[Review] Monster Slayers – Nintendo Switch

Written by Schwetty
  • Developer: Nerdbook Productions
  • Publisher: Digerati
  • Release Date: 05/04/2019
  • Price: $14.99 / £13.49
  • Review code provided by Digerati

Welcome to the Guild

Role playing games can sometimes be considered niche. Roguelike & strategy RPGs are even more niche. But a card based rougelike strategy RPG? That is one niche that I was completely unaware of. How would the battle system work? Would it require me to collect endless cards like Magic? Was there a perma-death system that would remove all my hard-earned cards? I had so many questions before I started Monster Slayers and thankfully most of my worries were put to rest after only playing for a few
minutes.

A Different Monster Hunter

Monster Slayers begins by letting you choose one of six beginning classes. Six more can be unlocked by completing the game with each of the basic classes. I started off with a Ranger class, which became my second favourite class overall. The game gives you a few options to make the character your own, which included hair styles, sex, skin tone and voice. The first part of this game that stood out to me as being different came out of entering my name for my character. When I went to change the auto generated
name, a text box came up above the name saying something along the lines of, “This doesn’t matter, you won’t live long enough.” This made me chuckle and I liked this less serious approach.
After I finished creating my character, I was greeted with a tutorial which broke down the basics of the game. Your character can only make moves based on the cards in your hand. Three cards to begin with and more as you level, maxing out at five. Some cards use your action points while others use mana points, and others use no points. It’s game over if your character loses all their health points but you win if you deplete your opponents HP. How complicated can it get?

Give Me a Hand

I must commend Nerdbook on their card battle system as it was very simple to understand but became increasingly difficult to master. The tutorial does a fine job of explaining the basics, but it wasn’t until a few runs later that I began to grasp finer details of the system and why in certain points of the game you were given the opportunity to delete cards from your deck. I was very confused as to why I should delete cards, why wouldn’t I want all the cards in my deck? Predictability, that’s why. I learned that having a smaller deck of cards with better cards would spell success, not a hand filled with many level one attacks that can spell doom for late level runs.

Game of Chance

After clearing the short tutorial, the world map opens with three locations available. Each one has a brief description of the terrain and which monsters inhabit it. Once choosing a location, you are presented with a random grid map of the dungeon and two random companion characters to choose from. After making your selection, the real game begins. More grids open which can either be a monster fight, treasure, altar, campfire, healer or other NPC to help you along the way.
Monster squares are essential to progressing in the game and give you XP which will in term help you level to unlock new perks, upgrade cards, delete cards, etc. Another important thing about leveling is that you regain all your health after gaining a level. HP becomes a precious commodity as healers and campfires are few and far between while using your precious gold at a merchant to heal is meant only for emergencies. There are cards that allow for healing, but again can clog up your deck or come at an
unreliable time in battle.

Spoils Aplenty

Speaking of merchants, they allow you to buy equipment and cards for your monster slayer. Each piece of equipment comes with different stats, some suited better for different classes. While you can often get new items from treasure chests or from slayed bosses, merchants each have their own items that get better the further you progress in game. Altars are another interesting aspect of the game as they can grant you a gift, such as 3 more AP, but it will require you to no longer regenerate MP. These
double-edged swords can be useful, but it all depends on how you play and your class. For a Barbarian, this may have been a great trade off, but for a Mage, it simply would not work.

After traversing the dungeon’s many rooms, you will come across the dreaded boss! Defeat this monster to complete the level. Upon completing a level (or dying), you are presented with Fame. Fame allows you to unlock stats and upgrades that are permanent. These help you progress further and further into the game. Some are specific for each class while others are more universal. The game concludes once you reach the end of the third dungeon, but don’t expect to reach this on your first go. The difficulty spikes are bad from the first to second dungeon and are even worse from second to third . While these spikes are mitigated once more stat buffs and skills are unlocked, it was very jarring to feel like the biggest, toughest fighter in the dungeon and then be decimated in one turn in the next dungeon. But again, this is all eased once more stat points are unlocked and better equipment is found.

Sights and Sounds

The art style of Monster Slayers is very reminiscent of the Scribblenauts games and I found it quite charming. It was nice seeing an indie game that wasn’t completely pixeled, as there seems to be an oversaturation of the pixelated look. Monster designs seemed cutesy but imposing. For example, the Feral Lion looked very mean, but I assume a good steak and a pat on the head could turn it into a majestic Simba in no time.
The music sounded like it was ripped straight out of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. It helped to set the tone of the journey, whether you were just beginning your first day, or finishing up your fiftieth . I also enjoyed the voice acting, even though it was limited, having multiple character voices in both male and female variants was a nice touch.

Final Thoughts

I had low expectations for this game as I’ve never dabbled in card-based RPGs before Monster Slayers. But I was won over and I can’t recommend this game enough. It isn’t perfect, but the formula of ‘collect cards, hone your deck, die, repeat’ is very fun. If you are a fan of RPGs, deck building games, or rougelikes, this is a must play!

Pros

  • Quick, easy to learn / hard to master battle system
  • Tons of variety in character classes
  • Fun art style

Cons

  • Difficulty spikes
  • Losing the hand you spent thirty minutes crafting when you die

Verdict
Monster Slayers is a game I never knew I wanted, but now has me yearning to go back and play more.
4.5

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