It’s rare in today’s gaming landscape to find a game that mashes elements of seemingly disparate genres and makes the combination work. In Monster Slayers’ case, these could have been pulled from a “buzzwords generator” – Rogue-like? Check. Deck-builder? Check.
While those two genres don’t have a lot in common, one thing they do share is an element of randomness. Picking one of eight classes, each with individual attributes and playstyles, you’ll fight your way through dungeons to level up. So far, so video game. The way you do battle is through a constantly expanding deck of cards, three per turn, which cover everything from healing, to earning extra cards to use, to dealing damage to monsters such as Centaurs, the Undead, and giant spiders. Levelling up will grant bonuses of varying types – new cards, upgrades for existing ones, or more gold to use at merchants. Death is permanent, however, but each run earns you more “Fame” which is redeemable against another set of perks to help your next playthrough.
Visually, Monster Slayers invokes a sort of “gothic Scribblenauts”, but don’t let its cutesy style fool you – you’ll die a lot. After a couple of deaths learning the ropes, you’ll soon fall into a pattern of attack based on the opposition you face. Stocking up on healing or blocking abilities before a Centaur is smart while using attack cards on pesky Undead Skeletons should ensure a swift victory.
While you’re sharpening your skills, however, Monster Slayer’s UI will do it’s best to hold you back. Perhaps part of the porting from PC, Monster Slayer’s menus are convoluted and difficult to navigate with a Dualshock. This is a shame because the rest of the game strips out a lot of filler and bloating – battles are snappy, even though they’re entirely turn-based and exploration is streamlined to perfection.
By definition, a deck-building game is a slow-burn experience, and while you will inevitably gain power over the first few playthroughs, the game progresses steadily if not spectacularly. If you stick with Monster Slayers, however, you’ll find an impressive dungeon-crawler with plenty of content.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*