“Hello and welcome, new recruits! You have been selected to join the Monster Slayers’ guild because you have displayed extraordinary battle prowess and exceptional monster hunting skills, or, because you have no loved ones nor family and are therefore expendable, so to speak. Either way, do not be worried. Should you fall in the line of duty, we have plenty more recruits to take your place. Just be sure to keep your weapons and armor in pristine condition should the next initiate have need of them! Signed, your fearless guildmaster.”
If you've played Monster Slayers before, you would know that the previous paragraph is a perfect summation of the core game experience offered by Monster Slayers. Monster Slayers is a card-based battler with RPG/roguelike elements that puts you in the shoes of a new guild recruit who must go from dungeon to dungeon to hunt down legendary monsters for the sake of a randomly generated task that is explained to you whenever you start a new adventure. Players must then battle through three different dungeons where everything from the layout to the loot and even the bosses are randomized until they finally face off against the evil Harbinger. Which is easier said than done, thanks to permadeath.
Permadeath: An enjoyable gameplay aspect to some, a hellish curse to others. It is what separates the boys from the men, the wheat from the chaff, the Batmans from the Robins (Ok I’ll stop now). Before you begin an adventure you can customize your new character’s gender, voice, and appearance with a small selection of options. There is a randomize button too, in case you don't feel like wasting time. On the very same screen was a note that gave me a good chuckle: It stated “Don't take too long here, your character will be dead soon anyways” or something along those lines. And boy, were they right. Once I got to the second dungeon, the very first monster I encountered put an end to my poor unsuspecting hero’s journey. Once a character dies, they are gone forever and you have to start the whole game over again. There is a silver lining, however; 10% of your gold, any equipment you find, and all the fame you earned carry over to the next character. I'm going to explain to you what fame is after but first, let's take a look at the character classes you'll be able to choose from.
When creating a new adventurer, you have 6 different classes to choose from, each with their own unique deck of cards and playstyle. They’re fairly standard RPG classes; Rogue, Ranger, Knight, Barbarian, Cleric, and Wizard. Each class starts out the adventure with their unique deck. You can't customize them outright, but during the course of your game, there are a few different ways you can alter your deck to your liking. Beating enemies nets you experience and gold. By using gold you can buy new stat-boosting equipment and cards from the merchants that can randomly appear in any dungeon. A fair warning, though: While equipment carries over from one hero to the next, any card you procure is only temporary and will vanish upon your death. When you run into a healer during the course of your game, they offer you the option to either fully heal or delete a card from your deck. Deleting cards can be a useful strategy when you want to cut weak cards from your deck instead of having them take up valuable space. Having a bloated deck full of weak cards can be detrimental to your survival. Nothing is more frustrating than needing to pull a healing card and getting a weak attack card instead. Most cards have a level attached to them which determines its power. It is possible to upgrade them by finding a captain while exploring the dungeons and sometimes by gaining a character level, but because a lot of the game is randomized, nothing is guaranteed. I’ve had some unlucky runs where I ended up with a bunch of low-level cards by the time I got to the final dungeon and I ended up getting obliterated. Not pleasant. Often it is better to just say no to weak cards that you may find on your adventure. Whenever you level up your HP is fully restored. Since the damage you take during a battle carries over to the next one and the fact that healing is scarce, utilizing the timing of your level-ups will be a crucial strategy later on in the harder dungeons. Leveling up your character can also grant you a variety of helpful boons, such as; additional HP, new cards, increased hand size, or the option to delete a card from your deck. Fame is like a persistent experience bar: It carries over from one adventure to another. When your fame rank goes up, you get to choose a perk from the list. While quite a few give benefits to all characters, like bonus HP or an increased chance to find loot, some are class specific. These can alter the card decks you start off with, giving a class access to a variety of more potent cards. Fame is tallied up and added to your total when your adventure ends, so whether you win or lose you are guaranteed to earn fame and give yourself a better chance at surviving your next dungeon-romp. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Dungeons and monster slaying.
As I mentioned before, the dungeons are randomized so it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, as the difficulty escalates with each dungeon cleared. Dungeons are displayed as a series of blank connected squares. Starting from the entrance, your goal is to move square by square, clearing out the rooms until you find and defeat the legendary monster (aka the dungeon boss). Each room is made up of one encounter. It can be anything, from a battle with a monster, a treasure chest, or one of the many helpful characters you may find roaming about. The healer and the captain are the two most useful people to find. The healer can give you some much-needed healing (obviously) or delete a cruddy card from your deck, while the captain can upgrade a card of your choice, helping to turn you into an unstoppable monster-slaying machine! I would jump for joy whenever I ran into one of those two. Clearing an encounter reveals the contents of the rooms around you. Once the final boss is found and defeated you can choose to either leave the dungeon or finish clearing the rooms. The battles are handled in a turn-based manner. There are 3 bars to watch out for; the HP bar, AP bar, and MP bar. HP and MP are pretty self-explanatory. HP is your health, while MP is needed to use spell cards. AP (or ability points) are needed to used certain skill cards. AP and MP regenerate by a fixed amount at the beginning of each turn. As long as you have enough AP and MP, you can use up all the cards in your hand before ending your turn. You don’t have to go it alone…sort of. At the start of the first two dungeons, you enter you have the option of recruiting a companion. They are quite limited in their usefulness until you get the appropriate fame perks to strengthen them. They can neither attack nor be targeted by monsters. Your companion comes with a special ability that can be used only once and then must undergo a cooldown period for a certain amount of battles before being able to be used again. What it boils down to is that your buddy is basically an extra ability to use to help turn the tide of a battle. Overall, though, I find the companions to be a little underwhelming until powered up.
Even though Monster Slayers is a hard game, sometimes even rage-quit worthy, it’s a blast to play. At one point it started to feel a bit like an addiction; start a new game, die, start over again. Get a little farther, die, start over again. Get even farther than last time, die, curse the hell out of the developer, and then start over again. I like the fact that you get to keep all your equipment and fame carries over to the next playthrough so it doesn’t end up feeling like an exercise in futility when you die repeatedly and are forced to start over again for the umpteenth time. All the randomly generated content combined with the easy to pick up, yet hard to master card system and charming style of colorful graphics makes Monster Slayers a good choice for anyone who enjoys card-based games and for RPG lovers who want some quick fun with a unique battle system and very little commitment required. Good luck, prospective Monster Slayers!
*A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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