When I heard about Monstro: Battle Tactics, the first thing I noticed was that it billed as a humorous, RPG Maker-built tactical RPG that played more like chess on Steam. However, that actually sounds a lot more exciting than what I think I played.
Monstro isn’t a bad game at all. The idea of playing as monsters killing humans isn’t new, but it’s not quite as common as the usual trope, and a bit of humor helps make reading the expected bland dialogue a bit more palatable. However, in a tRPG, I expect some kind of leveling or progression beyond new areas. Don’t let the “customization” option in the tutorial fool you: in all my experience (the entire human campaign, most of the monster campaign, and some of the human ++ campaign), I never once got the option to customize a unit myself. Since my review is a little old, I was able to find a Let’s Play of the game and saw, indeed, the name simply means that the unit functions a little differently than a standard unit, which is quite a let down.
What that means is that, like in a World of Warcraft raid, there are very little real tactics available to you. Each level has a specific gimmick for you to master and abuse in order for you to pass. While it’s cute, I feel I’ve been playing these kinds of games for a long time. These are the crossword puzzles and word searches of the gaming world. They’re snacks, especially when most of the controls are simply movement, undoing a turn (more on that soon), and letting the enemy take their turn. The game really doesn’t feel like it’s meant for PC but rather some sort of mobile title where the user base may better appreciate something that isn’t just rapid tapping or matching.
The humor (which comes with some free grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation and capitalization) even points out at what could make this game more unique. Humor and monsters aside, the only other feature that stands out is the ability to take back turns, allowing you to get back into the action as quick as possible. This certainly makes the game still feel relevant for modern gamers, and would certainly sit well with mobile gamers, but as a PC gamer, I lost interest in the title before I even finished the human campaign (which, in a game called Monstro, should have been a bonus campaign, not the default experience). Had I not been reviewing the title, I probably would have stopped playing soon after the tutorial.
Basic gameplay is like chess, if each piece could be moved during your turn and the board had obstacles, traps, and objectives. Most of the time, you’re just killing all the bad guys. Sometimes, you have to kill the “king” (a giant, “horse-sized” brain that dies in a single hit). Sometimes something more unique, like the human campaign’s 19th level that requires you to basically sacrifice your minions to various traps and a very weak monster that’s hiding in a lone safe point will pop up. It can be frustrating, but most puzzles can be solved without a walk through, at least for the first campaign. It’s cute, but without any kind of interesting unlockables other than higher difficulty settings, it’s simply not interesting enough for me personally, coming as someone who enjoys RPGs mostly for their stories, not mechanics. There have been exceptions, but sadly, Monstro is not one of them.
If you are very opposed to free to play games no matter how fair their payment systems may be, want to see what kind of games you can play on your Windows tablet, or want to introduce a non-gamer into the world of gaming very slowly, Monstro is probably going to be worth it’s current $5.99 price tag. For most gamers though, I fear this is another title that simply will be forgotten.