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Monster Racing League – Review (Early Access)

As games try to be more accessible to a wider, non gaming audience, sometimes they decide to be very simplistic. That can mean a reduced control scheme, a lower difficulty, a skip option or as is the case in Monster Racing League, a complete removal of skill. You see, with Monster Racing League we get to answer the question originally posed by Onrush years ago. What happens when you remove all the driving from a racing game? You are left with the powerups.

All too often, matches can just feel unbalanced to either boredom or spamming.

The premise of Monster Racing League is that all the cars drive themselves. You do have the option to choose from multiple routes on tracks but there is rarely any trade off from one route of the other. You don’t need to accelerate, turn or brake – all staples of a racing game. Instead, you load up your monster with up to three weapons or defence moves and the entire game hinges on being able to attack or defend your way to victory. The powerups are all standard fare such as missiles, pulses, shoves and mines and you can have a shield too at the expense of one of the weapon slots. You can also customise your vehicles top speed, cornering, acceleration and brake power with three other power up slots too. This could make for a tactical edge until you realise top speed and cornering boosts are so powerful you choose them every time.

Moment to moment gameplay involves choosing when to attack and dodge. You can choose to spend some of your powerup slots to improve a specific weapon to recharge faster, or your shield to last longer. This is key because all the moves are so easily telegraphed that you need to find something to differentiate yourself from the other 9 cars in the race. Some races are just mindless button spamming, others are boring if you manage to escape the opening barrage of attacks with a well timed shield. There’s nothing in between though and with only 5 tracks (apparently 6 launch with early access today but I could only access 5) and races over in around a minute, you quickly realise that removing all the driving aspects of a racing game may not have been quite the selling point the game tries to make it. The longer you play, the more empty and vast the void it leaves.

I do like Monster Racing League’s style – it just plays itself and that’s its biggest problem.

Worth praising are the graphical stylings of the game and monsters themselves. You gain XP from racing that you can unlock new monsters with randomly assigned weapon loadouts so it will take a few hours to have a couple of different, well balanced monsters to take online. Whilst I didn’t play with anyone online, the server races will with bots quickly and I ran into no issues auto driving online on my own. There is also no local multiplayer mode, with the focus being racing online. It’s not engaging enough to sustain an online community in my opinion and so the lack of local battles will seal the games fate.

I feel like if Monster Racing League had some kind of one button acceleration control scheme, it’d feel a lot less empty to play. Whilst I applaud games trying new ideas, this feels like some early playtesting would have noted that the core gameplay mechanic isn’t deep or strategic enough to encourage replayability. A curious entry into the racing game genre.

A review copy of the game was provided by the developer. Out now on Steam.

Monster Racing League
Final Thoughts
When a racing game plays itself and offers little reward for trying to engage with it, something has gone wrong somewhere. Nice idea, but too hands off for me.
Cohesive graphical design works nicely.
Some very basic strategy involved to set up your weapon and defence load outs.
Plays itself to the point where you can actually not touch anything and maybe still get on the podium.
Races are either a total weapon spamfest or utterly dry - there is no inbetween.
No local multiplayer feels like a poor design choice.
You can see everything in 10 minutes and no amount of DLC tracks will stop the very light gameplay from feeling very old, very quickly.

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