Wait...a level 6 skeleton? Aren't they supposed to be fantasy cannon fodder?

Review: Monster Slayers

PC, Mac •

How often does a game’s catchphrase, a blurb that’s often silly and seldom informative, sell you on playing said game? We’re hoping the answer is, “not often”, but check this out:

A Deckbuilding Roguelike Adventure.

Sold! That’s the tagline for Monster Slayers, a game by Nerdook Productions, and it’s the exact coupling of words needed to penetrate the inky blackness of my heart and, more importantly, wallet.

In Monster Slayers you pick a class, build a hero, and battle your way across a game world using a customized deck of cards. The goal of all this carnage [card-age? Nailed it! -ed.] is to gain admittance into the eponymous Monster Slayers’ Guild. All that’s needed for admittance is a trip to the Northern Valley and slay three legendary monsters that call it home. [Perseus called, he wants his plot back. Seriously, I’m on fire. -ed.]

If you enjoy challenge–i.e., dying a lot–I’ve got some good news for you: Monster Slayers does not coddle its players. The Northern Valley is separated into regions—The Dead Forest, Quagmire Swamp, Forbidden Desert, and so on—and each is full of monsters to defeat on the way to facing off with the resident boss. The first region you visit isn’t terribly difficult once you get the hang of things, but the difficulty ramps up significantly in the second region, which delivers one heck of a beating. As in all good rougelikes, death means starting over from scratch…kind of.

I don’t want to fat shame you, Gold Dragon, but it might be time to lay off the cheeseburgers.

As you defeat monsters you earn fame which, when you inevitably join the choir invisible, gets converted into ranks that can be spent on an assortment of general and class-specific benefits that apply to all future runs. You can bump up the starting hit points of adventurers and improve their hit-point increase at each level. You’re also able to unlock new and more powerful cards to help develop stronger strategies or get an extra mulligan to get a better start to any battle. The class-specific options improve your deck and provide other combat bonuses. These benefits, along with keeping all the loot from your previous forays, are great motivation to jump back in for another run. Then another. Then another.

Monster Slayers has top-notch replay value thanks to six different classes. The traditional fantasy-RPG options are represented and offer a bevy of fun and effective styles of play from which to choose. The Rogue, for example, is all about slinging cards that slice up your foe and draw new cards. You chain card after card hopefully culminating in an epic backstab that deals damage based on the number of cards played that turn. Wizards specialize in big-time burst damage—headlined by a steady supply of Magic Missiles—as well as the potential to filter your deck for answers using a handy card called Clairvoyance.  The Cleric is one of the more defensive-minded classes. You stay alive with an assortment of heals and shields while stacking Repent, a card that applies ongoing damage to your foe, and hammering away with other attacks. The Barbarian, Ranger, and Knight each have their own strengths and strategies as well, and the experimentation is what really drives the game forward.

The Jackal is being played by Glenne Headly (spoiler!)

The deckbuilding aspect of Monster Slayers is on the light side…more like deck tweaking. You don’t get to choose your exact cards, but there are ample opportunities to make changes to improve your deck. You upgrade cards to improve their effect and delete weaker cards to thin the deck. You’ll also have the option to add new cards if they fit your overall strategy.

Monster Slayers is heavily influenced by another deck-building rogue-like game: Dream Quest. In fact, there’s an homage to it on the Monster Slayers title page. If you enjoy Dream Quest, or like the sound of it but could never get past the art, Monster Slayers is for you. Fans of Lost Portal, Guild of Dungeoneering, and Solitairica will find a lot to love as well. I’m not sure I can think of a better compliment than comparing it to those four gems of the App Store.

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Notable Replies

  1. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful game. There are more classes in the DLC by the way, and more to come.

    It’s worth noting that the developer has been extremely receptive to feedback.

    Anyone remotely interested in a solo deckbuilder, dungeon-crawler, roguelike should buy it. My favorite game of the year so far.

  2. when will it come to mobile devices?
    it will? or? don’t say it won’t :frowning:

  3. so here is some hope! ! i’m looking forward.
    thx, Mysterio!

    and i have forwarded the article to my PC playing son. he loves eg Darkest Dungeon and was very excited to hear about Monster Slayer.

  4. This looks very good, might have to buy for playing on plane

  5. I just checked on Steam…I have 41 hours played…I might recommend this. :slight_smile:

  6. js619 says:

    You had me at Dream Quest… fingers crossed for the iOS release.

  7. This game is basically dream quest and I am loving it so far

  8. I can’t imagine this being as good as Dream Quest, but maybe I’ll give it a shot this weekend. Seems like the sort of thing I’d rather be playing on mobile though.

  9. I never tried Dream Quest. I couldn’t get past the look of it. When Monster Slayers first released, I know there were some that felt the depth was lacking compared to Dream Quest, but I’m pretty sure that gap has closed a good bit and the developer has been great at listening to feedback and making changes. He’s also implementing more content at a steady pace. It is also much more attractive.

  10. So, it is probably missing a little bit of the wide variation in Dream Quest, but it is awfully similar. Scratches the same itch. I would rather play on an I device than steam/pc, but shrugs

  11. New DLC out, btw, with new classes, locations, bosses, etc

  12. Nick says:

    Monster Slayers and Dream Quest are so close that comparisons are pretty academic. If you like DQ you are quite likely to enjoy MS.

    I agree with all the comments that this would be perfect and probably superior on mobile. Having said that, I’m glad I have it on Steam to enjoy now.

  13. I put about 5 hours into this on the weekend, and while it is clearly just a reskin of Dream Quest, I still have some criticisms. It has bee awhile since I played Dream Quest, but I don’t ever remember reaching a point where the first two levels could be completed without giving it any thought. Once I had a Rogue loaded up with level 15 rare gear it was a cakewalk to level 3, and even level 3 was beaten without the monsters getting more than one turn. Losing the gear at the end was pretty funny though! But I haven’t tried Legendary mode yet.

    Weirdly enough, I feel like I had a better idea what was going on during the monsters’ turns while playing Dream Quest than I do playing Monster Slayers.

  14. Not sure if this has changed, but fwiw, the rogue class has been considered the unofficial easy mode. Sounds like you also had the fortune to not run into many/any “enough!” cards.

    I do kind of like that you can gear up a character well like that. It helps keep you from interminably beating your head against the wall (and the enemies in normal mode were weakened across the board recently as the difficulty had crept too high). Also, as you said, there’s still legendary mode.

    Regardless, Nerdook has been terrific at taking in and implementing feedback, so let him know what you think on the steam forums.

  15. So it is exactly like the thief class in Dream Quest… You abuse the easy class to unlock the talent points to make some of the less powerful classes feasible. Except in this case you unlock overpowered gear as well.

    The Enough cards can be managed by using the high damage cards first, and then if you get shut down you haven’t wasted your 6 available actions on card draw. The real kick in the teeth was my first fight against the Harbinger involving 2 damage per card played… Are there clues to what ability the Harbinger will have anywhere in the game? Like from the altar text?

  16. Exactly.

  17. So, played a bit of this but nowhere near as much as DQ. This sort of gaming is much more suited to iPads/iPhones rather than a PC. I just can’t get in the hours in front of a pc

  18. If they put this on iOS, it would go on my main page.

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