Monster Sanctuary is a turn based strategy RPG developed by Moi Rai games and published by Team17. Though it may share many similarities to other games, there’s a charm and style to Monster sanctuary all it’s own. Join us as we judge and score the game in our Monster Sanctuary PS4 Review!
You play a young monster trainer, who is setting out into the big wide world to find wild monster eggs and hatch them, making them loyal to you and forming a collection of unique and powerful creatures. You’re aided by a companion monster that’s been with your family for generations, helping you make your way through the dangerous world.
A lot of the story is there to just give you some basis on what to do next and where to go, but there is also a colourful cast of characters that you can interact with on your journey to either aid them in their troubles, give you advice on your journey, or just be friends and family you chat with along the way. Even though you’re exploring all sorts of hazardous terrain, you never feel like you’re far away from a friendly face so you never feel truly alone.
Monster Sanctuary revolves around battling monsters in the wild, defeating those monsters for a chance to obtain a monster egg, then hatching that egg to have that monster join your party. You then use this to battle other monsters and level it up, making for an all too familiar combat loop. Pokemon is obviously a huge influence, but the other side of the game is the 2D side scrolling aspect, which involves you exploring an intricate map to discover secrets and use your monsters unique abilities to access different areas and discover either new monsters, a new route ahead, or maybe some much needed items or gear.
The combat typically involves two teams of three monsters battling each other, with each team member performing an action before switching to the other team. The game features a combo mechanic where every attack your monsters perform increases the damage of the next monsters attack. The damage increases purely based on the number of attacks made, therefore incentivising you to think carefully about using monsters which might do four smaller damage hits in one attack, which grants a large damage boos for your next monsters explosion attack.
This single mechanic makes otherwise basic combat feel like an important decision making process, as you have to decide which monster will use which attack in which order to truly maximise your damage output. It’s simple, but very effective at engaging you in the combat.
You’re often tested in your abilities in fights against champion monsters. These are stronger than normal monsters that fight solo, but perform multiple attacks in a single turn. They require careful selection of your chosen monsters for your team of three, as well as maximising status’s and damage output to beat. I came close to losing against several champion monsters, with the latest fight forcing me to use a lot of health items. Its a good challenge to see if you were paying attention and gauging your progress throughout the game.
The exploration side however lets the side down a bit. It does share elements of metroidvania style exploration, but to call it that is giving it a bit too much credit. The maps don’t feel very open, often the solution being ‘keep moving ahead’ along with the abilities you need to use often being available to two or more monsters you’ve acquired at any one time.
Its less a focus on exploration to move forward and rather ‘lets push this switch to open that chest’ that being said, a heavier focus on map exploration would likely have detracted from the combat so even though you won’t be excited to find a new area, you’re still excited to find those new monsters.
Monster Sanctuary has some very polished and immediately recognizable pixel art, with even abstract monster ideas being easily visually decipherable. For example, one monster is essentially a small man in a pulled over hood, with two hand out front tucked into each others sleeves, and it’s appropriately called a ‘monk’.
The thing that suffers visually is the lack of imagination in some parts of the game, with a lot of the map feeling like copy and pasted forest or brick textures, meaning you’ll stare at the map to rely on where you might be rather than remembering any particular room.
Other than this and an inconsistency in creativity towards the monster designs, the game looks overall great, each attack is lovingly designed in combat and there’s a real atmosphere to the game that others lack.
The soundtrack isn’t anything mind boggling but nothing feels out of place or jarring either, just a nice ensemble of tracks that feel suited to the exploration or combat depending on what you’re currently doing. The sound effects for the monsters while not entirely distinct definitely add to the feel of the combat, with bubble attacks making a satisfying glugging noise and explosions having a short sharp bang sound.
Monster Sanctuary PS4 Review – The Verdict
Overall, Monster Sanctuary is a fun and intelligent turn based RPG, without relying on needlessly complex mechanics or cheap gimmicks to draw you in. The combat feels engaging and makes you think, while maintaining a light and family friendly aesthetic even in tense situations. If you’re looking for something to scratch that turn based combat itch, I’d definitely recommend Monster Sanctuary to young and old alike.
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