Monster Sanctuary, Metroidemon? – First Sip Review
Monster Sanctuary is a melding of worlds. Taking elements from side-scrolling Metroidvania titles and merging it with Pokemon styled monster collecting and battles. Developed by Moi Rai Games, a relatively small indie team, however, they are lead by industry veteran Denis Sinner. Who has worked on franchises such as Might and Magic and Tropico. Publishing duties are handled by Team 17 who have an impressive list of titles themselves.
Monster Sanctuary sort of echoes the Pokemon franchise. The game begins with your character beginning their Monster Keeping journey. However, unlike in Pokemon, your hero has both of their parents. But, again like Pokemon you also get to choose a starting monster. And again, unlike Pokemon, your starter here is tied to your family bloodline. It is also a choice between four monsters, the other three all going to potential rivals.
Wild monsters will attack humans on sight, but if a monster is raised by a Keeper it will be loyal. So your goal is to collect monsters and defeat powerful monsters known as Champions. Each Champion you defeat will add to your overall rank, with the ultimate goal being reaching the pinnacle of the monster keeping world.
As you progress toward your goal you’ll also uncover a mystery that threatens to destroy both the human and monster worlds.
A lot of the elements in Monster Sanctuary are comparable to other stalwarts of gaming. But, the story is well told and moves along at a nice pace, so most of the cliches just work.
The art style used in Monster Sanctuary is a pretty standard retro-inspired pixel-art. The monsters are all very fun and well designed. The humans are also well designed. And all the movements are very fluid. Your character can jump almost excessively high for a human but it still feels very fluid. Levels are fairly bland in their designs but that makes it easier to see what you can interact with. By contrast, the backgrounds are far more detailed and look really nice.
Overall the art style really compliments the gameplay and fits exceedingly well. However, I found the more detailed drawn art of the monsters to be a lot worse than their pixel counterparts.
When it comes to going on a monster-filled adventure a light and breezy soundtrack is pretty essential. And the soundtrack used in Monster Sanctuary fits fantastically. Each area you explore has its own theme, and even better they all fit well. Battle music and Boss music is highly energetic to match with the battle side of things. And overall, the music just compliments both the art and gameplay which is all you can ask for really.
Similarly, the sound design in the game is commendable. From the crack of hatching an egg to the roar of a flame attack. All the sound effects in-game feel on point and satisfying.
Much like the recent Indivisible Monster Sanctuary marries the side-scrolling action platformer with an RPG battle system. However, while both games have a team-based party system and a focus on combos. Indivisible uses an active turn system where attacks can be launched when ready. While Monster Sanctuary opts for a turn-based system where attacks can be planned out without leaving openings.
Starting with the exploration side of the game. Your keeper is able to run and jump, not all that exciting, although there are some tricky platforms to navigate. You also have a standard Metroidvania map system, which shows the rooms as you explore them. Where Monster Sanctuary comes into its own on this side of the game is the use of monsters. While your monsters are your combatants in battle, they are also your allies during exploration. Each monster has its own power, from summoning a rock to act as a platform or activate a pressure sensor, to launching an attack that can destroy vines and unlock secret rooms (however it cannot allow pre-emptive attacks on enemies). to a slight levitation that can be used to reach areas normally inaccessible to you.
The monster you have active can be swapped at any time outside of battle. Similarly, you can see enemy monsters on the screen and can avoid them if you’re good enough. But, as mentioned above you can’t launch a pre-emptive attack or from what I’ve seen be ambushed either.
The exploration side of the game also has various puzzles to solve, some of which require specific monster abilities. So it’s always a good idea to keep a range of monster types on hand.
Battle in Monster Sanctuary is a turn-based party RPG style. Assuming you have enough monsters the fights will largely be 3 vs 3. Although certain monsters like the boss Champion ones may end up as 3 vs 1 in your favor. Each monster will take a turn, with one side making its moves before the other side makes theirs. While your team can be set up in the order of your choice, you can swap their turn order in battle quite easily. And even the monsters at the back can be attacked by any enemy.
Monsters will have basic choices like attack, defend and item use. However, mostly you’ll be using their special attacks. Special attacks require mana which is restored each turn, so if your mana regeneration is high enough you can spam specials every turn without issue.
Monsters also have elemental strengths and weaknesses, which are shown to you prior to battle so you can select an appropriate team. The game also uses a combo system where the number of attacks in a turn increases the power of subsequent attacks. Meaning that if you use weaker multi-hit attacks upfront you can finish with a devastating single attack to end the turn. Interestingly, healing also counts toward your combo total so you can still remain offensive while supporting your team.
In conclusion, Monster Sanctuary has taken two well-loved genres (Metroidvania and RPG), and combined them, using some of the most well-loved titles in both genres as their main references (Metroid/Castlevania and Pokemon respectively). And in my opinion, they have absolutely nailed them both. While the game is still in Early Access (most evidenced by the WIP listing at the end of the monster skill trees), it already feels polished and is one of the best RPG experiences I have had in a while.
The team at Moi Rai Games has plenty more planned for the game and has recently added the inclusion of a PVP mode. And while I have yet to reach a high enough level to explore the end of the skill trees I’m still anticipating what is yet to come there.
In Coffee Terms
In coffee terms, Monster Sanctuary is a Mochaccino. Taking a classic blend like a cappuccino and adding the smooth chocolate flavors of hot chocolate. The result is an absolutely delicious coffee that is as satisfying a flavor as you’re likely to find. While also giving you that caffeine boost you want in a coffee. The cafe may be fairly new, but the barista has been honing their craft for a long time, and it shows. More, please.
Monster Sanctuary Links
Monster Sanctuary Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.