Developer: Shiny Shoe LLC Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment Category: Strategy, Deck-Building Release Date: August 19, 2021
Strategy games are my forte. They keep me engaged, often challenging me in ways many other games don’t. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy other genres. Strategy titles are just what helps me stay motivated to play games. Enter Monster Train First Class. A strategy, deck-building game that uses ques from rogue-likes to create a refreshing twist to the indie mix.
All Aboard the Long Black Train
Admittedly, starting the game is basic. Monster Train eases you in, but it builds on itself and becomes more difficult the further you push down the tracks. Your journey starts as you build a team of demonic entities on a mission to reclaim hell from an angelic host. Starting the game has you select a champion, which is considered your main clan. The choice is limited when you begin, but as you gain experience you open new clans and champions to try. Monster Train allows you to also choose a supporting clan. The support clan is where the cards are provided during the building when on the run. You start each hand with your champion, and each champion from each clan has multiple builds and perks for you to utilize on your run. The cards you unlock from reputation can also be used in unique ways during each playthrough.
Not Just a Crazy Train
Each battle between the horde and the host takes place on a train car with four levels. At the start of your turn, you draw cards spending ember. The floors on the cars have a limit to the creatures placed. There are spell cards that damage enemies and heal your teams. And cards that provide buffs to each card they are used on, for instance, spikes that cause damage when an enemy attacks you. Some merchants sell other buffs, upgrades (seen above), and additional artifacts the further you go. Artifacts may also be awarded when defeating a boss. Each artifact provides a bonus that is meant to ease the burden as you continue your journey on Monster Train.
Train Keep a Rollin’
Until you meet defeat or achieve victory the train keeps moving. The bonus is that you may encounter caverns and caves that ask questions or favors. Respond properly and you will benefit. Another unique quality of Monster Train is the “Trial” addition. Before you start the level, you may be given the option to add a “Trial” to your battle against the boss. This bolsters your enemy’s abilities against you, making it a fair bit more challenging. However, the reward may be worth the extended effort. From gold coins to extra artifacts, often reaping these benefits led to survivability late in the game.
Train of Consequences
Each decision, like any great strategy game, has consequences. If you plan poorly it will be painfully obvious. Thinking before acting, or playing your move set is crucial or you will become overwhelmed. If the enemy reaches the fourth floor, where your Pyre is kept, they will attack. The Pyre also has an attack power. Bonuses and buffs can be found to make it stronger, but are rare. Once your Pyre is destroyed, consider the train ride derailed. That equals defeat. All your work isn’t wasted, however. Because you gain experience with each trip. The Pyre has a life bar. And, like the bonuses to the attack, you can build your life percentage higher depending on the choices throughout each challenge.
Jumping Someone Else’s Train
Monster Train First Class has some extra content that adds to the replayability. After your first victory, you unlock the Covenant mode. This gives players the ability to customize the difficulty. Each run through this provides experience to a Covenant level, and each Covenant level is increasingly more difficult. Additionally, there are three online challenge modes. A daily challenge that allows you to play a randomized challenge and compete globally, a community challenge that gives you a little leeway on creating your challenge with friends or discovering others’ creations, and finally there is Hell Rush. This online challenge mode was the one I found the most enjoyable. You race against other players in a timed event. The person with the highest score at the end wins.
End of the Tracks
There is a lot to like about this game. Most of the summaries state that the decks and runs are often very different. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, at least not for quite a while. You will have to unlock a majority of the clans and cards in-game to see a lot of difference while you play. That is my biggest complaint but it isn’t a big problem. Opening new clans and maxing the clan just takes time and patience. If you put in the effort, you are rewarded. Another bonus was the Log Book. I liked being able to look at what cards I have collected, how many victories and streaks I have, as well as, the artifacts I have discovered. The music was surprisingly fitting and welcome as well. I wasn’t expecting anything from the soundtrack, yet Monster Train profited from solid music. The controls are basic enough that a child can play the game and enjoy it, and the challenges are hard enough that most adults will find the game entertaining.
Train of Thought
Monster Train First Class is far more than expected. It is a top-tier strategy game, and a challenging deck-building rogue-like experience. It could have benefited from a slightly larger pool of deck-building options at the beginning of the game. The bosses are nearly always the same, so the downside is that once you learn their abilities and levels you can often counteract them easily and burn through a normal run quickly with any champion. However, the addition of Covenant more than makes up for the slow burn that was the beginning of the game. I found myself enamored with this title. It drew me in and kept me coming back to challenge myself in new ways. Monster Train First Class has been one of the more fun and enjoyable games I have played this year. While I know this game is not a genre for everyone, I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize just how fun this title is.
Buy Now: 29.99
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*The Switch Effect was graciously provided this game code for review.