The creatures of Terra Monsters are quite numerous. The stable of close to 200 monsters to capture and train is probably the game’s biggest bullet point, actually. Even bigger than the “massive open world” and “over 100 quests.” Unfortunately, it’s also the only bullet point that measures up.
Players pick their trainer, pick their starting monster, and then jump right in with a quick tutorial before they’re able to wander around more freely. It takes a little bit before the training wheels totally come off, but eventually it’ll be time to gather up a team and start challenging everybody in sight. Combat is similar to most other monster RPGs in that each critter gets a few different moves – some buff, some debuff, some do regular damage, some do elemental damage, etc. – and players have to make strategic use of what’s available. Unlike most other monster RPGs, each move requires a certain amount of energy (as opposed to having a predetermined stock), and the amount of energy spent can be manually adjusted using a special power wheel/timing mini-game that pops up for most attacks.
The combat and creatures are what make Terra Monsters worth a look. The small fry may not be particularly “cool” looking, but they’re almost all cute and have a unique look to them. At higher levels and later evolutions, though, they’re quite nifty indeed. I also found the power wheel to be a nice touch. At first I thought it might start to get irritating, but it really keeps the action from getting too dull despite its simplicity. It also adds a need for planning to the mix since using up all their energy can leave even the toughest monsters at a disadvantage. The capture system is worth a nod as well. It’s not the most exciting in the world, but at least it’s no longer a matter of weakening a target (without knocking it out) and hoping for the best. Now it’s a matter of feeding the target and getting it to lower its guard (represented by a second meter underneath their health bar) and then hoping for the best.
So the monsters and the combat system in Terra Monsters are pretty nice, but everything else feels either too rough of totally incomplete. The laundry list of irritants starts with a problematic movement system. The main character is guided with a tap-to-move method, which in itself is fine, but the camera stays centered on them while they move, which makes exploring the surroundings a pain. Monitoring quests also seems like an afterthought. A list is available to view at any time, but if there’s a way to choose which one is active (i.e. displays guide arrows) it’s not apparent. The world itself also doesn’t feel as “open” as advertised. That may have something to do with the restrictive camera, or possibly the fairly empty environments. Regardless, while the world map is quite big, it’s really just a whole lot of empty space. The quests are nothing special either, sadly.
Even the combat, which is a high point, needs work. Specifically, it’s the lack of proper information. Messages pop up regularly mentioning what attacks are being used, what statuses are being implemented, and so on, but they go by way too quickly to read. The attacks themselves also lack any sort of “cost” display, which one would think should be a given in a game that uses an energy system. Yes it’s possible to set the overall amount of energy being used, but there’s absolutely no way of knowing (short of memorization) how much it’s going to drain the reserves. This same problem applies to replacing attacks with new ones. When the prompt comes up, there’s no way to compare new to old.
Aside from the movement controls, Terra Monsters is mechanically well put together. The monsters look good, too. The problem is that everything else comes up short. It looks nice, and it does some interesting things with what could have otherwise been a bland combat system, but it drops the ball in so many other basic areas that it’s actually rather hard to enjoy it. There’s no real harm in downloading it for free and sampling the first island, though.