Quick Look – Monster Crown (Humble Choice – March 2023)

There’s no question about it – Pokémon is a cultural phenomenon. Even if you’ve never played a single Pokémon game, you can probably identify one or more of it’s signature creatures. And like every other type of game that makes a big impression, there will be many who try to make a game just as good – or better, even – than the original. Monster Crown is another creature-collecting RPG which is heavily influenced by the Pokémon games, and because of this, I might be the absolute worst person to be taking a look at it.

This darker, more mature creature collector has a retail price of $19.99, and will take around 13 hours to complete the main quest, according to HowLongToBeat.

Despite being of approximately the right age to have had a Nintendo childhood (or at least, Nintendo teenagerhood), I did not grown up in a console kind of home. Sure, I occasionally dabbled in Super Mario Bros or Duck Hunt while visiting friends, I didn’t own my first Nintendo console until the Switch, and the only Pokémon games I’ve ever played were Pokemon GO! on my phone, and New Pokémon Snap, which is definitely not a creature collector or an RPG.

So why am I always trying to get into creature collection RPGs? I honestly couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s the fact that the people in my life who love them are so passionate about them. Maybe it’s just because I want a horde of cute little monsters to help me take over the world. However, the fact remains that, other than a lingering infatuation with the Siralim series of games and a mighty obsession with pet battles in World of Warcraft, I have bounced hard off of every creature collection RPG I’ve ever played. This is why I was not the right person to take a look at Monster Crown, but also why I couldn’t stop myself.

The monsters are better than the maps, by a mile. Maybe two miles. Seriously, the map is awful.

The world of Monster Crown is dark and dangerous, and humans have only managed to survive by making pacts with monsters, who will fight for you in exchange for … random fruit you pick for them, I guess? I’m not sure what else people really have to offer. You are the child of farmers, who have their very own monster to help out with farm work and keep the bad things at bay. Since you’ve shown interest in monster taming, your father gets you a comic book with a short quiz on the back cover, and a week later, your very own starter monster is being delivered right to your door. Seems safe.

Mmm… what could possibly go wrong here? NOTHING I’m sure.

Your mother is, probably quite rightly, concerned, but your dad hands you a map and a gift for the ruler of the nearest kingdom, and sends you out into the scary world in order to drop off his bribe. Um, ok. My new puppy friend is adorable and all, but I’m not getting much in the way of warm fuzzy feelings here.

Here I am absolutely about to attempt to pick a fight I am in no way ready for. It ended pretty much the way you’d expect.

Mind you, I’m already a bit grumpy at the keyboard controls. Surely it must be possible to make a game controller friendly without relying on the right hand on the arrow keys, left hand is for Z and X scheme that makes me dislike a game from the get go. If you’ve been playing a variety of genres with a keyboard for any period of time, I feel like this is never the control scheme you want. Maybe most folks play these types of games with a controller, even on PC, but at least the keys are re-bindable.

Combat is typical of the genre. You choose which monster to take into battle, and then your monster and the wild monster take turns trying to beat the snot out of each other. There’s a permadeath option for those hard core monster tamers, but it is off by default, thank god. You can swap to other active monsters on your team anytime it’s your turn, and if you want to add a monster to your team, instead of throwing a ball at it, you simply offer it a pact to either accept or decline. I didn’t get far, by all the monsters I offered pacts to took them.

There are wild monsters pretty much everywhere, and this is good, because you’re going to need to battle pretty much all of them to level up your team to a point where you have any prayer of beating the boss monsters. Or I could be just bad at this type of game, and most folks will triumph without issues. One or the other.

Most of these games give their critters elemental designations, but Monster Crown elects to use an even more obtuse system of adjectives. Thankfully, there are only five types, and they’re color-coded, so if the descriptors aren’t working for you, you can just make a cheat sheet with the colors. Someone please tell me I’m not the only one who makes cheat sheets for these types of games?

All in all, at least for me, it seemed … fine … if you’re into this sort of game. It felt very much like the idea of old style Pokémon I have in my head, which I realize is a terrible indication of any kind of quality since I absolutely no not of which I speak. But the bottom line is, I was bored. I felt like it was going to take forever and ever to get anywhere, especially since any attempt to flee an unwinnable battle puts you back at home, with a whole maze full of monsters to navigate through over and over again.

It certainly didn’t feel like a game that would drive someone to purchase this month’s Humble Choice, although it might be a nice bonus for creature collector fans who hadn’t gotten around to picking this one up and who cannot get enough of sending monsters to do their fighting for them.

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