Dark Light

Having grown up playing the classic Pokémon games and watching the anime (the 2.B.A. Master album is still in my rotation), I have a deep-rooted loyalty for the franchise. However, growing up past those carefree childhood days over the past decade, it’s only become clearer that Pokémon refuses to grow with me. The anime as well as the games have stayed fairly stagnant for the past 10 years, following the same tried-and-true formula. So, naturally, I’ve looked for a more mature, innovative game in the same genre to fill that gap for me.

If Temtem’s positive reception is anything to go by, there’s definitely a huge market for creature-collection games, and it looks like developers have also stepped up to the challenge. Monster Crown, developed by Studio Aurum and due out in Early Access in just a couple of days now, is the latest and one of the most promising titles in that vein, so let’s talk about it.

A Whole New World 

To me what’s most important in creature collection games is not the core gameplay itself, but the monster designs especially in the case of Monster Crown where the lead monster in your team follows you in the game world, harkening back to the golden (or silver) era of Pokémon games. This is something I sorely miss in the newer installments so it was definitely a factor for me. Collecting the cute/cool/sometimes scary Pokémon that I saw on the show and forming a team is one of the most satisfying aspects of the franchise, and so it’s not easy for a completely new IP to compete with all that pre-established lore.

For the most part, I tend to build a team based on the Pokémon I most like rather than making the most optimized team possible (hence why I never got into the PVP scene). In this aspect, MC sort of succeeds. Instead of making them as cute or likable as possible, MC takes a more mature tone resulting in some intentionally ugly monsters, reflecting the dark, violent, semi-realistic nature of this world. This is mostly dependent on personal preference, but I ended up only liking about 7-8 of the monster designs out of the 61 I saw. Also, while some of the monster names make sense, a lot of them just seem to be gibberish, which makes them hard to remember.

Story-wise, Monster Crown substitutes entrapping monsters against their will with Pokéballs by taking a more peaceful approach where you offer the monster a pact to recruit them, which acts kind of like a contract that the monster willingly agrees to. So go back in your hole, PETA, there’s nothing for you here. Other than that, it works in the same way as Pokemon for the most part, except the higher level your monster is, the higher the probability of recruiting the opponent monster. The story (what I’ve experienced so far of it) is intriguing and much more mature and violent than any of its peers. You do have to foil an evil organization’s master-plan, but it’s not a silly, colorful plan and seems to hint at something darker.

Changing Up The Genre

Instead of type matchups based on elements, in Monster Crown it’s more a descriptor of the monster’s primary personality – Will is highly effective against Brute, which is good against Malicious > Unstable > Relentless. While the Rock-Paper-Scissors type combat is still viable in Monster Crown,
for the casual player the types don’t seem to matter all that much, because a lot of the monsters cover more than just one of these types. At one point my Canite had powerful attacks of all 5 types, so if I were so inclined, I could just ditch the rest of my team and go all-in on this one monster.

So, while this provides a lot of player freedom to have whatever kind of team he/she wants, strategically, I’m not all that sure that it’s balanced and what the meta would be, and balancing this is only made that much harder by the extensive breeding system, which we’ll get to later.

Another aspect of the gameplay I found refreshing was the almost-rogue-lite element of exploration – each time you lose all your monsters, you lose all your inventory – any potions (or aloe vera), pacts, and other items you might’ve collected are lost forever. However, you occasionally find the lost backpacks of other unfortunate tamers in the wild that you can loot. And since there’s no grass to wade through risking getting attacked by monsters, you can manage to avoid all monsters and just loot lost backpacks if you find yourself in a pickle. It might seem hardcore that it costs 15g to heal your monsters, but my fears were soon alleviated when I realized you can access a flying fast-travel service for free which lets you go back home and rest your monsters free-of-charge. The monster synergy mechanic is interesting too, awarding you for constantly switching up your monsters in battle.


Hatch Those Eggs, ALL OF ‘EM!

monster crown
Now coming to the main selling point of the title, the breeding system. Basically every single species of monster can be cross-bred with any other species free-of-charge and as many times as you like. Placing a monster in the primary slot and one in the secondary, you can obtain an egg that hatches to a monster with the traits of both its parents. It might inherit the looks of one and the type of another for example, or it may look entirely different and inherit certain stats and types of either parent. I’m not sure how many additional monster designs are available through breeding, but essentially this means that you can literally get any kind of monster you like.

This kind of immense freedom is honestly exciting and I can’t wait to see all the unique line-ups that creative players will inevitably come up with. The potential to create a personal, unique, badass team of your favorite monsters is just super tempting and cool, and this is undoubtedly the most ambitious aspect of this game. With this breeding system, along with the 8-monster teams and unlimited move sets, Monster Crown offers a staggering level of freedom to the player that many will find hard to refuse.

monster crown
Monster scouting is another genius addition to the game, that takes some of the tedium out of grinding for XP. While out in the world, without even entering the battle menu, you can command your lead monster to attack a nearby wild monster. If yours is of a sufficiently higher level than the wild monster, this results in a one-hit KO and awards you the gold and XP without even needing to get into the boring battle menu! If the opponent monster is stronger however, this results in it chasing you across the game world. Furthermore, now it’s pissed off at you too which means its base attack is higher. This led to some fun, memorable battles and I just love this notion of a shortcut to battle. You can even attack a monster, run away till it’s calmed down, and attack it once more to mess with it and win the battle without taking any damage.

Everything sounds great right? Well, the version we tried out was the beta, so predictably, there were a few annoying bugs. However, they’re expected at this stage and I’m glad the dev is going the Early Access route and not planning a full release anytime soon.

monster crown

So those are my impressions of Monster Crown, it is definitely an IP worth keeping an eye on. For hardcore Pokéfans, this is for sure a must-try, if not a full-on must-buy. I for one am highly optimistic about the title and can’t wait to see what’s added next.


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