It’s great that the Monster Taming genre has really started to flourish in recent years, as initially any attempts would be passed off as mere Pokémon clones. Even though some titles may not do anything massively different to the popular Nintendo franchise, there are many that try to make their game stand out as something different.
Beasties, for example, may look like a standard Monster Tamer at first glance, but it attempts to do something different where it counts: the battling. This alone makes it stand out amongst its peers as something truly unique – despite its many faults.
Many thanks to rokaplay for the review copy.
GOTTA CONNECT ‘EM ALL
Beasties and humans live together in peace – or at least they did until the Beastiemaster Elaine suddenly disappeared. As part of the Beastiemaster Guild, you’re sent into the wild to discover what happened to her.
Along your way, you’ll help out a villager who has lost his daughter, and you may end up finding out that she may be of help with finding the Beastiemaster you are looking for.
It’s quite a straightforward setup and shows some promise early on, but things wrap up sooner than you may expect. With a small open area outside the village to explore, you’ll soon realise that what you see is pretty much what you get. Whilst I wasn’t expecting a huge story (in fact, the Steam page warns you that it isn’t), it still feels like they ran out of either time or money and wrapped things up after the first act. There’s no build up to the ending nor any real character development save for the lost girl, so things seem to end just as they’re getting started. Unfortunate perhaps, but at least the gameplay makes up for the deficiencies in the story.
Beasties is a game of two halves: there’s the overworld exploration and the battles themselves. Controlling your character, who appears in the form of a board game piece for some unknown reason, you set off around the surprisingly small overworld to take care of tasks that will eventually lead you to your missing Beastiemaster. You’ve got a pickaxe to hand that will help you collect wood and iron ore, but there’s only ever one task for each material making obtaining resources a little bit of a waste of time; however, this is probably a positive considering just how fragile your pickaxe is, since using it a handful of times will result in it breaking and becoming unusable until you get it repaired back at the village. It can be a pretty long slog to get back too sometimes, as the fast travel stones are few and far between, so it’s best to only repair it when you have to return to heal up your party.
Speaking of which, the main thing you will be doing in the game is battling. Like with Pokémon, battles are typically triggered via random encounters in the grass (although there are a small number of static encounters too). Unlike Nintendo’s Monster Tamer, Beasties takes the form of a turn-based Match 3 puzzler where you need to connect coloured tiles either vertically or horizontally. The gray eye-shaped tiles represent a standard attack, whereas the other colours represent elements that can be matched to power up your beasties’ unique special attack. If you connect four tiles, or match two groups in one turn, you’re able to gain an extra move. The latter requires two matches at the exact same time, so getting combos as the tiles form won’t count. If you have a BeaCon, then you’re able to capture beasties that are low on health and add them to your team. Each creature has its own elemental typing, which affects how weak or strong their attacks will be against your opponent. Whilst the game doesn’t really explain the elemental weaknesses, they’re usually straightforward enough that you can guess most of them. It’s quite a unique battle system that works quite well for the most part, but it does have its issues.
The main problem lies with multi-creature teams: both you and your opponents may have up to four creatures, but it’s never clear who is attacking, and who they will attack. Aside from some special attacks that allow you to select a specific beastie, often if feels more like dumb luck than anything – making the typings seem somewhat worthless, most of the time.
The levelling system is also pretty badly explained, and – much like the pickaxe – also feels quite superfluous too. Battling will earn you Dawn Dust, which can be combined to make Dawn Discs; this, in turn, can be used to level up certain beasties by speaking to one of the NPCs in the village. It’s a bit of an overcomplicated system, but in the end it comes across as pointless since wild beasties tend to be a substantially higher level if you try to level up manually. It’s a shame since it means that you never have much of a connection with your team – unless you want to do some pointless grinding. Considering the game doesn’t even have a bestiary to log captures creatures, there’s very little point going out of your way to battle and grind Dawn Dust unless the game forces you to.
But, the game still is surprisingly fun. The developers really have a good concept here even if the execution isn’t quite perfect. Whilst the game gives you little reason to care about the beasties, their designs are still pretty good and they have some well thought-out special attacks. The battle system may have its issues that make it not live up to the potential it had, but there’s still a good foundation here for either a future update or a sequel. That doesn’t quite help the game in its present state, especially when combined with the incredibly short length, but it does make for a refreshing proof of concept at the very least.
I had a surprising amount of fun with Beasties, even if the game is full of missed potential. An incredibly short length mixed with some undercooked game mechanics results in a title than shows off how great the concept could be, even if the finished product doesn’t quite live up to that. That being said, if you are into the Monster Taming genre, it may be worth looking out for either a discount or some potential post game support. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes on the franchise, as I feel like this could well become something special in the future.