In today’s gaming world, any game that tasks you with catching monsters, training them and pitting them against other monsters and their trainers is immediately bunched in with the likes of other games that are trying to capitalize on Pokémon‘s success. Undead Labs, makers of zombie survival game State of Decay, and their newest game, Moonrise, aim to break away from that group, with some clever game mechanics and fresh ideas.

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In Moonrise, you are a Warden, and must tame and capture these monsters, named Solari, and pit them against other Solari and Wardens. The game is almost extremely easy to pick up and learn; the demo I tried at this years PAX Prime didn’t hold your hand through it, but explained enough to get me acclimated. After customizing my Warden, I was thrown into a training area, where you are introduced to the Solari, and the battle system. Swiping a monsters icon will cause them to appear battle ready. This is where Moonerise‘s interesting take on the “monster fighting” genre comes into play.

Unlike most games of this nature, Moonerise is not a turn based game. Instead, all the battles happen in real-time, meaning that if you want to win, you must constantly be thinking your moves in advance, planning attacks for monsters while others cooldown. Also unlike many monster oriented games, the trainers are not just bystanders, watching the creatures fight it out; Wardens also have their own set of skills, and can attack other Wardens during the fight, creating an entirely new way to win the battle.

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These two changes, while not huge, introduce an entirely new way to play the game; not only do you have to worry about attacks constantly coming at you, but you also have to worry about defending yourself from the opposing trainer. This creates an interesting way to build your team; do you want to focus more on attacking the enemy Warden, and have a team of monsters for defensive purposes, or would you rather create a powerhouse team of Solari that can wipe out anything in it’s path?

Like any good RPG, the Solari will level up and gain new abilities and powers as you progress, and when encountering other Solari, who have become corrupted, you can tame these monsters and use keys to capture them, as well as enter dungeon-like ruins to fight “boss” Solari, stronger monsters that use special keys to be captured. According to the folks over at Undead Labs, they hope to have about 100 different Solari available for the game, many with their own type and abilities.

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As far as replayability goes, this game has a ton of it. While I didn’t quite understand what types were best against what, due to my limited playing time, the game easily had me hooked almost instantly. With a free-to-play format, there should be nothing stopping players from picking this up when it drops sometime in 2015.

 

 

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