Becoming a monster tamer has taken many forms over the years, with games such as Pokemon or Rune Factory 5 having their own spin on the formula. Monster Sanctuary doesn’t add anything new to the monster collecting formula, but it does provide you with an opportunity to be the very best in your own way. You are personally crafting this team, going dungeon exploring, and trying to solve the crisis of powerful monsters emerging.
Monster Sanctuary adds a twist to the formula and allows every monster to be useful if you are willing to invest your efforts into raising them. The platforming also allows you to feel like an explorer, bringing your favorite team to help you explore new areas. While a good story would have helped to provide more substance to the world, it is still an enjoyable experience that will delight fans of either platforming or monster collecting genres.
Story – Solving Powerful Monster Problems
Monster Sanctuary begins with the world in disarray because powerful creatures are appearing at faster rates than expected. Humans who raise and work with monsters, known as Monster Keepers, are doing their best to deal with this problem. You take the role of a protagonist that you create, who will be the person who works their way up the ranks to take care of the threat.
You will choose your starting monster out of four potential options. The starters you don’t pick are given to three other rivals, who will interact with your character in various ways. There will be sub stories involving these three, but the main focus will be training your monster team and defeating the powerful monsters.
Monster collecting games don’t need a complicated story, and it doesn’t hurt the game’s potential in any way, since the focus of the game is primarily on monster raising and platforming. It does feel like there could have been a better story, since the map design is not dissimilar to games such as Castlevania or Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which are both platformers that had a story to go along with the gameplay.
It feels like a missed opportunity rather than a demerit against the game, since the gameplay is enjoyable and you never think that the story needs to be more complex than it is. The premise is about being the strongest Keeper Master, instead of dealing with political intrigue or fighting in battles, which fits just fine.
Gameplay – Dungeon Crawling & Team Building
Monster Sanctuary’s gameplay is split into two parts. The first part involves taking care of monsters, training them, and coming up with strategies to use them effectively in battle. The second involves platforming, exploring one large area split into sections that will require help from your monsters as well as key items to fully navigate.
The platforming is similar to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, as you explore one massive area that is split up in sections. Each section will contain enemies that you have to battle, and as you progress, you will fight tougher enemies. You will also come across obstacles that are blocking your way. Some obstacles will require your monsters to help you, while others will require special key items to be found.
Having monsters help you get past the obstacles brings a level of pride in your team that you normally don’t get in a platformer. It’s nice to feel that your monsters are helping you explore, and that you are utilizing your team in creative ways. The dungeons you explore won’t have lots of moving threats or dangerous enemies to dodge, but you will be working together with your monsters to reach new heights, and it is a good feeling.
Combat – Turn-Based Strategy With Planning
Combat is the second part of gameplay that has a surprising depth of strategy that you wouldn’t expect. Turn-based combat is nothing new, but Monster Strategy adds in an extra depth by making you consider other factors such as placement and combinations.
No monster is useless and every monster can become a mainstay in your party. While this isn’t to say you can’t have your preferences, there is rarely a monster you are going to switch out because it can’t stand up to future threats (ie. Pokemon). Instead, you will decide on a playstyle that is most comfortable to you, and choose monsters that fit said playstyle.
You can also equip monsters with one weapon and three accessories, either to build on their strengths or cover any weak points. This also prevents any weaker monsters from falling behind by giving them a boost, or helping monsters grow into their strengths. If you do make a mistake somewhere, like learning the wrong skill or you realize you prefer a different style of combat, they are easy to fix.
Monster Sanctuary thrives on being able to give players options, and it works well. You don’t have to put a monster away because you outgrew it, but because you prefer a different playstyle. You can also switch monsters out based on different strategies, and mistakes are easy to fix. You’re never in danger of making an irreversible mistake, which is a great source of comfort.
Combat also isn’t as simple as hitting weaknesses and being done with it. Your attacks grow stronger based on the number of hits you have dealt an enemy within a single turn. While powerful single-hit moves aren’t bad, you can also use multi-hit attacks with monsters at the start, letting your final monster unleash their true power.
You can also decide for yourself whether you want to go into pure physical attacking, run a magic team, or play a defensive game with status ailments. Every playstyle has its pros and cons, but none is objectively worse than the other (they all have their weaknesses). The freedom to plan and the layers of strategy come together to form combat that is a joy to master. Even if you have to spend hours mastering the fundamentals, you will have fun doing so in your own way as you learn what your options are.
The best part is that nothing about this game is overly complicated. Monster Sanctuary may not be treading much new ground, but it sticks to the fundamentals and it works. By combining two experiences that players normally associate with different games, it managed to create a fantastic fusion that players will have a fun time playing.
Audio & Visuals – 2D Graphics With Fitting Music
Monster Sanctuary is a platformer, with simple 2D graphics for its environment and sprites. It may not be the most graphically advanced, but it works for the game. The environments are beautifully drawn, and the animations are smooth. Combat is similar; attacks are smoothly done and you can easily tell who is the target of an attack.
The music is also able to switch depending on your location. You can be exploring a dungeon above or underground, find secret rooms, or go back to the Monster Sanctuary and walk around. The music will also change from regular enemies to boss battles, letting you know that you have encountered a powerful challenge.
It’s not the most advanced set of graphics or music you will hear, but it works with the game. Simple is better when it comes to Monster Strategy, and it works to its advantages.
This review for Monster Sanctuary was played on Steam with a key provided by moi rai games.