Monster Crown is a mons game by people who either don’t know or can’t be bothered to construct a functional video game.
The game is incredibly janky, with obvious screen tearing, monsters appearing out of bounds, and confusing menus full of freefloating text. This frankly feels like an early beta or even alpha, not something remotely ready for commercial release. I’m genuinely surprised anyone on the team was willing to put their name to this.
And this is just personally offensive to me. Yeah, slightly misaligned images in text boxes are pretty minor compared to everything else I just showed, but just. When I was making Flawed Crystals, a free game completely detached from my professional name, this kind of graphical error would keep me up at night. I would grind development to a halt to fix it, even though I hate fiddling with graphics. I would be mortified if anyone saw such lazy, slapdash work and thought I considered that acceptable presentation. And these jokers are not only demanding but getting money when their game looks like this.
It is genuinely shocking and appalling to me that any of this stuff passed QA, let alone that the developers had the gall to demand money for this. No one in this studio should make any more games until they’ve taken a course on UI design.
But hey, let’s not judge a book by its cover. There could be a perfectly serviceable game underneath here if we can navigate all the graphical errors.
I mean, there isn’t, but there could be.
Gameplay is somehow even simpler than Pokemon’s: Mons have only one type (Coromon did this too, what is with Pokemon fangames taking out Pokemon’s few good mechanics) and PP doesn’t exist, so there is no reason to do anything other than spam your strongest attack all the time. You’re also shown your enemies’ types automatically and the game even does the modern Pokemon thing of highlighting your supereffective moves, so there’s not even any guesswork involved. I guess the fact types are now abstract concepts rather than physical properties thus making matchups completely arbitrary was meant to make up for this? It’s also even grindier than Pokemon, demanding you gain enough levels to take down a level 9 boss monster before you can even enter the first town.
They did add one new mechanic, which is that swapping out monsters makes your next attack stronger, which… eh. I’d much rather just have battles with multiple monsters out at once so they could have actual synergy, you know, another thing Pokemon has that this game doesn’t. This does at least mean enemy trainers will swap out their mons to use the mechanic, which is at least something to make trainer battles more interesting, but it’s still slim offerings.
The game’s main draw is supposedly a sophisticated breeding mechanic where you can make totally unique monster crossbreeds, but I dropped the game long before I got to see it due to the aforementioned issues. If they ever release a version of the game that isn’t held together with spit and packing tape I might be able to form an opinion on it.
Storywise, the game is exactly as unethical as Pokemon but find-replaces some terms to make it seem more palatable.
The intro continues Pokemon’s fine tradition of telling us the relationship between humans and mons is mutually beneficial then floundering when trying to come up with examples of how it benefits the mons. Humans get power, mons get… the ability to be more useful to humans. Very equitable, that. The one thing humans could actually bring to the table here is the ability to travel, but that just makes me ask why monsters can’t travel themselves, if they want it so much.
As explained here, you catch monsters with magically binding contracts instead of capture balls, and the flavor text explicitly says that success/failure is determined by whether they accept or refuse the contract… but mechanically the contracts work exactly like pokeballs, and we never see what the contracts contain or if they’re actually a good deal for the monster. This is some pretty extreme whiplash coming straight from Shin Megami Tensei, where you do actually negotiate contracts as a core mechanic.
And we get this gem in the tutorial area, confirming that no, the contracts are not actually made in good faith. Humans are effectively fey who trick monsters into incredibly slanted contracts of servitude. I guess the fact they are getting some form of compensation for this means it’s technically no longer slavery? Sure would be cool if we actually got to provide that compensation.
Additionally, the bit about monsters’ compensation being the ability to become strong is also immediately contradicted by another mechanic: They’ve made the “you need badges to make mons obey you” mechanic even more punishing, by preventing you from leveling up at all beyond a certain point until you’ve increased your “tamer level”. The in-universe explanation? “You need to level up as a tamer to have your monsters respect you enough to grow as powerful as they can be.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN. Monsters supposedly pact with tamers to become powerful, but also they deliberately hold back if the tamer isn’t good enough for them? Why do they bother traveling with tamers at all, then???
Plotwise, the story is tonally really weird. Despite having the same pastel, upbeat aesthetic as Pokemon, it’s also really dark and edgy, with the first gym leader analogue being a cackling evil robber baron who gets bloodily murdered by a monster when he tries to run from you. As I’ve said in my Pokemon fanfic reviews, if you want an edgy story where monsters are actually deadly, I genuinely don’t understand what you like about Pokemon. There is an entire genre of grimdark fantasy stories like that already; Pokemon’s softness and optimism is what makes it unique. “Pokemon, but like every grimdark jRPG ever” is not actually a great pitch.
And the most important thing, the monster designs, are… nothing to write home about. They’re decent, but they made the baffling decision to restrict themselves to GameBoy color limitations, so all monsters necessarily have to have extremely simple designs that can be parsed with only one or two hues. Most of the time, the color limitations just make the monsters look very flat, even the ones with potentially interesting designs. Sometimes things that are retro are worse, guys.
They do get one thing right, though: Your appearance options aren’t limited by gender, and “they” is included as a pronoun option. This is a nice feature that shows just how easy inclusivity is, and frankly Pokemon ought to get with the times.
I don’t normally mind jank in indie productions, but the squished text and the way that the GUI elements clip into each other… that looks really unpleasant. The Switch has a generous screen resolution, there’s plenty of real estate. You don’t have to shrink-wrap your GUI elements.
This was the PC version. Possibly the console versions have less disastrous UI, but I doubt the phase-through out-of-bounds monsters are unique to PC.
I just want to mention that as someone who stuck with the game from Day 1 as a concept on Reddit, that the games devs did not help with Pokemon Uranium. I don’t know why that’s going around, but it isn’t the case. The Discord for the game is scratching their heads at this idea and it’s just completely false, so…
I also have a monster in the game from a contest, and I must say, I don’t fully think the game is bad. I just think it’s buggy as heck, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. I do think the game doesn’t play well with every single PC setup out there, as some bugs that were squashed on some builds were not on others. The Switch port was also detrimentally held back by Nintendo taking an eternity and a half for one single patch to be pushed, so that doesn’t help at all.
To Studio Aurum’s credit, however? Very kind and understanding people, they would probably not agree with your assessment of the game, but they’d understand that this is not their finest hour and that mistakes were made. They own up to those mistakes, so I’m a little disappointed to read this review and see that you think this “squanders any and all goodwill”.
Huh, I wonder where I got that from then. I’ve removed the references to Uranium in the review. This does, however, mean my initial goodwill has gone from “some” to “none”. I probably would not have bought the game if I hadn’t thought it was from the Uranium crew.
Unless they plan to stop charging money for this garbage until they can release a functional version where, at a bare minimum, menus are navigable and characters do not noclip all over the place, no, they haven’t. Demanding money for such a lazy and slapdash project speaks to incredible contempt for their audience. If you can tolerate the level of quality on display here, good for you, but I have higher standards.
I’m going to be blunt here – you didn’t give the game enough of a chance. Like I said, I have a monster in the game from a contest, although I don’t think the game is that great either. It’s buggy (on some systems, moreso) and does have ugly mistakes.
And yet, the fact that you skimread the plot so far and didn’t even get to the breeding portion of the game (which seems to be the most-well-liked feature) says you didn’t even want to *try* and give the game a fair chance. I don’t just buy any mongame out there, that’d be silly. I gave the game a chance, and it didn’t quite work. That alone says I probably have more patience for snarky and crude game reviews than the game itself.
That’s not to mention that the devs of this game had very…confused reactions to your review. One of them noticed that you skimread the plot where the monster pacts are explained, those are given more lore later on. One of them offered the story about InvoluntaryTwitch from Uranium being involved for like, one mock-up of the battle UI early on (and then IT left from creative differences), and noted your review initially seemed to think this was all the Uranium teams doing. Assumptions will get you nowhere with any game; I stand by the fact that the devs are good people and will own up to their mistakes.
tl;dr – you didn’t give this game enough of a chance to make me think the review holds water. I understand that your opinion is yours and you won’t change it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong in some areas.
I gave the game far more of a chance than it deserved. I would have been well within my rights to return the game immediately after the opening when I saw what a mess it was. (The main reason I didn’t was because I thought they were the Pokemon Uranium guys, so I’m not sure why you’re harping on that being a harmful assumption.) If the devs wanted me to give their game a chance, they shouldn’t have released an obvious beta that was actively painful to play. They also could have not placed a grinding barrier before the very first town. Why should I devote more of my time to a game when the creators have already demonstrated how little they care about making it playable? People do, in fact, judge books by their covers, because people don’t have infinite time and you have to convince them you’re worth theirs. I will believe the devs are willing to “own up to their mistakes” when they fix the slapdash mess they are, again, charging money for.
And “skimread” is an interesting way to say I posted the text in its entirety.
What does the dev being “good people” have to do with whether or not the game is good?