There are few game genre’s that I shy away from. I’m not a huge fan of Rogue-like’s for example, but another is the “Metroidvania” style of game. There’s just something about traversing a 2D map, hitting a wall and trying to remember to come back later that stops me from progressing, probably because my memory can be worse than sieve-like at times. So, naturally, I was wary of Monster Sanctuary. However, I had no need to be as it treads lightly on all of its influences.
Metroid isn’t its only Nintendo influence, you see, and just looking at the screenshots posted you’ll probably see where I’m going with this. There’s an element of Pokemon to the game, in that you battle monsters to attain more monsters to build a better squad whilst also taking on other monster trainers. But it still feels different. Firstly I haven’t played a Pokemon properly since Gold, so I’m not aware of any battle mechanics that Game Freak have introduced over the last, what, twenty years? Here you get to pick three monsters from a squad of six as you enter each battle, with the strengths, weaknesses and attack elements of both your team and your opponents presented to you to allow you to make an informed choice on which three to pick.
This is where the Monster Sanctuary becomes really fun. Weaknesses are important, they are in any RPG, most obviously Persona, and Monster Sanctuary does something similar. Each attack has an elemental type attached to it, it also has a number of hits, you have to think before you attack what elements to use and how best to build up the combo counter, which in turn improves damage output by 5 percent per hit, it’s possible to get a 200% increase on your hits which obviously makes battles go quicker, but also, in turn, improves your rating for that battle (out of five) which then increases your chances of rare drops.
It doesn’t end there though, as monsters can be equipped with gear and fed food that improves their statistics, meaning the creature you have in your party is vastly superior to any you then come across in the wild. Add on skill points for levelling that can be spent on new attacks, buff skills or stat increases and there’s a lot of room for customisation and having a party of monsters that’s designed to take on any opponent.
Back to the Metroidvania stuff then, here it doesn’t feel as daunting, I’m sure other games in the genre help the player out just as much, but the way you can talk to your main monster (the one you pick at the start) who tells you what you need to be doing and the convenient teleport spots make traversing the map far more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I never feel lost and the manner in which you use in-world skills from your monsters adds a nice little touch (though, yes, its the same concept as unlocking abilities in other games in the genre).
I’ll readily admit then, that Monster Sanctuary has genuinely surprised me, as a foil to the other games I’m playing at the moment, its perfectly light and approachable, user friendly and really quite fun.
Formats: PC (version tested), Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 8 December 2020
Developer: Moi Rai Games