Monster Train First Class Review
Monster Train First Class
Developer: Shiny Shoe
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Genre(s): Deck Building, Rogue-Like, Tower Defence
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on Xbox and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI7
Release Date: 19/08/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Choo, Choo, Choose your Path Wisely.
I had previously heard people talk about Monster Train First Class without really paying too much attention. Then I heard a review code was available for the Nintendo Switch version, so I gazed at it a bit closer. Deck-builder, rogue-like with a bit of tower defence sprinkled in, has someone been peeking at my Christmas list? Monster Train First Class sounds like everything I want from a portable Switch game, so, let’s get into it. All aboard!
As you can probably guess this game is about a train and not only that but it is about monsters too. I know, mental. You are in control of a train that houses the last remaining lit pyre of the underworld. Hell has frozen over and it is up to you to protect this pyre and restore the demonic inferno. In the meantime, you must hold back the forces of heaven and use cards, summoned units and spells to quell waves of oncoming enemies hell-bent on putting out the last spark of hell.
A Railroad of Choices.
Due to Monster Train being rogue-like, you attempt the game in ‘runs’, each one being procedurally generated and each one is different from the last. In each of these runs, you will descend through a variety of areas with each one having a choice of paths to take. Each path will have various nodes on it ranging from shops and upgrade spots to choose-your-own-adventure like mini-quests that have you building custom cards.
You choose your faction before starting, of which there are two initially with more unlockable as you play. You also pick a secondary faction and these two small decisions will determine your starting cards for your run. This game also being a deck-builder means that the nodes you choose throughout your run will influence what cards you can play, what units you can summon and will govern your strategy each time you play.
Draft A Deck to Rule Them All.
As with all deck-builders, you will start with a relatively weak deck. Throughout your run, you must add more varied and powerful cards, remove weaker cards, and upgrade your favourite cards to make them more effective. These cards will be randomly selected during each battle and similar to Slay the Spire, which is amazing, how you play these cards, in what order and how you manipulate the battlefield will determine your success or failure.
Each fight in Monster Train is fought in a four-floor train. Each wave of enemies start on the bottom floor, attack once, usually, then move up one floor. In between each turn, you get a hand of cards made up of units you can place on any floor, spells to improve these units, and other quirky items you can use. Each card has special properties, can change how units work and there is a lot of room for strategy and tactics, which I relish. Each card also has a cost. You have a small amount of mana similar to games like Hearthstone. So picking the right cards to play is vital.
Much like Slay the Spire, one of the best deck-building video games on the market, about midway through your run you start to narrow your deck down and start building it around a strategy. Heavy hitters, armour, spikes that reflect damage, building up rage, there are so many options and things you can concentrate on. Each game is very different from the last and that is what I love about games like this. Every time I get a reward it has the chance to change how I play the next battle. There is so much room for experimentation and in return, the game stays fresh for a long time.
As with the best rogue-likes you do have persistent upgrades. New heroes, new factions and new cards get unlocked as you progress through the game. This means that as well as the amount of randomization that occurs in every run, you also have the ability before each game to change it up yourself. Monster Train is a well of possibilities to be explored and unlocked. Each time you fire it up you will learn something new or fight a new adversary. If you are really lucky, you may discover a new strategy to send these irksome foes back to heaven.
A Presentation That Fits the Subject Matter
Monster Train has a lovely quirky art style that I savoured. The animated cards look amazing and the enemies are all varied. Your opponents are animated adequately and everything has a coherent fantasy vibe to it. It is the same with the soundtrack, which is also fitting. Especially when facing bigger foes and bosses you are treated to some suitably epic music tracks. The game tells you what these tracks are too as they play, which is an excellent feature if one takes your fancy.
On the performance front, I was very pleased. With no issues to speak of, I was left to monster and train in peace. Which is amazing. I have played a few broken games recently and nothing takes the shine of a game quicker than crashes, bugs and irksome issues. When you also factor in this being a portable version of the game, it is an achievement that should be regarded in high esteem. I have witnessed no issues at all with Monster Train and that is something to be applauded and applauded very loudly indeed.
A Fun, Portable Mesh of Genres That Succeeds.
In summary, I think Monster Train manages to mesh its rogue-like, deck building and tower defence elements very well into a coherent, enjoyable package. While I don’t think it hits the lofty heights of Slay the Spire, it is still a very good game in its own right. It’s varied, different and unlike anything else on the market. It runs well, looks great and has a very addictive gameplay loop to get stuck into. Right, I think I can hear the armies of heaven trying to put out my pyre. I’m off to summon some badass demons. All aboard!
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
If you want to purchase Monster Train on the Nintendo Switch, you can here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.