Having been out on PC for a while now, it’s time for the deck building-RPG hybrid Monster Slayers to make its way to consoles. However, while it is a fun and easy pick-up-and-play game, the transition to console has not been a smooth one.
Deck building games are an interesting breed. Combining elements of pure luck and careful strategy, they can both be easygoing and infinitely complex. Monster Slayers is an example of the former and there is very little here to intimidate even the newest player to the genre.
You start each game by making your hero and selecting a class. There is quite a lot of choice in how your hero will look but as the game itself points out: your hero will soon be dead, so don’t spend too much time and effort on creating him or her. This led me to simply pushing the randomize button a couple of times and go with whatever came out. There is a decent variety of classes, from rogues and knights to dragons. No really, dragon is a class in this game. Each come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses and utilizes the game’s three stats differently. A mage will be dependent on mana, a barbarian sacrifices health for greater attacks and the rogue needs to use a lot of action points for their cards.
At first, the system hints of some strategy but in the end, it mostly comes down to luck and the upgrades you get after each run. It is not necessarily a bad thing; the game is really easy to pick up and play but after playing through a couple of runs I felt ready for a next level of engagement, which sadly just isn’t there.
Once you have your hero ready, you can go out into the world and, well, slay monsters. The story is very barebones: kill three monsters to prove your worth and that is basically it. Run based games like this don’t really need a lot of story, but others like Hand of Fate do an excellent job with presentation and that goes a long way. After you have picked an area to do battle in, you get to choose a companion. They can give you an extra ability that can help you out when you are in a pickle but are otherwise not that helpful until fully upgraded.
The game itself is played by moving to different tiles in a randomly generated grid pattern. Each tile will have something on it, a monster to kill, a campfire to rest at or perhaps a treasure to pick up. Battles are played out in a turn-based fashion where you get three cards on your hand to begin with. Each card will do something like attacking your enemy or buffing your armor or perhaps making the enemy lose some of their cards with many of them come with a cost to your mana or action points. You can play all of them at once or opt to save some for the next turn. There are a great many cards to find on your run and they can offer some nice variety. Though, the random nature of it all makes it difficult to devise any type of strategy beforehand. There will be runs that are going to be very difficult or impossible because you didn’t get the right cards on your way through your first area. Luckily, each run is not that long, and you can soon get back into it again, hopefully with some upgrades and better luck.
In each area you visit, you are tasked with killing a specific boss monster. Unfortunately, the bosses are little more than beefed up versions of the enemies you fight throughout and don’t offer much in term of variety. At one point I actually forgot I was fighting the big boss in an area because there is little to tell you otherwise, apart from a slightly different title card at the start of the fight. All told, the fighting is fun and easy to pick up but might be a bit too simple to keep you occupied in the long run. The exception might be the rogue class whose strength is to chain cards together; there is something oddly satisfying about planning out how to get the longest chain and then smashing 7 or 8 cards down on the enemy. That is pretty much as far as the strategy goes in Monster Slayers, however.
Once you die, you earn prestige points and those are you use to make things easier for subsequent runs. There are things to make specific classes stronger or give you extra health across the board. It is rather standard stuff for the genre and the main way in which you progress, just like in Rogue Legacy. This, like most of the game, is straightforward and easy to get into but leaves a little to be wanted if you are a veteran to the genre.
That said, the biggest mar on this simple but ultimately neat little package is the way it was ported to consoles. The UI is so clearly made to be used by a mouse that it sticks out like a sore thumb on your PS4. The navigation is clunky, and I found myself trying three or four times to get the pointer to choose something that was diagonal from where it were currently. It would have been better to have a pointer like in Destiny or No Man’s Sky if they were to keep the PC UI. Luckily, it is not an issue in the battles, but that is its only saving grace.
The graphics are varied and neat, but it does have that “Flash game” look that I cannot help but feel is a bit cheap. However, there are a lot of different outfits and combinations for your character if you are into that sort of thing. Equipped gear has no graphical representation though, which is a bit of a missed opportunity, to be honest.
Though it has some less than great aspects, I ended up quite liking my time with Monster Slayers. In the beginning it seems deceptively easy, but Monster Slayers is hard, and you will die a lot. There are monsters, like the wraith, that I struggled with to take down, for instance. Unfortunately, it seems that the only real strategy to it is dying and improving your stats for the next run. It is fun enough on its own and I have happily spent a dozen hours doing so but I would have liked to have a little more meat on my RPG/ deck builder bones.
Monster Slayers is a neat and simple little game lacking in the strategy department with some irritating port issues stopping it from hitting the heights. A perfect game for turning down the volume and just listening to some audiobooks or podcasts while you slay, die and slay again.