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Rise and Shiny recap: Monster Forest


Monster Forest, brought to us by Asiasoft, is a deceptive little game. First of all, it feels so freshly translated that there are still bits of foreign language clinging to quest text and character speech. But the sheer amount of little games and systems involved makes me feel like I am revisiting Mabinogi for the first time. If you took a collectible pet game, a farming system, turn-based combat, a stock market, and several other major systems and wrapped them in a cartoony skin, you would get Monster Forest. Heck, we did get Monster Forest.

Also, the GMs from Asiasoft are insane. Now, I am fully aware of the cultural differences between West and East. I respect them and always remember to avoid applying any stereotypes to any one group. But let's face it, North American game developers would never ask their GMs to dress up like the person in this video to film a game guide. It just wouldn't happen, unless the North American crew was attempting to be silly. To the lady in the video, this is just another day at the office.

Anyway, let's find out some more details -- click past the cut!

One of the weirdest things I had to get used to with Monster Forest is the fact that my character basically does nothing but model clothes the whole time. Oh, I bet there are some tricks up his sleeves or some kind of bonus stat that he applies to combat situations, but essentially my pet does everything for me. Ever see Inspector Gadget? Yeah, I am the guy with the robot arms and my pet is the niece who does all the actual work.

You start the game by picking out which pet you want to pal around with. I decided on the naked Guinea Pig-looking one and went off in search of adventure. The first few times I loaded into the game, I was almost overwhelmed with all of the buttons and choices to make. I still understand only a bit of it -- the stock market, for example. Does it work just like the "real" stock market? And what is a stock market doing in this game? This isn't EVE Online -- if I wanted to play that, I would go read a book while driving down the road at three miles an hour. As I started to quest and play, I found out that Monster Forest would be a game shrouded in mystery a lot of the time.

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The combat isn't the problem, really. It works for the most part. As you run around the landscape, you automatically come across monsters to fight. There's no predicting it, though, so it can be truly frustrating to get a foot away from a quest turn-in only to be sucked into one more fight. Once in the battle screen, you can pick and choose targets and abilities for your pet (remember, your character just stands there and cheers) or just allow the pet to make all the decisions. While it felt very basic, it was obvious that at later levels the combat becomes more complicated.

"Quests are the real sour spot in Monster Forest. Not only are they poorly translated, but they seem to come from a new world entirely."

I can say this because, even from the beginning, I was finding ability cards to assign to my pet. I was also able to outfit him (or her?) with items, just like a normal avatar. The pet is the focal point, obviously, and it was fun to tweak his equipment like I would a party member in Dragon Age. Don't get me wrong -- my character is able to try on a ton of clothes and other customization items, which is a game in itself, but the pets are it in this game. In town I saw a lot of unique-looking monsters, all following along behind their masters.

Quests are the real sour spot in Monster Forest. Not only are they poorly translated, but they seem to come from a new world entirely. What kind of target is a "PenKnife.Fanny" anyway? You can read the quest text slowly, and it does make sense eventually, even providing you with auto-walk links inside, but the whole experience feels like you are walking around a strange town, extremely drunk, performing menial tasks for the locals. While busted quest text can be found in many MMOs that are either newly transported to our shores or only lightly tweaked for Western release, it doesn't make me feel any more connected to my character. I want the NPCs to be funny -- but not odd.

The game makes up for many of its issues with its sheer amount of content. You can own a farm or a cafe and run it like a virtual business. I was more than eager to own a "miniland," but the quest link auto-walked me to an area that was filled with creatures far out of the level range for my pet. I'll level up and get the farm eventually, but it would be nice to have been told upfront that the quest would not be do-able any time soon. There is a yellow color to the quest's title, but what does that mean? After all, other quests were yellow and I did them easily. In the meanwhile, I will watch YouTube videos of other players' farms and be jealous.

I love virtual shopping, especially when I can buy a ton of different looks or clothes for my character. I would much rather look unique and cool than be powerful any day. Again, though, I cannot understand exactly how the cash shop works. The interface says something about three different currency types, one of which I can choose as my default currency. I have shells on me, but some purchases require something else. When I click the blinking "achievements" button, I can see a list of items I have completed and recognize that I have achieved some points in the system, but what are the points used for?

The entire game feels like a maddening trip through Alice in Wonderland. Sure, it starts out fun enough, but after your buzz starts to wear off, it just becomes a headache. The game is filled with so many things to try, though, that I want to keep at it. I should just find a wiki somewhere to explain the crazy talk to me, and maybe I can figure it out. Asiasoft seems to be the type of publisher that accidentally lets in players to its not-quite-ready-for-the-Western-market games. This is good in the way that you get a glimpse into the amazing world of Eastern MMO gaming (trust me, we've seen nothing over here yet), but you have to stumble through a fog of missed translations and pure Eastern design-madness.

In the end, though, it was a very worthwhile trip.

Next week we will be moving on to Puzzle Pirates, an old standby of mine. You have to trust me when I say that this game features some amazing design that needs to find its way into other games. My character's name is Beauhindman if you want to join me!

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Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!

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