Monster Slayers is a card-based coffee-break roguelike that features a dynasty system for upgrades. Fame your characters earn on their runs can be accumulated to unlock powerful bonuses. The game started as a web-based Kongregate game before receiving a full-fledged Steam release that was well-received. Now the game has been ported to Nintendo Switch and feels perfectly serviceable there, though the mobile graphics are a bit off-putting.
I can usually tell just by looking at a few screenshots whether or not I will like a game, but I was pleasantly surprised by Monster Slayers. It has the trappings of a terrible mobile game with no depth, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For people who are bummed that Slay the Spire isn’t coming for a few months, Monster Slayers is a more than worthy replacement.
At its heart, Monster Slayers is a deck-building game with rogue-lite elements. Players must complete three maps and defeat the final boss to win. The maps are simple and arranged as squares on a map. Moving between the squares is easy enough and each square hides something new to interact with. You’ll mostly encounter enemies of different levels, but the game also offers altars, campfires, and companions to interact with.
There is some level of strategy required to navigate through all the levels. Should you waste that campfire healing halfway or try the next monster? These sorts of decisions can lead to early deaths, but none of the deaths feel extremely punishing. You retain all of the equipment your character had upon death and any fame they gained can be used to unlock new talents and skills. These skills are quite powerful and will take numerous runs to unlock. Some skills even offer multiple options that can be changed later on.
There are eight classes to play with at the beginning, with six recommended to start. The Dragon and Merchant classes have special dynamics that are recommended for more experienced players. Players can choose from Wizard, Rogue, Ranger, Barbarian, Knight, and Cleric. Each gets a deck that is based around a specific concept, giving them a unique play style. Barbarians do lots of damage and damage themselves, while Knights are based on blocking all incoming damage.
Once you encounter new cards in the wild from enemies summoning them, you may have a chance to see them at merchants. Companions also unlock two new cards when they appear on the main map, making them invaluable even when they’re not in your party.
Since the web version is still free-to-play, it serves as a very effective demo for the game. You can check out the Kongregate version of Monster Slayers here. The full-fledged PC version has since received two expansions, which bring the total number of classes up to 20. Right now, there’s no indication of whether or not the Nintendo Switch version of the game will see this DLC.
The controls for Monster Slayers are pretty simple, but obviously mouse-based. Not much care has gone into making the interface feel console friendly and this is my main complaint about the game. From the way the interface is laid you, you think hitting left on the D-Pad during combat would let you select companion abilities. Nope, you have to hit up until the little hand icon scrolls through everything to arrive at the companion abilities. It’s a very cumbersome UI that just isn’t well suited to the Nintendo Switch.
Despite the UI issues, I genuinely had fun with Monster Slayers. I found using the D-Pad more intuitive to select cards since the UI is so limited.
I don’t think the characters in Monster Slayers are particularly designed well. The UI also feels pretty thrown together. It’s not a good game to look at and with the jumble of everything on the screen, it can be difficult to tell what’s going on. Some of the font choices are also unfortunate and hard-to-read on the small handheld screen. You’re not gonna play this game for the way it looks, trust me.
The soundtrack is pretty standard as far as games go. The music is nothing to write home about and I didn’t get annoyed with the repetitive tracks, despite playing it for a while. Give it a listen above and you’ll see what I mean.
The Not So Good
Publisher provided the key for our review.
* You like playing deck-building games like Slay the Spire
* The mobile-style graphics is not a deal breaker for you
* You enjoy rogue-like mechanics like doing runs to create synergy builds
* You enjoy coffee break rogue-likes like Desktop Dungeons
* You don’t really care for card-based games
* You don’t like games with permadeath of characters or builds
* You think the art style will bother you too much
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