Monster Sanctuary is one of those Kickstarter success story games. It sought $22,909 back in November 2018 to make a game with Metroidvania and Pokemon elements and blew past all but one of its stretch goals. At the time, the plan was for an early access launch in mid-2019, and it is going to meet it when it appears on August 28, 2019. While that will be an in-progress work, the core concepts are there, and an even earlier build already shows all of the influences in action.
In the older build I had the chance to play, many of the staples are there. Like Pokemon, Monster Sanctuary casts people as an apprentice Monster Keeper from a prominent bloodline. This means you have a Spectral Familiar that has aided all Monster Keepers in your line. You can start with a Spectral Eagle, Lion, Toad, or Wolf. As you would expect from a “starter” and what is the equivalent of an especially notable creature, each of these is pretty substantial. All of them are guaranteed special attacks from two elements, to increase their effectiveness. They tend to be generally well-rounded, with the Spectral Lion and Wolf having the most balanced stats. (The Eagle excels in attacks, while the Toad focuses on magic.)
As for a good “first” monster, the Spectral Eagle seemed a possible good fit in the old build of Monster Sanctuary. There isn’t a dedicated “fire” elemental monster in the game’s initial area, which makes its explosion skill tree helpful. (In this build, the Tengu fire elemental creature didn’t appear until the second area.) Wind is effective against many of the initial foes, like Blobs and the first “boss,” and it has Feather Storm and Lightning Bolt skill trees. Plus, its support skill tree has a Double Impact skill that triggers an extra attack if you hit an opponent’s weakness and buffs that boost might and sorcery. It is also the earliest way to get the Levitate Explore Ability, as the other initial creatures have more physical ones.
This isn’t mean the others aren’t also good fits. The nature of Monster Sanctuary means that the four starters are all good right from the outset. The dual elemental attacks helps a lot with creatures like the Toad, with the water Bubble Burst and earth Mud Cannon skill trees. It also has the neutral Tackle and Barrier buffs right away. However, its Tackle Explore Ability and moveset in general shares a lot in common with the Yowie, which also has skill trees for Tackle and a water ability (Ice Hail). So while it is good, this older build had a different monster with a similar sort of move set and identical Explore Ability early on.
The remaining two starters, the Spectral Lion and Wolf, have many elements in common, due to being the two offensive monsters in the initial group. Both have the Claw Explore Ability, which helps tear down cracked walls and cut through vines. Both feature prominently in the initial areas. The Spectral Wolf gives people the neutral Claws and Spectral Flame skills, which respectively deal physical and magical damage. You also have the Air Sickle wind and Ice Hail water attacks. But, since it has Lifesteal ability to heal its health after hitting a foe and Mana Symbiosis that recovers five mana when healed, it is a self-sustaining sort of creature in this old build.
Meanwhile, the Spectral Lion in the older build is more balanced than the Wolf. Almost each one of its starting ability ranks is five, with health and mana at six. It has earth and fire attacks, Its only magical attack is the fire-based Ignite. It also has the neutral Claws, fire-based Fire Claws, and earth-related Stone Rain. Instead of getting self-preservation passives early on, it has ones that increase its chance of a critical hit. However, people on the fence when deciding between the two might find the Lion’s Regeneration buff, which applies regen to the whole party and can eventually be upgraded to Lifeline, which adds a Glory buff, might find that extra support more helpful.
Keep in mind, all of this is based on an older build of Monster Sanctuary that only covered skill trees for the initial creatures up to the level 10+ tier. Things could very well change as the game grows during early access, as Moi Rai Games will undoubtedly get feedback and could do some rebalancing along the way. The important things to know going in to the early access build will be that the Spectral Lion and Wolf are focused on offense, Eagle and Toad have some supportive options, Eagle is the earliest way to be guaranteed the Levitate ability, and the first boss-class monster you will face will be weak against the Eagle’s Feather Storm and Lightning Bolt and the Wolf’s Air Sickle.
Monster Sanctuary will enter early access on PCs on August 28, 2019. The full game will appear on the Nintendo Switch and PC.