Master of the Monster Lair - NDS - Preview
What do you get when you combine the creation/home maintenance elements of Harvest Moon with the battle-zillions-of-monsters gameplay of an RPG? A role-playing game with a different flair: Master of the Monster Lair. You are the hero and dungeon-creator rolled into one. Build the dungeon, lure monsters into it, and defeat them to steal their items. Heroic? Hardly. Hilarious? Note quiet. But just like Harvest Moon (a farm simulator) and Pokemon (a monster/RPG), the gameplay looks to carry Master of the Monster Lair to glory.
And Then My Shovel Said, “Dig This!”
Talking shovels aren’t a common game character. We’ve seen them in movies, maybe even on TV. But it’s rare that the tool you’re shoving into the ground has a mouth and personality.
The shovel’s use, however, isn’t what you’ll expect. Rather than bore the player with the tedious act of pushing a shovel in and out of soil, you form your dungeon with magic. The shovel is imbued with MP (mana power); each MP point equals one square area – about one-fourth the size of the bottom screen – that can be lifted from the dungeon to form a path.
You have an enormous space to work with, and only a small amount of MP to use during each game day. Game days are not real-time; nighttime falls automatically whenever you exit the dungeon. If you choose to rest, Owen’s (your main character) stats will be revived, as well as the MP points of your shovel. The shovel is separate from your human character. While Owen will attempt to grow himself as a monster-battling warrior, the shovel will sit back, give advice, and make dungeon creation a breeze.
Though it’s fun to dig through dungeons and place furniture throughout the area, this aspect serves a much greater purpose: it allows players to bring monsters directly to them. In addition to the obvious difference between this game and other RPGs (you’ll never have to work hard to find someone to battle), this is also a good way to snatch new items important to Owen and the overall quest.
Monsters may be battled one at a time. But if you tackle more of them, your chances of scoring a good item are much higher. This is where the thoughtful player will have an advantage. By taking the shovel’s advice and planting three monster beds (boxes with straw on the floor) next to each other and leaving only one exit, players will be able to fight all the monsters in that area – simultaneously – when they try to escape.
However, this setup is easier said than done. As already mentioned, the shovel is limited by the number of actions it can take each day. If you make a mistake, beds can be removed and areas of the dungeon can be replenished, allowing players to change things at any time. But in doing so, more MP will be spent, reducing the amount of progress that can be made during each game day. Luckily for players that revel in customization and don’t care how long it takes to accomplish, the game doesn’t appear to put any limitations on how much time you can actually spend in the dungeon, nor do there appear to be any limits on the number of times you can visit the dungeon over the course of the game.
Beyond the devious monster-luring, there’s yet another purpose to the game: to unlock a magical world. By getting 15 or more monsters to come live in your dungeon, a special area is said to open up. This area, the shovel promises, will lead to the most challenging battles in the game.
The battles are a mix of Pokemon speed – simple selections and fast executions with minimal animations that could slow the experience – and a first-person perspective. The dungeon visuals are much more traditional, taking on a view that’s nearly top-down and offers controls that are very straightforward.
Due for release this October, Master of the Monster Lair looks, sounds and plays like one of the most unique role-playing games of the year. We’ll continue to dig deeper and bring you the latest on the game as we have it. Look for our full review in October.