Dawn of the Monsters
Developer: 13AM Games
Genre(s): Adventure, Action
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Stadia)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 15/03/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Cracking Dawn of the Monsters Open
Dawn of the Monsters is a beat-em-up title that features massive beasts and robotic mechs taking out other ferocious monsters. As I piloted these behemoths, I explored various landscapes and worked to save human civilization. Did these immense creatures make the game massively fun? Or did it end up being a big flop? Find out in this Rapid Review.
The first thing I noticed when I booted up the game for the first time was the art style. It reminded me of comic books, yet Dawn of the Monsters still stood out as a video game too. The colour palate also was memorable. Not only was it colourful, but it also felt unique. The colours were mildly muted, so it stood out from the many other titles I had been playing recently. Visually, the game was excellent.
Moreover, the visuals also showed me the areas where the enemies would attack, gave ample time for me to react, and telegraphed a lot of additional information without coming off as cluttered or challenging to see. The visual style was not only charming, but it was informative as well. My only grievance with the visuals is that sometimes it was tricky to maintain a combo because if an enemy was not on the screen, there was no indication as to which side they were on. Still, this was a minor gripe and did not largely impact my experience with the title.
Lumbering Through the City
As lovely as the visuals were, I was worried about how the game would feel to play. I have never played through a traditional beat-em-up, so I was concerned that I would not understand the mechanics. However, Dawn of the Monsters features a detailed tutorial that introduces new mechanics slowly and ensured I understood each before unleashing my entire repertoire. This kept me engaged and comfortable while continually adding new ideas. Moreover, many of the mechanics were self-explanatory. There were normal attacks, heavy attacks, and some special moves. As soon as I learned an ability, I immediately saw how to use it. At the same time, there were no advanced combo moves that I needed to learn. I always felt comfortable and capable in each scenario I was placed into.
Though the traditional attacking moves were not particularly intricate, there were plenty of other aspects of the game that made Dawn of the Monsters immersive. Many of the levels featured unique aspects. From rushing water to ongoing storms, these stage hazards distinguished each level from the previous one. I never felt as though I was bored, despite objectives and combat being largely similar throughout the title. I never longed for a deeper combat style.
Moreover, this variety was also shown in each of the enemies. Innately, there was not an overwhelmingly large number of enemy types. Many of these enemies were recycled throughout levels. However, Dawn of the Monsters features elements that overhaul the enemy attacks, keeping them true to their nature, but adding new things to make different locations stand out and feel unique. This kept the combat more engaging, as new locations feature new enemies. The enemy designs worked well to make each moment fresh and engaging.
One Size Fits All
Unfortunately, one of the features that I was looking forward to, and one that I thought would add a lot of diversity to the game did not end up playing as crucial a role as I had hoped. There are four playable behemoths in Dawn of the Monsters. While I did explore and enjoy all four characters, I ended up picking my favourite one early on and playing that one throughout most of the game. It was disappointing to see that I was able to complete the game without learning the intricacies of the other characters.
Moreover, there are a plethora of perks to grant each of these monsters. They boost offensive and defensive capabilities, add other stat boosts, and most importantly, add one special skill to a monster. These were a lot of fun to experiment with, and I enjoyed customizing my build to fit my playstyle. Unfortunately, these items quickly became outdated. As I progressed through different chapters, I unlocked new higher-ranked abilities that completely outclassed the ones I previously used. While this encouraged me to work with new strategies, altering the gameplay, it was challenging to justify ever using a lower tier augment, even if the special skill was more interesting than some of the higher tiered ones. Since these are distributed pseudo-randomly as well, it was challenging to receive the skills I wanted at the level I wanted them. Still, I enjoyed what they added to the customization.
The final piece of the combat loop was the combo meter. Killing enemies consecutively awards a score boost. I liked this mechanic, as it forced me to focus not only on killing enemies but also on keeping the meter active. It worked differently than some other combo meters I am familiar with, as instead of requiring that I kill an enemy before the meter drains, I only needed to damage an enemy within the cooldown. This made score-chasing far more approachable and kept me motivated to achieve high rankings on each level. I was constantly motivated by this to do well.
Unfortunately, while the scoring system in Dawn of the Monsters provides intrinsic motivation to perform, there are also substantial benefits to performing well. Scoring highly unlocked objectively better gear for my monsters. This meant that when I did well, I was rewarded, enabling me to do well in the future too. The award mechanic essentially created a positive feedback loop. In a single-player game, this can be frustrating, as consistently not earning a high score will make it seem nearly impossible to obtain the high scores needed to obtain the best equipment.
I found this system both beneficial and frustrating. On one hand, it prevented me from getting tired of searching for good items like I did in SNK: Card Fighters Clash because scoring a lot of points automatically gives me a valuable item. However, if I was not scoring large points, it was almost pointless to receive my reward at the end of the level because it was practically guaranteed to be unviable. I liked the scoring system, and I benefitted a lot from the allocation system, but it can be easy to get caught losing multiple times in a row without the right equipment.
Another thing that stood out to me was that the game was not particularly challenging. Dawn of the Monsters features unlimited lives and constant checkpoints. This was not a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed going through each level feeling as though I am unstoppable. At the same time though, since there were no combos, it was easy to mash attacks and spam the dodge move whenever an enemy was about to swing at me. Personally, I enjoyed it, though Dawn of the Monsters may not feature the precise and complex chains and combos available in other titles. Moreover, it is worth noting that because the game was not overly difficult, I did not die often, so I was able to complete the game in just around five hours. At the price point, I was a bit disappointed, but that is because I was enjoying my time with the title.
There are some other elements that kept me engaged longer. Of course, I could master each level and achieve a highly coveted S plus ranking and master my gameplay, but on the other hand, I could get lost in a story. It focused on the characters controlling the mechs and how they were feeling regarding the world around them. To be completely honest, I was not overly impressed, but I enjoyed how the story kept the plot moving and developed the characters. There were a few interesting parts, but I was not enthralled by the story. Still, it added context to the combat, and I appreciated knowing more about the characters I was controlling.
Bigger Means Better
There were also additional lore elements that came from collectables and gallery items. I would earn new descriptions upon completing certain missions so I could learn even more about the world around me. Again, these were substantial and provided meaningful insight, but they did not draw me in deeply. I thought the story content was interesting, but not particularly special, or a reason to come to the title.
Dawn of the Monsters also has a lovely soundtrack. The music was moving, and it made me feel powerful. Similarly, the sound effects were loud and dramatic, it kept me engaged throughout. The voice lines even had continuous voice acting. I thoroughly enjoyed all the auditory content in this game. It brought the package together nicely.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Dawn of the Monsters. It is a short and simple title, with a lot of engaging activities. It made me feel powerful, as though I were truly taking on the world. Still, I wanted to be pushed to master each of the characters and got a bit frustrated with some of the features. Despite that, Dawn of the Monsters is a great title to pick up, even for first-time players of the beat-em-up genre like myself. I had a great time.
4 out of 5
You can purchase Dawn of the Monsters on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.