Roguelike’s are a genre that I’ve dabbled in, but never quite fallen in love with. And it just so happens I’m currently playing two at the same time, Hades and Monster Train: First Class. Both have the die, upgrade, die again until you’re strong (good) enough to beat them aspect, but both have a foot in different sub-genres.
Monster Train First Class (the full featured edition of last year’s Monster Train) has deck building along with a dash of tower defence. It’s a mix of genre styles that has all come together to make something that works incredibly well. The idea behind the game is to guard three floors of a train to stop heavens forces from moving to the top of the train and destroying the pyre. You do this by playing certain cards that can either put characters in the floor or use special abilities. Using them does drain how many further moves you can make, so simple cards like your low hitting “Torch” ability only uses one move point, whereas big hitting attacks can sometimes take all of your moves.
After each battle you’re then able to choose two paths for your train to take, each path coming with its own unique things to interact with. These can be simple ways to recharge your pyre’s health or upgrades to certain units. Choosing which path to take pbviously depends on your current situation. After all, you may want to risk going for more strength upgrades, but it could be futile if your pyre will only take one more hit before exploding.
Tactically there’s a lot to take in from the start, it took myself a good few runs before I was starting to really understand what each card icon meant. And even now I’m still looking at helpful tips and guides online in order to maximise my card deck. Standard battles, interspersed with boss fights, it can be a challenge especially early on. You do rank up your primary unit after each run, so you do feel like you improve. While I couldn’t even make it up to the first boss during my first attempt, about five later and I was within inches of the final stage.
The Switch port itself works really well. Loading a game mid-run (in handheld mode) suffers from long load times, but that’s the only issue I’ve had so far. The other minor criticism I can level at the game is that sometimes the on screen graphics and art style can be a bit much. With fire effects and the like often being a little overpowering it was hard early on to really understand what was happening. But that’s really all the negatives I have!
Roguelikes are plentiful at the moment, yet even so, Monster Train manages to stand above most. A clever card building mechanics, plenty of tactics and that all so crucial “one more run” gameplay, it comes highly recommended.