Monster Sanctuary is a monster taming game in a world where more and more titles have been taking inspiration from the most popular of them all: Pokemon. But while most of those game generally tie themselves closely to the original formula, Monster Sanctuary mixes things up by combining the Pokemon concept of capturing and battling with creatures with the exploration of metroidvania style games.
A match like this seems made in Heaven, but does developer Moi Rai games have what it takes to pull it off?
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Moi Rai games
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Release Date: December 8, 2020
Price: $19.99 USD
Monster Sanctuary starts off with a quick summary on the world and how humans and monsters live together, which is mostly not in harmony. Unless one is a Monster Keeper, as they put it, the world outside of the sanctuary is dangerous as wild beasts will attack.
This isn’t a problem for your character, who is not only a Monster Keeper, but also one of four families who have a spectral familiar passed on for generations. Here is where you select your starting monster out of 4 options, which vary both in appearance and nature.
Most of Monster Sanctuary’s plot is fairly simple and not much to write home about. While the world has been peaceful, the appearance of more champion monsters leads to people wondering if strange things are going on. It’s up to you to uncover the mystery where you end up taking on an evil group who are pretty much just pure evil.
You’ll also be joined with 3 other characters who represent the other 3 families you didn’t choose at the start of the game. They’re not particularly deep, but fairly likeable enough in their own right. You also don’t interact with them all that often either, so you don’t really form much a connection throughout the story.
But what makes Monster Sanctuary really stand out is the gameplay and exploration. The story doesn’t limit you to any one path, and you’re mostly free to explore at your own pace. Being a metroidvania, there are times where you’ll encounter an obstacle where you’ll either need to find a key or certain monster to progress. But it’s never frustrating, and it is actually quite satisfying once the pieces start falling together.
Unlike most metroidvanias, the majority of abilities needed to overcome certain obstacles come in the form of the monsters you collect as a result of your many battles. These monsters have abilities like flying across gaps or breaking hidden walls to reveal treasures. This means every new monster you encounter gives potential new areas you may be able to return to.
But these monsters aren’t just for exploring the game’s vast world. Just like the many monster tamer games before, most of the game will be spent in combat with your monsters fighting against various foes, ranging from the wild ones that roam the field or even other monster keepers.
This is by far the best part of Monster Sanctuary. Battle are done mainly in a 3v3 format, where you’ll be able to set up a team of 3 monsters to fight. This opens up a plethora of builds, strategies, and formations you can mix and match with the over 100 monsters in Monster Sanctuary.
Because of how many different styles can work in this game, it’s deep enough where you can focus on trying to get the most out of the strongest monsters in the game. It’s also forgiving enough that you can choose one single monster to focus on and build around it with good success.
There are indeed a lot of ways to build a monster to suit your needs and the team around it. Each monster has a unique skill tree where you can put points into whatever attacks, passives, or buffs/debuffs you wish to have them learn. While early on you might be limited due to the level requirements, a skill resetter later on can allow you to give your monsters really powerful builds of your choosing.
It doesn’t stop with just the skill tree. Each monster is also able to equip weapons and armor to boost up their stats, allowing you to really give them a focus on playstyles such as physical attackers, tanks, or supportive healers. Possibilities feel nearly endless and come along at a brisk pace as you progress through the game.
Monster Sanctuary is a strong entry not just as a monster tamer or metroidvania, but in gaming as a whole. Few are able to top just how many different strategies and builds you can come up with for their monster cast that tops triple digits. Exploration is always a treat whenever finding new areas with new monsters to battle and catch, leading you to wonder what new opportunities have been created.
This is all mixed with great visuals across the game’s many unique biomes, which bring about their own sense of style when it comes to exploration. The game’s soundtrack also manages to keep your attention from the moment you begin the game.
Monster Sanctuary is a must play for anyone who considers themselves a fan of at least one of the genres it puts itself out to be. Even if you aren’t a fan of either genre, it’s still highly recommended you check the game out.
With Monster Sanctuary there’s a depth to their combat sequences and level of awe in its exploration that blend together in a combination that few games can best.
Monster Sanctuary was reviewed on PC using a copy provided by Team17. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. It is available on Windows PC, Linux, Mac (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.