Growing up as a kid playing video games on my favourite console of all time: the SNES, there were games that I played that I will remember for as long as I am alive which is why the SNES is my favourite console of all time. There are the obvious choices that normally get all the plaudits like Super Mario World and Zelda: A Link to the Past etc and among them are the types of games that I would get sucked into and spend hours upon hours on end playing throughout all sorts of ungodly hours of the day and night. These include Super Metroid and the Final Fantasy’s to name a couple. They are the sort of games you intend on playing for a bit and before you know it, 4 hours have literally flown by! As soon as I started playing the Monster Sanctuary demo, I knew I was going to be in for a similar experience. So get comfortable and allow me to try to explain as best as I can why Monster Sanctuary is a time sink that people would be proud to plunge dozens of hours into.
So, think Pokémon meets Metroid with an old school turn based party battle system just like in the old Final Fantasy games and that is essentially what Monster Sanctuary is. Interested? Good, allow me to continue then. The world you play in is inhabited by humans and monsters and you play as a “Monster Keeper” who comes from a long line of ancient Monster Keepers. You will be gathering many different monsters along your way in order for you to train them, following the footsteps of your ancestors. A mysterious series of unsettling events seem to be going on in the background which will have you on a journey to unravel them and get to the bottom of why peace between humans and monsters is under threat. Sounds like a relatively straight forward plot, something that even people as slow minded as myself shouldn’t have a hard time following. The complexity of the game is not the story however, it is more how the combat system is implemented, which we will get to shortly.
Similarly to the Pokémon series, you start the game by choosing your starter monster, a choice of four, each with their own stats and unique characteristics. Their stats vary between attack power, magic attack, defence, health and mana and come in a variety of types including fire, earth and ice. You will notice that one of the starter monsters is a flying monster which could be key to getting you to high places that you won’t be able to reach without a bird type. These characteristics are key to progressing in certain areas of the world, so if you don’t choose the bird monster type at the start of the game, you will no doubt need to catch one at some point of the game to reach high places. Other monster types will have their own unique abilities that you can utilise such as the wolf being able to use its claws to slash through barriers. Honestly, there isn’t a lot else that is too similar to Pokémon about Monster Sanctuary, you level the monsters up as you emerge victorious in battles but that’s about it. You unlock new abilities as you level your monsters up and earn skill points, you can then spend these skill points to learn new combat abilities or upgrade existing ones. It’s quite an in depth upgrading system as each monster seems to have their own skill tree for all of their abilities, giving you complete control of how you go about shaping your party.
You are able to catch any monster you combat in the game as long as they drop an egg after you win the battle. Once you have an egg you simple hatch it from your inventory and it becomes yours, you can have up to three monsters in your party at once so choose wisely how you set your party up. The combat system is basically the same system as the first Final Fantasy games where you take turns to attack each other, I usually like to make sure I have a party member who is strictly there for healing purposes. The meat and potatoes of Monster Sanctuary is not just catching monsters but it’s shaping your three monster party, making sure you have a strong offence as well as a substantial defence. But also making sure you have monsters in your group that will enable you to traverse passed various obstacles in the game with their unique abilities. In battle you are able to also use items that you have come across on your journey, such as healing potions, reviving potions and antidotes. You will also need to explore areas to find hidden treasures and items for story progression purposes.
The combat system does not stop there, on the top right hand corner of the screen during battle, you will notice the word “combo” which has a number that increases every time you land a hit or cast a buff or heal spell. This is where the real strategy of a battle comes into play, the higher the combo counter, the stronger the damage your other monsters cause during the same turn. So the best strategy here is to start your turn with monsters utilizing their defence abilities and finish the turn with an offensive monster knocking out an enemy with potentially just one hit! This is an interesting system that sets Monster Sanctuary apart from other games within similar genres although there are not many games that hold Monster Sanctuary’s unique approach. If you have never been a fan of Pokemon’s random encounters, you will be pleased to hear that they are absent from Monster Sanctuary, you encounter an enemy by walking into them which will start the battle. Another key difference is that you are able to equip weapons and gear for each of your monsters boosting their stats which will no doubt prove vital as the game progresses.
I could literally go on and on about Monster Sanctuary but the easiest thing for me to do right now is to advise that you give the demo a try. While the game is still in development, the developer Denis Sinner has had a fantastic campaign on Kickstarter which you should check out to have a look at all the stretch goals that were smashed. The demo will easily last you a couple of hours and the full game will boast up to around 100 or so monsters to catch with light and dark variations. Monster Sanctuary will release on PC with a beta coming early 2019, an early access version in mid 2019 with a full release in late 2020. There will also be a Nintendo Switch port thanks to a successful stretch goal reached. So if any of this game sounds even slightly interesting to you, be sure to check it out. Let me know what you think in the comments down below.
Witten by Sammy J on 31st December 2018