Monster Slayers is a single-player collectible card game with rogue-like elements and a fun cast of characters.
Genre: Card Game, Rogue-like
Developer: Nerdook Productions
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Release date: 24 Mar, 2017
Monster Slayers is a single-player collectible card game with rogue-like elements from indie developers, Nerdook Productions, who previously developed well-known indie games, Vertical Drop Heroes HD and Reverse Crawl.
In Monster Slayers, you play a hero on a quest to defeat three powerful monsters in order to join the legendary Monster Slayers.
Gameplay is presented side-on, in two dimensions. The upper portion of the screen shows the action in each battle, using cartoon-like sprites with basic animations, while the bottom section shows your hand of cards and various statistics, gauges, and other useful information.
The battle graphics are great and fit the sense of humour and general feel of the game to a tee. Card graphics are big and easy to recognise, and the always-available tooltips fill in any information that you might not remember just from looking at the card name and graphic — very useful for a beginner.
When you’re not in battle, the dungeon and ‘world’ maps are simply presented and work well. In fact, the interface in general is very easy to use and I didn’t ever find myself not knowing how to do something.
Graphics options are non-existent, but the game should run fine on any modern hardware.
Sound and music also fit the game very well. The music seemed to me to be sort-of comically jaunty, but full of doom as well, much like the game itself, and although it gets repetitive, playing on and on for hours, I didn’t find it annoying.
Sound effects are fine and consist of all of the sorts of things you’d expect from a fantasy-battle-based CCG. They’re well normalised and I didn’t need to adjust relative sound and music volumes from their defaults.
There are some voices in the game, too, and personally I loved these, though one of the female character’s “Hello” when encountering friendly NPCs in the dungeons very quickly got on my wife’s nerves. If you find one annoying, though, there are many more to choose from when creating your character, both male and female.
Monster Slayers plays similarly to a single-player computer version of Magic: the Gathering, or any of a host of other fantasy collectible card games, but with a wicked sense of humour.
You start the game by creating a character of one of the six provided classes: rogue, ranger, knight, barbarian, cleric, and wizard. When you select your class, the humour in the game becomes evident, as there’s a special note below the character name: “Don’t spend too much time here. This hero will be dead soon.”
The first time you play, the game provides you with a short tutorial dungeon, before putting you on the world map screen, from where you can select one of the Northern Valley’s treacherous dungeons to explore. Entering the dungeon, you’re shown a grid of connected rooms, each one of which holds a random encounter. When you first enter, you can only see the four rooms around you, but as you defeat monsters or encounter NPCs, more of the dungeon opens up, until by the end you will most likely have explored every room.
Most often the rooms hold creatures to battle — the type and level of which is displayed to you before you enter the room — but when you first start the first and second dungeons each game, you’ll also be given a choice of companion, each of whom has a special ability with a cooldown. Other than battles, you’ll also encounter merchants, trainers, healers, and a number of other non-deadly, or even friendly, NPCs and objects, many of which award you new cards.
When you do enter a room with a creature, though, the battle card game begins, and this plays like many other CCGs, with the goal being to wear down your opponent’s health to 0 while not losing all of yours. There’s a bit of a twist, though. Although your hand is often only four cards, many cards perform an action (e.g. attack or healing) and then draw another card, so, particularly for the rogue class, you may end up using double or even triple the number of cards in your hand on a good turn.
Some cards use action points, which are limited and refresh each turn; some cards use mana, which is limited and carries over each turn; and some cards use neither, and are essentially ‘free’ to use. The main difference between the characters is the cards they have in their card decks, with each one being geared towards a certain style of play. Rogues churn through cards fast, with lots of redraws; knights easily build up lots of defence (‘block’) and are good tanks; and barbarians are happy to burn their own health and then rely on regeneration to recover, in order to do increased damage to their enemies.
Defeating an opponent earns you gold and experience points (XP), but any health you’ve lost carries over with you to the next battle, unless you visit a healer, or, importantly, go up a level. Each level of monster is worth five XP, so kill a level two monster and you’ll earn 10 XP. This is important, because one of the basic tactics of the game is to carefully plan your battles in order to level up when you most need to regain your health. Levelling up also normally gives you a choice of character improvement: an extra Action Point, a new card, or a card upgrade, for example.
Dungeons are procedurally generated and the game has perma-death, so when your character dies, off you go to start all over again. All is not lost, however, as you keep a small percentage of your gold, all of your items from the ‘party inventory’, and, importantly, you earn fame points. When these reach enough for the next rank, you gain a point to spend on a permanent improvement. These include deck changes for future games, stat increases, and a range of other benefits.
Each dungeon has a boss creature. Defeat three of these and you’ve fulfilled your Monster Slayer quest and, I assume, completed the game. Simple, right?
There are a few things I didn’t like about the game, but only a few.
Firstly, I’ve clicked the ‘Sell Junk Items’ button from the inventory screen far too often and it’s sold off equipment that I wouldn’t have called ‘junk’ at all, with no way to recover it. Make sure to use this button only sparingly!
Secondly, the companions, while a nice addition, are not really used to their full potential. This is certainly a deliberate design decision, to focus on the main character, but it seemed like a bit of a wasted opportunity, with such a good range of companions and only a couple of improvements available for each.
And lastly, Monster Slayers is too addictive by far! I think it must be a digital narcotic.
Note: according to an update on the Store page yesterday, there are now also six more classes to unlock by completing the game with each of the six starting classes. Oh no! That’s even more reason to keep playing.
Pros and Cons
+ A great sense of humour
+ Very good use of rogue-like elements
+ Most excellent fun
+ Steam Achievements
– Could do with more
– The ‘Sell Junk Items’ button sells good things, too
Monster Slayers is very, very good. If you enjoy CCGs, and you like rogue-likes, you should buy it. Now.