Monsters! That combat! Yeah! As far as simple names that evoke a feeling of “I want to play this and I don’t even know why” go, Combat Monsters may have one of the best. A war miniature/card digital hybrid that puts deckbuilding at the forefront and touts a future with tournaments and asynchronous play, now up on Steam Greenlight with an open beta ready for anyone to dive into. So what can you expect from said open beta? Well I had a few days to sit down and toy with it and here is what I found.

Playing an avatar that tosses a mini avatar version of themselves into an arena to fight someone elses mini avatar that was also tossed in (quite literally), one on one battles take place with a single hero occupying each side of a hexagonal map. Drawing 5 cards from your deck, with an additional card darn each turn, both avatars take turns summoning monsters, equipping weapons and placing runes which are conjured by using the cards in your hand. When one avatar is dead, the survivor is the victor. If you’ve played any miniature war game (i.e.Warhammer) or turned based strategy game (Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem) jumping into Combat Monsters will feel extremely familiar. The hexagonal tiles personally triggered my nostalgia for an old Sega CD turn based strategy game called “Dark Wizard” which gave me a very quick attachment to game, but that mileage will vary.

CMSS3 Combat Monsters: For Those Who Like to Shuffle Before a Gang Fight

After a very slow paced and overly explanatory tutorial you’ll find yourself with several campaigns to tackle, each one with increasing difficulty. Hot seat multiplayer and a randomised lobby also exist in the current beta but sitting in the lobby unfortunately let me very bored staring at a waiting screen and leaving me with very little to talk about on the multiplayer side of things. Private games can also be hosted and joined to play with friends in a non-hot seat fashion. The campaign will net you gold (called rubicons) and some free extra cards to enhance the starter deck given when you first load up the game. To get more cards you buy chests in the store with rubicoins. Which brings us to my (personal) biggest issue with Combat Monsters.

CMSS2 Combat Monsters: For Those Who Like to Shuffle Before a Gang Fight

I know CCG elements work for sales and I know how much fun there can be with opening packs (chests) but I absolutely loathe the system in Combat Monsters. It’s simple and basically the same as any other game with a booster pack model but it feels so forced and unnecessary. This isn’t me getting on a soap box about free to play models however, that empty box of Dragon’s Maze I bought last week would make me a hypocrite if I did. My issue is that this payment model effects core fundamentals of Combat Monsters in negative ways. When I play war games or turn based strategy games the last thing I want is randomness, or at least I want to be able to force the degree of randomness that exist for my own amusement. While rolling for successful attacks and defends can add a subtle layer of suspense to battles, waiting to draw the correct cards and chaining chests in hopes to get that one card to complete my deck causes grief as I long for the consistency to execute strategies. It would be nice to see a game take the Warhammer approach to the free to play model (though in a way I suppose MOBAs have adopted it) where you buy the units you want at any time. However i’m sure some people will enjoy the added randomness, so take this last paragraph with a grain of salt.

Taking a much needed and severe turn from the negativity, Combat Monsters is stylised in it’s low budget creative a humble and cute approach to character design. Personality oozes as characters dive out of the way of arrows and cover their face dreading the slash of a sword. While the current beta build does show much repetition in the models used for most characters the foundation set up is charming and if improvements to the art keep being made over time it may become one of my favourite looking games, even if it does look several generations behind.

While the beta is does look more like an alpha there is quite a bit to love in Combat Monsters. Complaints about the payment system and randomness over taking strategy in design aside, I look forward to coming back and playing around more once tournaments are in, especially if it sees ports to mobile devices. If you like war games and if you are the opposite of me and love extra random elements, Combat Monsters is worth checking out, and voting for.

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  • Rubicon Development

    Thanks for picking this up. One point to note is that fairly soon there will be a player to player trading system that will allow you to more easily get any final cards you need for a deck. The booster packs are there to beef up your collection generally. (And get trade stock).