I’ve played a few trading card games in my life. Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, a few forgettable virtual ones, and one particularly good one. While I wouldn’t consider myself particularly good at any of them, if they have simple mechanics but offer strategic challenges, I find myself losing myself in gameplay. To this day, I still fondly remember playing Magic: The Gathering during lunch breaks at school. Under development by Shiny Shoes and soon to be published by Good Shepherd Entertainment, Monster Train is yet another digital card game.
Currently under Public Beta, Monster Train has you collecting and upgrading cards, as you drive a Hell-bound train forward to reignite the fires of Hell, frozen over by Angelic entities. Players can choose the path their train takes, opening up various possibilities when it comes to earning upgrades or healing the ‘Pyre’ you must protect. Each battle will earn you new cards to choose from, as well as unlocking the next section of track for you to navigate, much like any other card based game you’d play on a mobile device, with the exception of it being on PC. Monster Train, in its current form, feels very much like a mobile game, with its seemingly story-driven single player mode.
Unlike most card games however, Monster Train plays over three levels, with a fourth level reserved for enemies to attack your Pyre – the very thing that will reignite the fires of Hell. As you play your own cards, enemies will attack and make their way through the levels, stopped only by the cards you play. Like every other card game, you’ll have access to abilities that buff your character cards, as well as cards that will damage or debuff your opponent. Basically, everything we’ve come to expect when building a deck.
Monster Train features some beautifully designed cards that unfortunately are let down by some really simple animations. Playing cards will summon a character model, or some kind of effect when played, but there is very minimal animation when it comes to anything actually happening. Attacking characters will teleport into enemies, unleash what feels like a single frame animation before teleporting back. Don’t get me wrong, it gets the point across, but it genuinely feels like a mobile game with how simple it is.
Accompanying sound effects don’t fare much better either. Attacking sounds mostly share the same effects, while similar abilities have the same fate. The music also falls short. Given the game is based on returning Hell to its former glory, I would have thought something more sinister would be more appropriate. Instead it’s upbeat electronic music that very quickly got annoying.
By no means do I feel this is going to be a flop. The game itself is actually quite decent, it just feels very much like a game suited to mobile devices. They have a solid concept with a couple of features that I haven’t really seen before, but I feel it is wasted on PC. Ramping up the graphics, adding some additional sound effects or perhaps some voice recordings, adding more involved animations. I feel there needs to be more for it to really compete with other PC trading card games.