The first news we received from Monarch, before it even had an official name, was the team involved and the description as “Institute RPG”. A large part of its developers took credit for the first deliveries of Shin Megami Tensei, and especially in one of the games that changed the course of the JRPG franchise: Shin Megami Tensei IF… After two main deliveries of environments with devastating scenes, IF went to one of the original ideas of the novels in which the saga was lounging around its plot inside an institute. The idea of SI did enough to motivate the development of spin off Person, who started each series who would maintain like an identity card in the same place. So Monarch was born with clear expectations behind what we could expect from it and all about a newer model to compare against. The latter weighs the most.
Before continuing, please clarify that this text will not be an review; considering that I haven’t advanced it far enough to rate the whole thing. I still have a lot of story to explore and a lot of battles to solve… but I just don’t find it worth continuing, because I guess I understand better when I comment on my impressions with it.
Monark lives in Shin Mikado Academy, which has been sealed off from the outside by a species of caterpillar. In some buildings, students have been trapped in a Niebla that causes them to lose judgment of those who spend too much time inside. This is the case of our protagonist, who wakes up with no memories after a while in this substance. It’s easy to find out that this cloud turns to the Pactbearers, people with big egos associated with one of the capital criminals. After signing our own pact, we can be transferred to the afterlife where we will break their beliefs to eliminate the Niebla and save the rest of the students.
Just like in SMT IF… the iconography of the Seven Sins of Capital spans the entire game. In the original, each of the mazmorras was dedicated to a sin and introduced again and again when a curious technique; in the mazmorra of Avaricia there were a number of treasures, but the statistics of the final leader increased with each box opened. In the case of Monarch there are two appearances and they are less interesting: on the one hand they are their own Pactbearers and on the other hand a kind of personality tests which give us different categories, although in a way quite unpredictable and sometimes with a little touching at the edges of situations.
Like other titles in an institute environment, during the game quite tough subjects such as school shootings, depression or suicide are explained, but the scenario does not struggle with much delicacy. This may be some kind of English translation, but it seems to me that Monark, in addition to having nothing interesting to bring to the conversation, in many cases ends up trivializing the situations described in in a way that made me very inopportune. My experience with the story of the early chapters was pretty negative, and it doesn’t help that the characters abbreviate the cliché to the cartoon. None of them would come out of known recordings but it seems to me that none of the characters are important to me at least. I can see situations that tested their respective beliefs, but somehow none of the subtractions left me with little interest.
My own characters allow me to talk about an aspect that I try to remove from review: the graph. I’ll go over some of the more obvious technical limitations of the game, such as small instance sizes or the inability to move the camera to external offices, which speaks for development on a tight budget. The little mimicry in the main characters seems more noticeable to me, especially serious when comparing the 2D designs (the only charismatic of their characters) with the poor 3D models. In some cases, it is inconceivable to show people completely different from those who are supposed to represent.
The technical aspect is not the only one in which Monark is exhausted and is already gone. Here, I could introduce many aspects: the repetitive character loop Judable, the endless empty corridors that we repeat once and for all, the slow animations of the scenes… But I think where it stands out the most is in the way of giving us a break and filling our hours . Long story short: Monark is a grindeo festival. The fighters who offer us flaws (about 3 per episode) are too insufficient to reach the level that the story requires to advance. After a very simple start, you can now regularly face the same rivals five or ten times to gain the experience necessary to overcome a unique historic encounter.
The progression system works like this: at the end of a successful battle you gain Spirit, multiplied by this measure and you have a good fight. This currency is used to buy objects or raise the level of our characters, having to share them between our protagonist, his current companion and things that we can customize a little more. The money we give is scarce and does not come to keep the whole team at a decent level. In addition, the jumps are brutal, going up to five combat levels to the next, and each time a character in the team starts at level 1. The possibility of playing better is impossible, because we are not never offers enough tools to offset a level with skill. The only solution is, like in multi-decadent RPGs, to grind senselessly.
It bothers me mostly because some good ideas go into its turn-based tactical RPG system (even free movement instead of casillas, something I’ve never been sold on). For example, one can “enter into resonance” with friends or enemies to share theirs bitten but also his debuffs or modified states, thus enjoying the benefits that subscribers granted to an end boss. These ideas are left untouched by the supremacy of pure stats and the need to level up so as not to instill the protagonist in the first round of combat. For several hours I decided to spend that time grinding to see how their systems were deployed, but I didn’t reach a point in the sixties where I was winning battles by my strategy instead of sheer brute force . This practice may have made sense in the 1994 SMT IF…but I expect something more from a 2022 game.
As I said at the beginning, I don’t see myself in the situation to analyze Monarch, but I can’t finish it. It’s a very old-fashioned RPG, which seems to have clearly seen what happened in the last years of the genre. Had I been addicted to the story, the characters or the combat system could have forgiven me that I would have been on their way, but after two decades, I haven’t seen anything that would stop me from continuing. It may not be the experience of the whole world and I may be missing a big argumentative turn or a new technique that has new meaning to what I’ve played so far, but at this point , I do not find the motivation to continue.