Rubicon has released Combat Monsters, their newest iOS title featuring grid and card warfare. Rubicon is a UK-based developer known for other warfare titles featuring little people/monsters, such as Great Little War Game and Great Big War Game. Combat Monsters lives up to its namesake in providing both a single-player and multiplayer experience that are each thorough and strategic in nature. With Pokemon X/Y on Combat Monsters' heels, combat featuring multitudes of little monsters have been on the rise. So let's see if Combat Monsters can exceed in an area where Pocket Monsters have yet to win a gym badge in -- the iOS format.
There are plenty of archetypes taken from the RPG, RTS and collectible card game genres, but Combat Monsters does its very best to be true to its influences while trying to build its own renown. Each fight pits you against another player, each with a hero on the field and a deck of cards to support them with. What's interesting is that every creature, armor, weapon or spell is a card which must be put onto the field. In a way, Combat Monsters is a fully animated version of a collectible card game -- you get to see the animations of every spell and can visibly see the monsters fight it out on the field, which is what the iOS and console versions of the Magic: The Gathering series is lacking.
Combat Monsters is intriguing considering that it borrows much from the Wizards of the Coast card games. You must lead a hero character (acting similarly to a Planeswalker from Magic), on the battlefield and support it with the various creature and spell cards. You get a set amount of mana (called mojo in Combat Monsters), in order to cast spells or summon creatures each turn. You only get four mojo points each round (though there are ways to outsource your mojo and to limit your opponent's). Each round these mojo points replenish, allowing you help shift the battle into your favor.
On the battlefield itself are specific tiles which can boost or diminish certain statistics if a creature or hero is standing on top of them. Also in the levels are stones which you can place artifacts or spells on which activate passive abilities for you to benefit from throughout the rest of the fight, such as receiving more mojo each round. If the average monster costs three to four mojo points to summon, having seven or even nine max mojo points make that much of a difference while fighting.
Combat Monsters allow you to fight online against other player characters. From my experiences with them, it's hard to tell if there really are humans on the other side. I see the usernames of who I am fighting, but the opposing player commands are inputted just as fast as mine, which is a good thing. Sometimes online iOS games can take forever for other players to make their move, resulting in a broken experience. I was quite glad to see that Combat Monsters was rather seamless in my online escapades when compared to the single-player mode.
There are plenty of different card types for you to customize your deck however you would like. Starting off with the fighter deck was easy considering that melee cards were rather one-dimensional in their application. But, once you start throwing in archers and mages, who can each attack from a distance, along with the various spell cards which the user casts (you actually see a huge character putting the cards and characters down onto the battlefield), there is much variety and strategy involved.
Combat Monsters offers a ton of gameplay for free. Unfortunately, it has one of the most convoluted title/menu screens I have ever encountered. Its menu screen consists of many ways for Rubicon to try and make money from a solid and free game. In its menu, it tries to advertise a pyramid scheme-like way of promotion for you. If you can convince your friends and rivals to all buy the in-game currency in order to buy rare cards and then put each others' names down while buying, you will all get bonus coins. But having this all atop the main menu (which is the first thing you see when you start up Combat Monsters), was a very poor decision. Buying currency in an iOS title isn't new, but advertising something like this should simply be advertised via social media.
Nevertheless, Combat Monsters offers a thorough and challenging card-collecting experience. Despite the rather small battlefield, there is a lot of strategy to be incorporated into Combat Monsters. Fans of grid-based and card-based RPGs should rejoice in finding a single and multiplayer title which has tons of playability. After winning a battle, you would see your creatures and hero do the Gangnam Style and Running Man dances. Along with the cute and squashed look of all the creatures, there is enough charm in Combat Monsters to keep me visually and mentally engaged. With a variety of cards for you to assemble and test against the masses, Combat Monsters is a great title for players to unleash the strategist within.