access title that combines the joy of raising monsters with a deep tactical turn-based combat system.

Collecting and training monsters is increasingly common in games now. Thanks to the popularity of several Japanese series with ‘mon’ in the title, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of games where capturing and battling various fluffy and unfluffy things is the primary goal. Of course, each of these games has achieved varying degrees of success.

The good news is that sometimes, these games try and branch out a bit, and that’s exactly what’s happening with Monster Sanctuary.

Monster Sanctuary is a turn-based monster battler with Metroidvania elements. Which is the latest in a long line of games designed to either set your brain on fire with excitement or have you screaming as you dunk your head into the toilet.

(Please don’t dunk your head into the toilet, it’s not hygienic.)

We Did the Mash

You play as a Monster Keeper in Monster Sanctuary, but a brand-new, green behind the ears type. You are one of four spectral familiars that's available at the start. Once you've made your choice, you then you set off on your journey to catch ‘em all.

Wait, no. Wrong game.

You then set off to climb the ranks within the Monster Sanctuary and eventually save it from the sudden appearance of powerful Monster Champions who are threatening the peace.

To do this, you go around fighting monsters, killing them, and then stealing their unborn children. At least, that’s how it seems. You battle monsters and can occasionally get eggs as a reward. You can then hatch these eggs and add them to your party, which can consist of six monsters. However, only three can be in a battle at any one time, so you have to choose carefully.

It’s a fairly standard system, but what’s really interesting is the battle system. Each battle is 3 v. 3, and there are a number of factors to take into account during each turn. Elemental strengths and weaknesses are given to you on a plate, so it’s all about strategy.

As you make your way through your turn, you build up a combo meter which increases your damage. This means if you need to heal, you can do so to start your turn, follow that up with a small attack, then choose your heavy hitter to get an extra 50% damage to your attack.

It’s a great system and one that adds a massive layer of complexity to a seemingly simple turn-based game.

Skillz To Pay The Billz

There is a wealth of different buffs, skills, and attacks to use, too, each of which you unlock using the skill system as you level up your beasties. You can choose from different passive buffs, stat upgrades, and even unlock new skills or upgrade your current ones. Each decision matters, though, and that’s what makes the game feel so good.

Every choice you make in battle is relevant, but that includes the things you do before you’ve even started a fight. Equipping your team with the right gear can take them from timid little fluffs and mushrooms into a squad of deadly beasts, and picking which of those to bring into the fray with you can decide the battle all on its own.

The best part is that if you mess up in a critical fight, you simply pick up right before you started the fight. This means you can experiment to your heart’s content, and never worry about needlessly backtracking.

The game's exploration is good, but it's very standard stuff. You go around a 2D map knocking down hidden walls, eventually unlocking new skills as you go and revisiting earlier areas for secrets and loot. It’s fun, but nothing revolutionary, and it can often be a little confusing as to where to go next. Not that it needs to be perfect, because the combat more than makes up for it, but it's worth mentioning.

Pros

  • Wonderfully deep combat system
  • Charming music and visuals 
  • Lots of customization 

Cons

  • Some battles take a while
  • It's not always clear where to go next

On top of all of this, it looks good, sounds good, and plays well. Monster Sanctuary is already shaping up to be an excellent game, and that’s despite it only being in Early Access.

If things continue on the path that it has currently laid out, then it’s sure to be the kind of indie gem that fans will talk about for years to come.

[Note: An Early Access copy of Monster Sanctuary was provided by Team 17 for the purpose of this impressions piece.]

Contributor

Jason likes the gym, roguelikes, and FromSoftware. There is a pattern there for sure, but try not to read too much into it. He's also a freelance games journalist who is slowly trying to take over the world. Not in a menacing way though, he'd probably just make everyone get pets or something.

Games Monster Sanctuary Genres RPG Platforms PC Tags adventure gamesĀ rpg
Published Sep. 11th 2019

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