Catch, Tame and Train
In a world where monster taming games are quite abundant, it takes a decent one to get me hooked. Monster Crown doesn’t disappoint and put me right back in that mindset I was in when I was younger – catch, tame, train and progress, with a considerable amount of time being poured into the first two.
Monster Crown has been in development for over four years now and is finally in early access. Lead developer Jason Walsh endeavored to create a monster taming game with a truly involved breeding mechanic, which is what makes Monster Crown unique. However, the game boasts a large world with plenty to explore, over 200 monsters, and a decent story, which makes the whole title really appealing to those who enjoy this type of game.
Monster Crown is set on Crown Island, which, according to the game lore, was 20 years prior ruled by the “Philosopher Kings” (if this is a reference to Plato’s Republic, kudos to Walsh) who were tyrannical beings, hell-bent on exerting their own power. Eventually, a group of people rose up and overthrew the Philosopher Kings.
A little while in the future, you play as a 14-year-old trainer, who sets off on a task to leave his parents’ farm to forge a bond with a nearby king in order to gain a good standing for the farm. Along the way, you’ll encounter several characters who all play a role in the goings-on in their locale. Eventually, you’ll come across Beth, a power-hungry woman, destined to rip apart the balance on Crown Island and return the monstrous Philosopher Kings to power.
The story develops as you progress from settlement to settlement, meeting humans and monsters alike. I should also mention that you take a personality test at the beginning which determines which starter monster is recommended to you. I went with a monster called Ambigu – an “unstable” type, which is a slimy octopus looking creature with attacks that made him/her grossly overpowered in the starter area (but then again, this could be typical of any of the starter monsters).
The gameplay sees you navigate the game world, from town to town, with forests, deserts, caves, and dungeons in between. In these wilderness areas, you’ll encounter other monsters roaming and as they approach, you’ll be thrown into the battle screen. Combat is turn-based, as you and your opponent take turns to throw out your arsenal of attacks. When you win, you gain experience – gain enough experience, and your monster’s level increases. Your traveling companions can learn new attacks and get stronger. EXP can be shared out across your entire party, or focussed on your leader, which can make training your monsters much easier.
But the biggest gameplay feature, or perhaps rather, the thing which sets Monster Crown apart from other games in the genre, is the breeding, which promises to be a “true” breeding experience, generating countless possible combinations of monsters to the point that within a few generations, you’ll no longer be able to tell the original parents that started the lineage.
Breeding takes place at a farm, where you can assign a + parent and a – parent. The hatchling will inherit the body of the + parent and the coloration of the – parent. They will inherit moves and type depending on the combination that has been bred and you can deposit specific items at a special pedestal in order to affect the outcome of the breeding in certain ways, including stat spread and inherited moves. There’s even online play, although this is post-game and I haven’t indulged in it. From what I can gather, you can pit your creations against those of other players as well as breeding monsters online, by choosing one monster and having a copy of your offsprings’ genes uploaded to the Crowns server. A gene is picked from the sequence at random and combined with your selected monster to generate a “Net Egg”, which can result in some truly unique combinations.
The gameplay overall is simple and easy to learn, but the depth provided by the breeding mechanic adds hours of grind to the game.
Firstly, it has to be said, I really did get pulled into the leveling and training side of things and I reckon I easily spent more time pumping my monsters up and training them in the wilds than I did playing through the story. Not that this is a bad thing – it’s the mark of a good game that one gets drawn in like this.
I adored the simplicity of the game and the old school aesthetic. As I mentioned earlier, it really hit me with nostalgia and threw me back to many days spent on the Game Boy Colour on games of a similar ilk.
The world is great – a nice variety of settings and landscapes, each scored with unique music to fit the vibe of the area and teeming with monsters to fight and catch. On this topic, the idea of forming pacts with monsters to get them to join your team is something I really quite liked as well.
However, the main thing I enjoy about Monster Crown is the overall experience because it comes through so clearly that this is a project of passion. The dedication that has been shown by the minuscule development team shines through the entire game and makes Monster Crown all the more impressive.
On the other hand, there are some gripes I have with the game. The story is nothing to write home about and there is a lot of emphasis placed on the choice one has to make come the conclusion of the game – which is nothing but a choice between good or bad when all is said and done. That said, the story was not my focus with Monster Crown, so whilst it could have been better, the game more than makes up for it in the sheer amount of content.
When doing my research before I started playing Monster Crown, I saw a lot of other writers and even adverts for the game describing it as “dark” or being set in a “dark world” – this did not really come through at all for me. There were a few moments of cinematic violence here and there, such as the early death of a villain you come across, but nothing major. Perhaps I’ve been desensitized over the years, but nothing really struck me as “dark” about Monster Crown overall. That said, it is a touch bit more mature than other titles in the same vein.
Overall, Monster Crown is a simple and fun RPG adventure with heaps of content and a very deep breeding system to keep you playing for many hours on end. What it lacks in certain departments, such as the story, it more than makes up for in actual gameplay and the love of the craft from the developers is always evident. When all is said and done, I can heartily recommend Monster Crown as a solid entry into the world of monster taming games.
MONSTER CROWN IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to SOEDESCO for a PC review code for this title.
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Damien (dkpriory) has grown up gaming, from the humble days of the Atari all the way through to modern PC gaming. Unafraid to let a game steal his life for a few months, he is passionate about playing something immersive but also yearns for something to take him back to his childhood. Sadly no longer a member of the NookGaming team or creating content, but check out his archives on Youtube here.