Monster Train is a game we found by accident by browsing the web and looking for another mobile card game scratch that itch that was left behind by Hearthstone and Slay the Spire. To our surprise, we found a game that is on the same level as Slay the Spire. The game isn’t free and while we do like free stuff, we oftentimes got baited by mobile games by the awful gaming business models and to be honest, we actually just preferred to pay upfront and have the full game on our plate.
Monster Train costs around 25$ on Steam (DLC is 12$).
Interestingly, it costs much less on iOS/Android, with the base game pricing at 9$, and the DLC an additional 4$.
While there aren’t many games similar to Monster Train, there are a few popular titles that are close in terms of mechanics and gameplay, namely Slay the Spire. Slay the Spire is a widely popular card dungeon crawler that is probably one of the best PC games of all time, and most of the players that come to Monster Train do so in order to scratch that itch that Slay the Spire left.
Quick Overview of Monster Train
As we said, Monster Train is not a clone of Slay the Spire, but rather an own twist of the card dungeon-crawler genre. The game mechanics, combat, deck-building, and the overall field of the game are distinct and it doesn’t feel like a rip-off Now that we mentioned that, let’s break this game down into main components, and explain why we think this game is very underrated.
If you are not familiar with these types of games, you’re basically playing a “run” that is about 1-45 minutes long, and climb up the difficulty latter, as each new run introduces a new difficulty mechanic, like that you “Start with 1 useless card in your deck” or “Get 50 less Gold” or “Final boss has +1000HP”. The main Goal of the game is to reach the highest difficulty level and complete one run with it. Once you do that, there are still a lot of things to do in the game, and that mainly comes with playing different clans.
Monster Train Basics
Deck Building in Each Run
The run starts slow and your deck is weak in the beginning. After each defeated enemy, you will get additional cards, artifacts, and gold that you can spend in the shop to upgrade cards and buy artifacts. Moreover, after each defeated enemy, you will be presented with two paths that have different utilities in them.
For example, in the picture above, we have the right path, which has a place where we can Duplicate one card (yellow thingy), Restore 20 Health (red thingy), and destroy 2 cards from our deck (blue thingy). On the left, we have a shop to upgrade our creature cards, gain gold, and pick a creature card from the given clans. This is a very cool aspect of the game since your choice of where you want to go matters a lot.
While the choice of clan doesn’t sound that impressive, the way this game is implemented is very good for its replayability. There are (with the DLC) six different clans, and the game is designed in whichaway that you every time you start a new run, you will need to play with a combination of two clans; one main, and one supporting role.
While you’re in the run, you will get cards that are only in these two clans, Which basically means that there are a lot of combinations and builds to consider, this is the main thing that makes this game very compelling. There are a lot of cards in this game, and as we already mentioned, they are usually tied to a certain clan.
Artifacts are utilities that are gathered during a given run, getting them is pretty random, and they are one of the main reasons why each run is unique. They are also linked to clans as each different clan has its own set of unique artifacts. This also makes the game better because you will also be choosing the combination of two artifact pools.
Combat & Mechanics In Monster Train
The combat system in Monster Train is especially compelling for a card game. It sort of combines an auto-battler element with your fixed monsters on each floor, and your spell cards that are played to gain a certain advantage. with a multi-level complexity. On your last floor you have your “Pyre” or simply put your base that you defend in the floors below. The enemy starts on the bottom floor and climbs up each turn until it reaches your Pyre. Your job is to defeat them with the combination of your creatures, and buffing, healing, damaging, and disrupting spells.
The builds, numbers, and possibilities from your cards are insane and it’s what makes this game so good. There are many different approaches and winning conditions considering all the clan combinations that give you distinct cards and artifacts throughout each new run, combine that with a lot of spicy RNG, and you see how this becomes the main “hooking point” of the game.
While we already mentioned progression in this game, it’s important to understand that the progression is the whole point of the game itself. While there is an “official” completion of the game – when you complete the last “25 Level” difficulty with any clan, you will “finish the main game”. You start at level 1 and go up a level when you complete a run, adding more and more disruptive stuff that will make your runs harder.
That said, the whole point of this type of game is to complete the highest difficulty with all the clan combinations. On top of that, with the Last Divinity DLC, you will have an additional final boss – Last Divinity, which is very hard and requires advanced knowledge of the game. All of this is the reason this game is a very replayable single-player dungeon crawler. It makes you want to play with all the clans, combining a lot of cards and artifacts against various difficult enemies.
We had our fair share of dungeon-crawlers like Hades and Slay the Spire, and we played a lot of online card games like Hearthstone and Marvel Snap, and it’s safe to say that Monster Train can rival the complexity and quality that these games offer. It truly is underrated compared to the mentioned games.
Monster Train Gameplay “Feel”
One thing to note about the game is that the developers did a really good job of making the whole experience distinct. We are talking mostly about the art style, music, and the general atmosphere.
The artstyle is always subjective but it’s really one of the better ones that we have seen. It’s not peak Magic the Gathering level, but all the cards do have a fun and thoughtful style to them, big props for that because the art is always an important and often overlooked part of card games.
While we didn’t notice the music too much in our first hours of playing the game, the catchy soundtracks really grow on you and add to the gameplay. While some popular games like Hearthstone have repetitive and “safe” soundtracks, Monster Train really did a good job of putting an effort into making a compelling OST for the game.
Combining the whole gameplay experience, artstyle, boss design, music, and the fact that it’s happening in a high-speed moving train in hell really creates a cool atmosphere that keeps you on your toes.
Our Final Thoughts on Monster Train
In conclusion, we would say that Monster Train is a very underrated game because it has everything that a good dungeon-crawler game needs. Don’t get us wrong, the game is well known to a certain crown, but it isn’t really reaching the wider base of players that are interested in card games. For this reason, we compel you to try it out, it is very much worth the 12$ and the overall optimization on the phone is excellent.
Photo Credits: Good Shepherd Entertainment