Combat Monsters
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-11-16 Android Strategy Rubicon

I was never very good at card games, but Combat Monsters caught my attention for the strategy elements in battle, more than the card portion. Well, it wasn't surprising that I ended up being terrible at this game and even with the tutorial basics in place, it took me forever to get past the first actual battle.

Combat Monsters is a free to play game for Android and PC, with the advantage of cross-platform gameplay. That is to say that if you play a few battles on your phone, your game is saved and you can pick up where you left off on your PC.

A mix of trading card game, strategy and board game make Combat Monsters quite unique. You begin with a starter deck and earn a few extra cards during the tutorial, which seems like a breeze. Once you're in a real battle though, every move counts.

You're given a limited number of cards at the start of the battle, with the option to redeal with one less card. The game is played in 3D, on a board of sorts, with different spaces on the ground. Some of these have special icons: shield for defense bonus, fist for attack bonus, star for mojo bonus (that's your magic), heart for health and a question mark for drawing an extra card. There are also pedestals which is where you can place rune cards.

Cards come in all sorts, creatures, bonuses, runes and spells. Every card costs a certain number of mojo points to be used, so it's always a good decision to try to reach the star spaces on the board first, so you can accumulate more every turn and play the best cards in your deck. Creatures have attack and health attributes, respectively the red fist and green heart icons. You can add bonuses to your creatures by playing defense or attack cards on top of them.

Some creatures have only ranged abilities, like archery or magic spells, so they are only able to attack other creatures that are two or more spaces away. Seeing them attack is like watching battle chess Depending on what you direct them to do, your hero and creatures go about moving and attacking, which is fun to watch. I particularly liked the detail of how creatures move out of the way when between an archer and its enemy.

I find that the game is missing a couple of things, though. The first, an undo option in case we just moved the wrong creature somewhere. The second, an option to defend on the spot while in combat. If you really don't want to move a character, ran out of mojo or if you have no cards left in your hand to play, there's nothing else to do but end turn. There should have been an option to defend, at least for the creatures who have a defensive item equipped.

The spell cards I discovered were hit or miss, particularly one that casts fire on random spaces on the board. You can't aim it at all, and your own creatures can be damaged and killed by it, so I've resigned to remove those from my deck altogether.

Rune cards cost a bit of mojo to use, but are totally worth it. The game board will give you pedestals where you can place them, one per pedestal, and enjoy their effects as long as the battle lasts. And they sure can last a long time! Having permanent mojo and attack bonuses every turn is definitely helpful!

Winning a battle earns you Rubicoins, which you can use to purchase heroes or chests that contain more cards. The more expensive the chest, the more uncommon the cards you can receive. There are tons of cards to collect, creatures, heroes, shields, weapons, runes and spells, which allow you to customize your deck and gameplay strategy.

Other than the regular quests (which come in Easy, Medium and Hard difficulty) there are also quick battles, where everything is picked at random. The multiplayer options offer a versus game where you take turns with a friend on the same system, and online multiplayer tournaments or matches with up to six users on the same board.

As for other features, the game has its own achievement system that awards you with extra Rubicoins for completing certain goals. A Deal of the Day gives you the chance to purchase better cards for your deck with Rubicoins. You can also connect with Facebook and invite friends to your posse so you can earn extra coins... but I have no friends! No friends that play Combat Monsters, that is!

On a technical note, I didn't experience any difficulties on the PC version, but the game did freeze a few too many times on my Android. It looks good, the animations are great, and it only stuttered a little when using a fire spell. I really loved the voice, sound effects and music, even if it repeats a lot.

In sum, Combat Monsters turned out to be a new addiction for me once I knew what I was doing. Mostly. It has tons of replay value, since you can repeat the quest battles, hop on multiplayer or just fit a quick battle in your busy schedule, with the advantage of cross-platform gameplay. It offers plenty of customization and is challenging enough for gamers of all skill levels. And did I mention it's free?