GAME REVIEW: Race Through Rings of Hell in Monster Train

Title: Monster Train
Developer: Shiny Shoe
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Release Date: May 21, 2020 
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Steam
Price: Nintendo Switch: $29.99 (USD) Other Platforms: $24.99 (USD)


I got this game thanks to Humble Bundle about four months ago. Before that, one of my best friends had been playing it and offered to teach me how to play a deck builder. 

Since then, I’ve played over 30 hours in this game. Along the way, I’ve unlocked 25/53 achievements on Steam. 

This was my first deck builder, and getting used to the mechanics has been an adventure. When I started playing, my friend was over my shoulder offering advice. Now, I play solo. 

One thing to get out of the way right now is that you will lose. 

A lot. 

But along the way, you use that experience to unlock more and more of the game. For me, that’s half the fun. You learn so much, especially as this was my first deck builder game—it’s helped me grow as a player and better understand the mechanics. 

Plot Synopsis: 

Image: Shiny Shoe

Hell has frozen over. You are tasked with taking the last Pyre to the center of Hell. Along the way, you’ll travel through the nine rings of Hell while facing the forces of Heaven. 

When you play, you are aboard a train transporting the last Pyre through the rings of Hell. The train has three levels. As you cross the rings, you must face a series of adversaries. 

Story Mechanics

When I started to play my first deck builder, I didn’t expect a rich world and story. Each ring of Hell has an explanation for what it is, and each Clan has its own story. Special Events can lead you to meet more of the citizens of Hell. 

This doesn’t bog down gameplay. Instead, it enhances it. 


Image: Shiny Shoe

You can work with six Clans as you make your way to the center of Hell. They are Hellhorned, Stygian Guard, Awoken, Umbra, Melting Remnant, and Wurmkin. Initially, you have access to Hellhorned and Awoken. 

As you play, you unlock more and more of the Clans. Each one has its own requirements to unlock. 

Once you’ve selected your primary and backup clans at the start of a run, you board the train to restore Hell to its former glory. You’ll be given a few cards to start your deck. Unfortunately, these are random, depending on what you’ve unlocked of the Clan. So the more you unlock, the lower the odds of getting something you want.


Image: Shiny Shoe

The first stop is Limbo. Here you get the chance to start building your deck in earnest. Each Clan has two Champions. As you level up any given Clan, you unlock the second. Every Champion has different builds, so you can experiment from run to run. 

You may also get to pick up your first artifact and some additional coins. 

Then you face your first opponent. 

Image: Shiny Shoe

Let’s talk about the train setup. 

There are three levels, and then the pyre level is on top. For the most part, all enemies will enter on the bottom floor of the train and, turn by turn, work their way to the Pyre. 

Your goal is to use a mix of Units and Spell Cards to deplete their health and stop them from getting through all three train levels. 

If they get to the Pyre, they can cause it to take damage. Should your Pyre get to 0 HP, your run is over. 

Throughout every ring of Hell, you go in a similar fashion. You can discard or duplicate cards, upgrade your spells, upgrade your units, get an artifact, or participate in special events. 

Additionally, there are occasionally options to get more coins or to gain some of your Pyre’s health back.  

Image: Shiny Shoe

Each level splits into two tracks, and you can only take one. Luckily, you have a map, so you know what’s ahead from level to level. Say you skip being able to upgrade your spells in ring three; you can check the map and see when you’ll have the next chance. 

Every three levels, you’ll face a Boss. In addition to spawning units that enter your train, these Bosses have extra abilities that can mess with your strategy. And then, after you’ve defeated their welcoming party, you have to defeat them. 

You win the run if you beat all nine rings and the three bosses accompanying them with health still in your Pyre. 

But, if you’re Covenant 2 or higher, you can pick up Marks. You face a fourth if you have over 100 when you beat the third boss. To be honest, I’ve yet to beat him. 

There are twenty Covenant Levels in all. Each one comes with more challenging units, more demanding bosses, and different handicaps to your deck. 

Graphics and Performance

Image: Shiny Shoe

I love all the time that was put into Monster Train‘s art. Each Clan has its own deck, and each card is a unique design. Each unit is exceptional, and the map has fun and fascinating details. 

They could have gone quickly, but they took their time, which paid off. 

I could have a better PC to game on. But even for my PC and its limitations, this game runs smoothly. There was no lag and hardly any loading time. 

Final Score: 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I greatly enjoy this game. The main reason it loses a point is that there’s too much relying on luck for me. Luck that you get the right card, luck that you have a low enough amount of marks, luck that you get the right build for your Champion (I’ve had that bite me a few times). 

Even after thirty hours of playing, I’m only to Covenant Level 2. And I’ve heard that it becomes more slog than fun at a certain point. 

For now, I’m enjoying it, though. And I do recommend it. From experienced deck builders to those like me who are new to the genre, there’s much fun to have here.

Featured Image: Shiny Shoe

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