Monster Train... a contender to Slay the Spire's throne?

Given Slay the Spire's popularity around these parts, I'm surprised I haven't seen more mention of Monster Train. Northernlion seems to be enjoying it and has an ongoing series up on his channel.

I've played a couple of hours and I like what I see so far. The similarities with StS are obvious but it does enough to differentiate itself. The story is slightly ridiculous, but the art is delicious. Personally, I found the art of StS rather off-putting. Monster Train is a significant step up in that regard. It's hard to tell how much legs it has but my first few runs have been a lot of fun!

Give it a try, it's 10% off on steam at the moment, though when I put it in my cart it applied a 20% discount. I'm not sure what prerequisite I met to get the extra discount.

Edit: Rock Paper Shotgun also had some good things to say about it.

Firing it up now!

If you have Slay the Spire, I think it gives you an extra 10% off.

This game is bonkers good. I really enjoyed the Slay the Spire, but I don't see myself going back. I feel like I have much more agency, and it's fun to have creatures bashing each other and stateful things all over the board.

The calculated battle outcome updating as you play things (or hover things) is particularly nice for people like me who don't want to do arithmetic before every decision.

It strikes the balance of constantly presenting interesting decisions without being a brain burner.

Mr Crinkle wrote:

This game is bonkers good.

Completely agreed. The more I play it the more I like it!

Edit: good piece from PC Gamer.

Interesting.

Is it on Switch or coming there? Because that's where I get all my StS fix.

Stele wrote:

Interesting.

Is it on Switch or coming there? Because that's where I get all my StS fix.

Only steam so far, and I did a quick search and can find no mention of other platforms. I guess it will all depend on $£ sales.

Visual design is a bit "busy" for my taste, but the game itself is great fun. They seem to have learned a lot from Slay the Spire, but changed up enough (eg having units as well as spells) to make it feel like its own thing.

I bounced off this hard and refunded it after 5 minutes of play. I think I'll have to watch more video and read more strat to come around on it, or maybe just wait until it's out on mobile or switch.

They talked about Monster Train on the latest episode of Minnmax, basically saying this is a more accessible Slay The Spire (if that's true?). The art looks good & STS has me interested in anything that takes inspiration from it, without being a rip off.

I hope this comes to Switch, I'll be keeping a close eye on it.

Amoebic wrote:

I bounced off this hard and refunded it after 5 minutes of play. I think I'll have to watch more video and read more strat to come around on it, or maybe just wait until it's out on mobile or switch.

Ah that's a shame, what was it that caused you to bounce off so soon?

I'm still having a lot of fun. Got my second win yesterday and unlocked some more cool cards. My favourite clan so far is definitely the Stygian Guard... I love their synergy with spell power.

One of the things I enjoy the most is how crazily impactful the random events and relics can be; you really never can tell when a bad run is going to turn viable.

E.g., I just had a run on Covenant 9 as Stygian/Awoken, and 3 of my starting cards were 3-cost Offerings (if you discard them during your turn, they get played for free instead of discarded). I got horribly mauled on the first two battles because I badly needed to take the extra-difficulty options in order to have a prayer of winning, and I got pretty much screwed on my unit drafts, pulling a single lackluster tank. I figured I was going to lose by the 4th fight, but then got the "copy a card 5 times" special event, and duplicated my sole copy of the 0-cost "Draw 1, Discard 1" spell.

Suddenly I had an at least halfway reliable synergy and went all-in on Offerings, drafting, modifying, and duplicating them wherever possible. Managed to squeak out a win by the skin of my teeth with a stupidly fat deck, after what had initially appeared to be a completely hopeless start.

Best part in my opinion is the amount of deck types. 20 different types on top of several strategies in each is pretty bonkers IMO. Up to Covenant 13 currently and so far I am also liking higher difficulty more than StS. StS once you got above 10 it really felt like you had to choose correctly which part or you lost. In this it feels like I have much more time to modify or change my strategy to fit relics/cards I get.

Spikeout wrote:

They talked about Monster Train on the latest episode of Minnmax, basically saying this is a more accessible Slay The Spire (if that's true?). The art looks good & STS has me interested in anything that takes inspiration from it, without being a rip off.

I hope this comes to Switch, I'll be keeping a close eye on it.

The accessibility angle is tricky - I think there's a bit more to pick up on out of the gate than in StS, but it's not quite as punishing.

I unlocked Umbra and tried a couple of runs with them. Morsels seem like a lot of fun, but quite difficult to get used to.

kergguz wrote:

I unlocked Umbra and tried a couple of runs with them. Morsels seem like a lot of fun, but quite difficult to get used to.

They are even more fun when used with the 5th faction. My favorite combo is the 5th faction with Umbra as second.

Have I missed something here or maybe this just isn't my game.

I like the mechanics, and I enjoyed StS, and I actually enjoyed this game.

but...

I beat it on my 4th try. I know these sorts of games are kind of meant to be played multiple times and additional challenges are put on, but I guess I was expecting a bit more before beating it? On my 2nd try I think i got to the final boss. I barely understood the mechanics I just picked a few cards that I thought made sense and did a lot of trashing of starting cards.

For comparison, according to Steam I have 35 hours played in StS and I've beat it exactly once, and that was after building that character up and needing a bit of luck and good hand planning. I know this is not a lot of hours compared to others on my steam list, but 35 hours to beat a game is still 35 hours.

I personally don't like replaying a game just because there's now a harder mode or "play it this way now" (Diablo may be the only exception). I have beaten the game and I'm still within the refund window (maybe not.. Steam says 2 hours played). Is there something more maybe I've missed?

No, the default difficulty is meant to be very easy. The challenge comes with increasing the Covenant level.

I see.. is the added covenant level actually something different or is it just more of the same except the enemies are buffed / heroes nerfed?

Carlbear95 wrote:

I see.. is the added covenant level actually something different or is it just more of the same except the enemies are buffed / heroes nerfed?

Each Covenant Rank adds 1 more stacked modifier. The first one adds a second though though because you start getting 5 random cards added to your deck based on the Clan's you pick. Other than that they are things like stronger enemies, higher cost stores etc. However, with 20 different Clan combo's there is plenty you can do to change it up. Also several versions of each boss with different modifiers that really change what deck you want to use.

I have 150+ hours in StS. I really wanted to like this game. But in the end its my first Steam refund.
So whats wrong (probably with me more than the game)
- the game has an atmosphere of super frantic about it - maybe its the music, not a fan
- I played the tutorial level and still didn't know exactly what I was doing
- I couldn't really understand which one of my minions was hitting for what and how much they'd get hit back for - probably not reading the gui right, but what seems simple at first then adds buff and regens
- didn't understand all the buff and shields on the opponents to any degree and what that actually meant or what bypassed what
- the 3 floor thing and trying to think ahead but not knowing what would happen this turn when I hit turn end
- I won on the first boss but I couldn't tell you why
- the buff cards you get to pick from all seemed to be extremely similar
- the power level of minions varied extremely wildly
- the game let me buy a minion that I didn't understand I didn't have enough energy to bring out (seems a bad idea for a tutorial level)

Overall I just had no idea what I was doing after I won the first boss battle. Don't get me wrong, I like winning, but for a deckbuilder I need more insight into why things happen.

Like I said, probably just me.

Fascinating discussion. It seemed like a lot of positive buzz just a few days ago and then...people played the game. The comments have cooled me to trying it. Thanks for the rich discussion.

forlorn1 wrote:

Overall I just had no idea what I was doing after I won the first boss battle. Don't get me wrong, I like winning, but for a deckbuilder I need more insight into why things happen.

Like I said, probably just me.

There are pretty great tooltips, I think. Every effect is well telegraphed if you take the time to study all the icons before pressing end turn. I think this makes it accessible, and yet, there is a lot of it, so I can understand being a bit overwhelmed at first. The more I play, the more I appreciate it's cleverness. It's really my favourite game of the year so far.

chooka1 wrote:

Fascinating discussion. It seemed like a lot of positive buzz just a few days ago and then...people played the game. The comments have cooled me to trying it. Thanks for the rich discussion.

I'm liking it the more I play it. I wasn't a huge StS fan, though, so there may be something that draws in different crowds.

I do wonder how much one's perception of Monster Train is driven by experience with Slay the Spire.

I actually have had StS on my backlog for ages but just never got around to it. Something about Monster Train just grabbed my interest though when watching a gameplay preview/overview, so I picked it up and very quickly got hooked. I really dig it!

With so many comments here and elsewhere comparing it unfavorably to Slay the Spire, I finally figured "well hell, I better give StS a shot!" Which I did, and I do like it, but... I dunno. Something about it just doesn't quite grab me as much overall. There are some really great elements -- the first boss battle in particular was great (and had some particularly excellent music!). But it just feels like there's something missing. Maybe the lack of additonal summons beyond the hero? I don't know.

Both games are good though, I shouldn't have sat on StS for so long unplayed!

I like the mix of slay the spire + tower defence that units give you. It adds extra layers (in more ways than one...). I do think the art is a little bit Marmite. I happen to love it but have seen others completely put off by it. I personally found slay the spire to be ugly, and the art is a big part of card games for me. It's completely subjective though, and I wouldn't try to convince someone that one style is better than the other.

forlorn1 wrote:

- I couldn't really understand which one of my minions was hitting for what and how much they'd get hit back for - probably not reading the gui right, but what seems simple at first then adds buff and regens
- didn't understand all the buff and shields on the opponents to any degree and what that actually meant or what bypassed what
...
- the game let me buy a minion that I didn't understand I didn't have enough energy to bring out (seems a bad idea for a tutorial level)

1. You have it backwards. By default, the enemies always strike first, from front to back ("front" meaning closest to your units). They will always hit your front unit first, until it's killed, then onto the next, etc. Your units behave similarly, activating from front to back, and hitting the front enemy unit until its killed.

This means that it's generally very important to have a tank unit at the front of your stack, otherwise enemies will frequently kill your units without them ever getting an opportunity to deal damage in return. As to how much each unit hits for, there's a big sword icon with a number in front of it.

If you have any units with the "Quick" ability, they will perform their attacks before the enemies do.

Note that unless a unit has the "Trample" ability, overkill damage is lost. So your 1 health guy will completely stop a 40 damage attack with his death. Units with "Multistrike" perform multiple discrete attacks, and thus are capable of killing multiple units in a single turn.

2. When it comes to taking damage, armor is lost before health. Armor has a shield icon and is just like a second health bar in this game; it doesn't regenerate between strikes or turns or anything like that. There are a couple spells which have "Piercing," which skips armor.

Every buff explains itself if you hover over it, and the icons for almost everything are quite intuitive. With a few exceptions, every buff with a counter on it decreases by 1 after each turn.

3. There isn't a tutorial level. It just puts you into a 0-covenant game, with all the usual randomness.

One more thing that isn't immediately intuitive, unless otherwise specified, spells can target both friends and enemies. It can be advantageous to kill your own units to proc a spell or Harvest effect, or make room for something in your hand.

Ascending/Descending spells are another one where it can be helpful to target both sides. Units ignore normal room "power slots" while being moved around by spells, so you can overstack a floor this way. There is a hard limit of 7 units of any size per floor; attempting to add/move more to the floor simply causes the extra to vanish.

I like it! It's not that hard to understand. I lose track of some of the individual interactions, but as long as I can spot the big synergies, I feel like I'm okay.

kergguz wrote:

I do think the art is a little bit Marmite. I happen to love it but have seen others completely put off by it. I personally found slay the spire to be ugly, and the art is a big part of card games for me. It's completely subjective though, and I wouldn't try to convince someone that one style is better than the other.

This. I found the art style for StS to be a huge turn-off for me. I think this is where we celebrate our luck in having two excellent if similar games that may serve different audiences.

I sent this to staygold yesterday and I really think it's true -

....you kids like Slay The Spire? You like Snowpiercer? You like Descent to Avernus?
(smooshsmooshsmoosh)
MONSTER TRAIN!

I enjoy it a lot. I also like StS, but this feels like a next logical step. It's a card game, but it feels like a StS-inspired card game. The rogue-like style of doing a "run" and the prestiging difficulty, the ability to modify your cards with an in-run economy.

I'm not averse to the art in either game, but that's not what draws me (or pushes me away). I enjoy the bonkers combinations that games like these encourage that make you feel unbeatable.