There are some niches that simply get left in the dust in the game industry. One of those niches involves almost anything to do with kaiju. Sure, we have had a few Godzilla and other monster titles come and go, but most are unoriginal and come in a rather bare-bones format. WayForward and 13AM Games are looking to satisfy that itch you didn’t know you had with Dawn of the Monsters. This brawler has the player take to the streets and control mechs as they control a set of their own giant beasts and bots, attempting to save the world and get some nice combat in the process. Does this title measure up, or is it yet another uninspired take? Let’s find out.
Dawn of the Monsters makes a weird first impression. At first, it feels like a paint-by-numbers beat-em up, with a little “save the world” plot beginning to unfold as large kaiju begin to attack a city. As you progress, the quality of writing and excellent production value comes forth, making for an engaging experience all around. In this tale, players are thrust into a fighting force known as Defense Alliance Worldwide Network, who utilize their own version of the Nephilim (the kaiju species attacking) to defend the planet. With the help of a couple of mechs, the player travels to several locations doing battle, getting fed some hefty bits of lore and a story that feels like an engrossing animation throughout. You can tell a lot of effort and love was applied by a team that enjoy the product through the writing, as even though the game runs rather long- it never gets stale or boring due to the amount of narrative shoved into the package. It’s futuristic fun that never lets up, and possibly one of the most enjoyable tales to come in a brawler in a good bit.
The gameplay is, as advertised, a brawler with big beasts. While some Nephilim feel a bit large and slow, they make up for that with power and special abilities. Other large machines are more agile, offering a nice change of pace for the player during the adventure. Instead of random drops, the player can utilize actual buildings as their arsenal, which also host health and power boosts to give an edge while in combat. Light and strong attacks, as well as super move of sorts make up the general mechanics for play.
Again, it kind of sounds like what most brawlers offer at first glance. The two elements that add a lot of depth, however, are the game’s usage of defense, and the AI of the monsters themselves. While attacking and mashing your way through may seem like the way to go from the start, the player will quickly learn that many of these foes are smart and must be defended against properly – so you do not meet your demise in brutal fashion. A fluid parry system is your first line, as watching for openings to counter can unleash a parry attack, which can protect your own health while creating a once non-existent place to quickly make work of a monster.
Players also must do this while dealing with an onslaught of other monsters, so they must learn to adapt. To further assist, bonuses known as augments can be gained to adjust stats for each stage. These augments range from defensive to offensive boosts and can be combined to create powerful combos and techniques to give the player the edge against some stressful situations. Up to three of these unlocks can be used and stacking cards while practicing some trial and error on the field can add to a lot of variety that keeps things fresh for each large protagonist.
It’s this well-balanced system that works well and makes Dawn of the Monsters feel distinct in its genre. The only thing I can possibly say that may add some frustration is that there are portions of the game that can get overly challenging and feel tedious after a bit, even with the amount of variation added through augments and the otherwise diverse gameplay mechanics. This is due to the length of the game. I enjoy seeing a long beat-em up, but there is a reason why most wrap within an hour or two, rather than in eight. There are only so many things such as narrative and combat variations that can give a player a sense of satisfaction during every level. After a while, it kind of felt like those little moments of accomplishment were asked to be repeated a few times too many as waves continued with that once “new hat” I just earned starting to feel a bit stale and beaten. The overall product is great – don’t get me wrong, but I do see some tackling the overall product in bursts rather than one long session due to the monotony.
Visually, the art style is outstanding within Dawn of the Monsters. These 2D sprites look sharp and fluid, featuring heavy amounts of detail on every character and monster in the game. Animations are also sharp and never miss, despite having a screen full of chaos. Some of the environments could use a bit of change from time to time as after a while you almost feel eager to move on, but it still is easy to look around and get lost in the amount of depth and atmosphere found within every area you trek through.
The soundtrack is also stellar, but that is also matched by the voice actors as they add a lot of strength to an already top-tier tale that is a lot of fun to watch unfold. Monsters also add a lot to the sound with their roars and treachery as they plow through landscapes, all balancing together as the tunes in the background blare on.
Dawn of the Monsters is a special experience that comes around once in a generation. While there are some moments of tedium, it’s hard not to appreciate the level of work 13AM Games applied to the overall product, as there is a good time waiting here for anyone – kaiju fanatic or not. Is it the best kaiju game ever? Well, it certainly is up there, but that will be time to decide in the future. What Dawn of the Monsters can be looked at now is a title that was able to succeed most in making a niche subject accessible and thoroughly enjoyable, which will surely set bars for all titles alike that are to follow. Kaiju fans rejoice, your new fix is here.
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