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June 2024

Dawn Of The Monsters

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: WayForward Technologies
Developer: 13AM Games
Release Date: March 15, 2022


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PS5 Review - 'Dawn of the Monsters'

by Cody Medellin on April 19, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Dawn Of The Monsters is a co-op beat-'em-up featuring an original cast of giant monsters (AKA kaiju).

There are plenty of characters you end up playing as in a beat-'em-up: cops, gangsters, knights, anthropomorphic ninjas, punks, witches, etc. If there's one type of character that's rarely been touched upon, it's the kaiju. Most titles that let you play as kaiju are fighting games. Dawn of the Monsters changes that, and the result is exactly what's expected.

After the big climate change event of 2036, monsters known as Nephilim have emerged from the Earth's core and begun to rampage cities all over the world. It has gotten bad enough that entire cities have been abandoned, and the remaining cities or newly built cities have erected walls to prevent further destruction. The people of Earth have created a division known as DAWN to help them study the Nephilim and combat the threat. The human Eiji Murasame is someone who was hit with special radiation while on a scientific excursion, and he has the power to transform into the giant hero Aegis Prime. Jamila Senai is a pilot of the mech Tempest Galahad who fights on behalf of her parents who died during a Nephilim attack. Megadon is a giant volcanic lizard, and Ganira is a large sea creature, both Nephilim who were re-programmed to fight alongside the humans.

The characters give you a good idea of how invested the team is with anything related to kaiju, whether it's classics like their homages to Ultraman, Godzilla, and Gamera to the newer stuff, like Pacific Rim. That isn't the only thing needed to propel a good narrative, and the team is lucky to have a strong cast driving the many cut scenes and in-game dialogue. Everyone from the chairman of the division to the scientists researching upgrades to the Nephilim historian all come across as multidimensional people with interesting backstories, so you won't skip cut scenes but actively seek out optional chats.

For a beat-'em-up, Dawn of the Monsters gets the basics down and adds more mechanical depth than expected. There are light and heavy attacks, and a dash attack can be performed with one button. You can also pick up buildings to bludgeon others or use as projectiles, and the same goes for some of the enemies' energy bombs; it's a nice touch that you wish other beat-'em-ups would also incorporate. You can perform a defensive dash and a block and parry, provided you can master the timing. Build up a rage meter, and you can deliver one of three different types of super attacks: rocket fists, spitting a stream of fire, or summoning a minion to fight alongside you. Stronger super attacks act as screen-clearing moves, like creating a massive explosion from your body. Everyone fights differently enough that you'll find favorites in no time, but the best move is a finishing move that can only be executed if the enemy's health is low enough but returns health to you in the process; you'll appreciate this due to the scarcity of health pick-ups in each stage. More importantly, the moves look cool, whether it's a multi-hit combo, a wide laser blast to the face, a brief darkening of the screen to deliver a killer slash, or ripping off limbs to use them as weapons. It's amazing that they got away with that move on a T-rated game, but no matter how many times you do that or the killer slash, the moves never get old.

Beyond that, a few features go beyond what you'd normally see in the genre. Completing any level gives you a letter grade that translates to four different cards you can select from. The cards give you stat augments and extra abilities as well such as a stronger attack if you connect and complete a light attack combo or the ability to stun all enemies for a short while after executing a finisher. You can store up to 100 of these cards in your inventory, and each hero can have up to three equipped at a time. The best part of the card system is that no one is locked out of a card just because someone else is using it, so you can have one copy of one card, and all four heroes can claim it for themselves all at the same time. Any cards you sell off turn into cash, which you also earn for completing a level. While that initially goes toward the purchase of a new color variant for your hero, it can also unlock health and rage meter upgrades.

The combination of all of the above makes for a beat-'em-up that feels good to play. There's certainly stuff here for the button-mashers to enjoy, while also providing a heap of fun for those who love to dial in to the unique timing needed to unleash some great attack combos. The card system and its flexibility make for some immediately noticeable differences in each hero, without you needing to agonize over who gets the best builds. The campaign lasts a good while, but the stages feel bite-sized enough that you're compelled to keep trying one more level time and time again. Combined with the monster variety that keeps you on your toes in combat, and Dawn of the Monsters becomes a game where you won't mind doing some grinding in older levels to get upgrades because the monster fighting never feels tired.

Despite the inherent fun in the premise and mechanics, there are a few flaws. The training room is great for testing and practicing various attacks but utterly useless if you want to perfect defenses, since there isn't an option to have your training dummy attack. While the locales are nice since they're based on places that rarely get any attention in games, you often feel like you're spending too much time in one environment before finally moving on to something new. Finally, with four monsters on the team, it is a shame that the local co-op maxes out at two players and without an online co-op option.

Graphically, the game looks solid. The cut scenes go for a comic book style with lots of black ink, similar to indie books in the early 2000s. That also gets used in gameplay and translates well as far as providing plenty of detail while also giving everything a memorable look. This is especially true in some of the finishing moves, like the laser blasts from Tempest Galahad and limb-ripping from Megadon. The animations are smooth when needed, and the game doesn't buckle when things get busy, like having lightning rain down while six other Nephilim are on-screen with two heroes.

Sound-wise, the game also delivers. The music evokes the more serious tone of modern kaiju films, but it still works perfectly in getting you in the mood to fight. The sound effects deliver the type of hard hits you'd expect from your actions, but the roars from some of the monsters sound like they were toned down in volume. The voice acting is rather good, and it doesn't falter performance-wise; that's good, since the game is loaded with voice clips.

Dawn of the Monsters is a very good beat-'em-up made just a bit better because you finally get to be a towering creature that dishes out pain. The combat system is flashy yet deep, and the card upgrade system keeps things fresh as you try to find the perfect build for all four heroes. The campaign runs at a good length, with some reason to keep coming back for higher rankings. The game is fun even if you're going solo instead of co-op. Minor gripes with the game aside, beat-'em-up fans are going to enjoy having this title in their libraries.

Score: 8.5/10

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