Developer: Rubicon
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.01
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Rubicon, creators of Great Little War Game and its Big sequel, take a different fork down the turn-based strategy road with Combat Monsters. Same strategery, but taking a different tack with a card-based unit system and a free-to-play structure.

CombatMonsters-7Battles take place between up to six teams with their own decks of cards and hands to play. A team’s hero unit is the most important unit because if they die it’s Battle Over, but also because they summon new monsters for their team onto the field. Each card has a mojo cost to be summoned, whether it be a new monster to play or a support card to help a creature’s stats or use a special ability. Thus, the game becomes a matter of intelligently using one’s cards to not just have the best assault, but also to manage the board’s power-up squares effectively. The meta-game then becomes about getting coins to buy new card packs and different heroes that can help one’s preferred play strategy.

What’s cool is that Combat Monsters works perfectly across its three launch platforms: iOS, Android, and PC. By registering an account with the game, it’s possible to continue progress seamlessly across all three platforms with ease. This is the kind of future I dream of with games: where the platform doesn’t matter, the game does, and Rubicon has figured it out. Bully for them!

Combat Monsters is free-to-play with card packs for new characters available for purchase, but the game offers a coin tripler for $2.99, which is a value for a currency multiplier. Plus, coins are frequently on offer for winning battles in the single- and multiplayer modes. Obviously having higher-quality cards does help, but there’s less of a pay-to-win factor, particularly in that even basic monsters can become powerful forces in a battle through smart play. The free-to-play aspects only affect the meta-game.

CombatMonsters-10The multiplayer is both impressive and lacking. The impressive factor is that it supports cross-platform play. The problem is that it’s all real-time multiplayer, so there’s no way to back out of a game. This makes it decidedly non-portable: while “sit-and-go tournaments” are coming, the multiplayer should have been structured like how Ascension does it; with the ability to stay in a game lobby while the other person takes their turn, but to also be able to back out and play other turns. That kind of hybrid system would be perfect for Combat Monsters and I hope it’s coming in the future. For a turn-based mobile game, the omission is glaring. Thankfully, there’s a lengthy and involved single-player campaign as well to enjoy.

There’s definitely rewarding aspects to Combat Monsters though its multiplayer, which is a huge part of the game, needs to be optimized better for mobile. Still, as a free download without many of the annoyances that plague free-to-play games, I recommend giving it a shot, and then picking up the coin tripler if it’s fun – the game is certainly well worth $2.99.

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