Every once in awhile we at GameGrin will come across a spectacular indie game to preview. Monster Sanctuary is one such game. What started off as a simple Kickstarter campaign has grown to a single player, side scrolling 2D light RPG with metroidvania elements. If you’re confused by the term metroidvania, it is a subgenre of action-adventure video games. The term is a portmanteau of the game series Metroid and Castlevania. Metroidvania games use game design and mechanics that are similar to games from these two series. Thank you, Wikipedia.
Monster Sanctuary is developed by Mo Rai Games and published by Team17 Digital Ltd. In it, you play as an aspiring monster trainer, or monster keeper, and you set off on an adventure with your initial monster companion. You can choose your first familiar from one of four different creatures, each with their own dual elements. Once selected, you’re off to capture monsters and battle other trainers. You will eventually meet rivals who have the other familiars you didn’t select in the beginning of the game. I definitely got a Pokémon vibe playing this.
The monsters you get all come with a unique ability that you can use outside of battle. Some can fly you across the screen briefly. Some can burn things and others can slash at an obstacle that is in your way. This is where the metroidvania element comes into play. The world so far is quite large, and I’ll be honest, I did get lost a few times but that is mostly because I have a bad memory. That and I like to aimlessly wander around without any clear goal except “Oh that looks interesting! I wonder what’s over there?! Wait, how did I get here?” There is a mini map in the upper right-hand corner to help if you get lost.
Of course, this game isn’t just about running around, getting lost and fighting monsters. There is a story that adds a degree of fun to the game as well. For some reason, “champion” monsters have been popping up in larger numbers and it is your job as one of the keepers to seek them out and defeat them. Fun right? It most certainly is. The champions are essentially the boss battles and will help the monster keeper rise in ranks.
Combat is turn-based and initiated when you run into a monster that is hopping around without a care in the world. You select up to three monsters before each battle to fight your opponents in 3v3 battle. Sometimes it is 3v2 or 3v1. While the game does try to tell you that positioning of the monsters are important, I never found this to be the case just yet. Monsters can attack either with basic attacks or with magic attacks that consume mana. At the end of each turn, monsters recover a portion of their mana. This feature caused me to largely avoid using basic attacks since it almost felt as though I could use every magic attack at every new turn. Of course, I did find the more advanced magic attacks were very mana dependent and could not spam those. One thing that I discovered early on is that there really is not an initiative order. Once it is your turn, you can choose any of your three monsters to attack your opponent first. This plays an important role due to the combo system. Every hit increases the combo meter which increases the damage output of each successive attack. That being said, a weaker attack that has multiple hits may actually end up dealing more damage than a single attack with one powerful hit. At the end of each turn the combo meter resets.
To obtain new monsters, the monster you defeated must drop an egg. Egg drops are determined by how well you do in the battle through a 5-star rating system. The higher your rating, the greater your chances of obtaining rare items such as an egg. Once an egg is obtained, you hatch it to get a new monster. Once you hatch the egg, you get the option to name the monster if you so choose. This is taught to you in the very beginning when you fight a blob monster. Naturally, I named the blob “Blobby” and it is my best friend. Just saying. As for the items you obtain, you can give them to your monsters to equip to boost their stats, just like in RPG games. Unwanted eggs or monsters can be given to the Keeper Sanctuary for rewards. I’m keeping Blobby forever though.
As your monsters level up, you get skill points. These points are then turned into skills which you select on the skill tree of each monster. There are passive abilities, new abilities, and upgraded versions of previously selected abilities for you to choose from. As I previously mentioned, there are also items in this game. Every monster has one weapon slot as well as three trinket slots. And before the start of a battle, you can further boost your monsters’ stats by feeding them food. That gave me a Monster Hunter kind of vibe.
Overall, Monster Sanctuary shows a great deal of promise. The music in this game is very appealing and I never once got sick of it to the point where I would mute the game. The battles are fairly easy at first, but they grow in challenge as you progress and start finding the champions to fight. The monsters look adorable and fighting them is a lot of fun. The world is fun to explore and there are mini puzzles to be solved. I look forward to a more finished game when it comes out for Steam Early Access sometime in late 2019.
Currently, Monster Sanctuary is available as a demo on Steam.