Monster Train Review
Monster Train PC Game – Review by NoChatBot
“Monster Train” combines rogue-like gameplay and card deckbuilding, mixes a train ride through hell and an epic battle with heaven, and serves up one of the best strategy games in a long time.
Who does not know it: You want to have a quick look into a new game – and bang! You have 25 hours on your account. Monster Train is such a game. It seems inconspicuous, the mechanics familiar at first sight. But underneath, a captivating, elegant mix of card tactics and Roguelite is waiting for you. It makes strong use of genre greats like Slay the Spire, but develops its own strengths. How well it plays, we will clarify in this review.
In Monster Train, hell has finally frozen over – literally. The last surviving creatures of the underworld have rescued themselves onto a train that now rattles along tracks through the snowy wastelands. On board: A precious hatchstone, with which the infernal fire in the center of hell shall be rekindled. On the way to our destination, however, we are involved in several round-robin battles against the hosts of heaven, which we have to fight back with summoned creatures and spells – all in map form.
The playing field basically consists of only one part of the train and is simply divided into four floors. At the top is the hatchstone, which, in addition to life points, has its own attack value and can defend itself quite well in an emergency. Below it are three floors where we can place units to stop the advance of the Sky Warriors. The Angel Socks always attacks on the lowest level and then moves up one floor round after round.
Before each round of the game we have to choose two of a total of five creature tribes, which we only release bit by bit. This is how we determine which cards make up our deck. The good thing about it is that the creatures are wonderfully different and allow for many different combinations. The Hell Horns, for example, rely on strong melee fighters, rage spells, and useful Imps as supporters, while the Awakened ones rely on powerful plant creatures that provide thick armor, healing, and thorn damage for good defense. The water beasts of the Stygian Guard take advantage of powerful ice and support spells, while the shadow creatures of the Umbra summon masses of small creatures that serve as buff food for larger monsters. Finally, the Melting Relics are the last tribe to be unlocked; they lead battle-strong candle creatures into battle, which, although they will die on their own after a few rounds, can improve other units and be resurrected for a short time.
No matter if we die or win, for each game round we gain experience points, which we use to unlock new cards. The bigger the pool, the more combinations and ways to play! In addition, each monster clan has a particularly versatile champion creature that can be upgraded twice during a run. But because we don’t know what improvements are available or what cards will be drawn, we can never rest on a familiar tactic, but have to adapt a little in each run.
There are two different card types. Monster and Spell Cards. You need “Ember” to use one of them. You have three Ember available in each turn of an attack. There are also some cards that do not require ember. The floors of the turn have a limited amount of space available. Depending on the strength of the monsters, they may take up more or less space.
The effects that Spell Cards have or can have on some monsters are very diverse. Besides simple healing or damage to enemies, there are also many buffs. With these you can increase your own strength, strike in front of your opponent or inflict damage when your opponent attacks you. These and other effects can be activated immediately by the cards or only when a condition is fulfilled.
There are three decks of cards. One is the normal deck, from which you draw the cards for each round. Then the discard pile. Used Spell Cards and also the cards you did not use during a round are put on the discard pile. When the deck is used up, the discard pile is shuffled and used as a deck again. Defeated monsters and very powerful spells that have the side effect of “consumed” are placed on the discard pile. The cards on this stack are no longer available for the rest of the attack.
If you have survived a fight with several waves of attackers, you advance a bit to the hell core. The player can choose the route the train should take. Many secrets are hidden on the routes, which can massively influence the further course of the hell rescue. Sometimes there is gold on the route that you can invest in your own Deck, but sometimes there is also a power-up to increase monster strength or the possibility of copying a particularly strong card.
In between the fights we land on a nice, simply knitted overview map on which we determine the route. Unlike in Slay the Spire, we only have to choose between two routes, but there are several advantages waiting for us on the way, so the choice has to be well considered. The route on the left might give us a gold bonus, health points for the hatstone, and a random event where we can make decisions and collect useful bonuses in a mini-quest (also very similar to Slay the Spire). On the right track, on the other hand, there might be a new card waiting for us to expand our deck. Or we open a treasure chest, which hides one of many artifacts that give us powerful special effects.
Or we encounter a trader where we invest our hard-earned gold in upgrades. Here too, the developers have thought ahead: Our deck basically consists of only a few units and spells, but they have two slots for upgrades. More health and combat power, improved healing, reduced summoning costs and much more can be used here, sometimes with drastic effects: For example, a stygian ranged fighter that can attack all enemies in a row can be turned into an absolute secret weapon through a multi-hit and damage upgrade!
Although the game rounds are usually not too long, they don’t get monotonous even after the 20th round. If you’ve had enough of experimenting with cards, monsters and clans, you can still switch to a higher of the 25 (!) difficulty levels. Even if the lower levels of difficulty start out easy, at the latest at the final boss, you’ll quickly bite your teeth out with an ill-conceived strategy.
If the campaign is already ingenious, it will be really hellishly good in the multiplayer mode “Hellstorm”. Here, eight players compete simultaneously for supremacy in hell, the player with the fastest game round wins. The special thing: There are no unfair advantages, because every player has the same resources at his disposal and success or failure decides what you make of them.
However, the tight time limit in which decisions have to be made is stressful at the beginning – there is hardly any time to read up on effects and skills. Slay the Spire” has already shown that card games work great in combination with other genres. Monster Train” also proves that a good balance provides powerful gaming fun. Even gamblers who are not really fans of card games will hardly be able to put “Monster Train” down because of the hellish fun.
As in Slay the Spire, frustration-prone players need a thick skin here: On the first level of difficulty, a passage to the center of hell is often still easy to make, but even from the second level on, some fights become really tough. It’s enough to place a unit in the wrong place, to use a spell unwisely – and our beautiful glowstone lies in ruins. As with almost all Roguelites and card games, there is always a certain luck factor involved – if you’re unlucky and simply draw lousy cards, you have to live with it.
But Monster Train never leaves us in the dark about what’s going on: The tidy interface is well thought-out and very easy to read, most effects and consequences of an action can be seen in advance. Again, the game has learned a lot of good things from Slay the Spire. However, Monster Train looks much nicer: The monster design is better and more detailed than in the original, but the rest of the presentation is also more colorful and effective. Many cards are slightly animated and please with nice artwork, even if they don’t compete with a Gwent. But this does not detract from the fun of the game.
Monster Train is an incredibly good game. And this is only the beta so far. There is already so much included that I wonder what else will come when the game is completely finished. The animations and the design of the cards are very good. The strategic aspect is very strong. You really have to think about which card to use or which advantages you want to take with you. All in all the mix of trading card game and rougelike works perfectly.
After a few dozen hours with Slay the Spire, the air was out for me at some point. I even thought that I wouldn’t touch a game of this kind again so soon. But I liked Monster Train right from the first click. The gameplay is fast and well thought out, you never have too many cards at once and the fights are challenging without getting tough or boring. I also really like the five monster tribes, which are not only very different, but in combination they also allow many interesting ways of playing. So if you’re a fan of tactical deckbuilders and Roguelites and don’t shy away from the similarities to Slay the Spire, Monster Train is a motivating, pleasantly polished package that doesn’t have to hide behind the original.
Are you interested in more Monster Train Gameplay? Let me know
Have fun and good runs in Monster Train
Some other reviews:
“Monster Train might be the best deckbuilder since Slay The Spire”
Rock Paper Shotgun
“Monster Train’s game mechanics offer a neat spin on the deck-building genre and it will be interesting to see how the game evolves in the future.”
4/5 – Screenrant
“Monster Train is a pleasant, mind-blowingly addictive exercise that’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of roguelikes, card games, and deck-building fare”
9/10 – Game Informer
The Game is available on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1102190/Monster_Train/
Official Website: https://www.themonstertrain.com/