Overview – developed by 13AM Games and published by WayForward, Dawn of the Monsters is a co-op action beat ‘em up inspired by the classic Kaiju characters like Godzilla and Ultraman. Take on hordes of monsters called Nephilim as one (or two) of 4 giant combatants to save the world. This title is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox family of systems, PlayStation 4/5 and the Steam service. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to each version will be available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank WayForward for providing the copy of Dawn of the Monsters that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story for Dawn of the Monsters.
Story – the year is 2065 CE, after a Climate Catastrophe three decades ago, monsters called Nephilim invaded the earth destroying everything in their path. In the face of the calamities that face the earth and its people, the Defence Alliance Worldwide Network (D.A.W.N.) was established to protect humanity. DAWN operates from the Sunrise, an orbital station where they can deploy their team of four heroes to battle the threat of the Nephilim before all is lost.
Gameplay – Dawn of the Monsters is a side scrolling beat ‘em up, with the player battling hordes of Nephilim to clear each mission as one (or two in co-op) of four giant combatants. Taking place across several different regions based on real world locations, with each one split into several stages with challenge battles against different enemies and bosses.
The players have a simple move-set at the start that evolves over time, starting with a light and heavy attack, dash attack, guard and dodge. Alongside the basic moves are executions that heal damage, fury attacks which use a special meter and a cataclysm attack which is an all-powerful move unique to each character. These are just a few skills that can be used, with additional moves that will be unlocked during the course of the game.
The enemies will also evolve as the game continues, with stronger monsters and more complex patterns appearing. New Nephilim types will also show up tied to specific places, keeping the action fresh and exciting as the game continues. The stages have fully destructible zones, with buildings that can be picked up and thrown, skyscrapers that can be demolished and power-ups that can be picked up. There are also environmental hazards that can occur, which will kill the player if they are not careful.
When an area is cleared, the player will receive a ranking depending on their performance from F to S, with the total rankings being added together at the end of a stage. At the end of a stage a final ranking is given, providing rewards for the player including money that can be used to purchase upgrades. Missions can be replayed freely when cleared to improve scores, letting players try to improve ranking as they get stronger, adding more replay value to the experience.
There is an augment system that can be accessed from the main menu, giving each character up to three bonus abilities that enhance different stats, adding an RPG-lite mechanic to the game. Augments are separated into three slots, with different types of skill only available for that slot and a total of 100 that can be held in each. To make space for new abilities, weaker skills can be sold which can be used for purchases and to re-roll augments, altering the stats for that item.
New augments can be unlocked based on the ranking earned at the end of a mission, with the higher the rank, the better the selectable rewards at the end. The player can pick up to two of four rewards, with the option to trade one or both selections for money instead. As well as the augments, new permanent upgrades and cosmetics can be obtained from an area called the workshop, using the money earned from missions or selling augments.
Between missions, there are story segments that will push the narrative along, as well as a chat system that fills in background details for the characters while also providing side story content. There is also an archive that provides lore and information about the Nephilim, members of DAWN and the world itself, filling in plot points for those who want to learn all about the story.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control system for this game works well, with the character movement tied to the left stick and D-pad. All other functions are attached to the face buttons and shoulder/trigger buttons, which feel comfortable and reactive during combat. When playing the game some inputs may feel a little slow, but this isn’t a lag issue as each character has their own strengths and weaknesses so don’t be put off when first playing the game.
Difficulty – there are no difficulty settings for this title, but there is a gradual difficulty curve that introduces stronger threats as the game progresses. As an example, the first boss battle can be tough, but with the augments and upgrades that can be unlocked the challenge gets easier. This is a good way for the difficulty to escalate as it doesn’t punish the player too hard for failure, since there is also a checkpoint system that returns the player to the start of the area they are currently in.
Presentation – the visual style for this title has a dynamic look to it, with a cell-shaded look to the 2.5D graphical style used in the stages and a comic/manga style used for the cutscenes. The animations are smooth and work well with the art style, the character designs all stand out from each other and work very well in and out of combat. There is no issue with the frame rate or resolution, with crisp and vibrant models that have their own unique charm to them.
The sound design is excellent for this title, with a soundtrack that adds atmosphere to the stages that the action takes place, while adding a sense of grandeur and suspense to the story scenes/menus. There are also fully voiced dialogue scenes for the story, menus and side story segments in the chat section. The voice cast for this title features names from the anime and gaming industry, including Patrick Seitz (BlazBlue), Christina Valenzuela (Madoka Magica) and Rebeka Thomas (The Promised Neverland).
Final Thoughts – when this title was announced, there was a lot of excitement to get my hands on it, which I can happily say was not misplaced. The characters each have their own unique look and style based upon the inspiration behind them, with combat styles that fit well and make the action flow smoothly. This is an excellent side scrolling brawler, with a lot of depth to it when it comes to the Augment and upgrade system, which gives additional flexibility to the player.
I have no issue recommending this title to everyone and anyone, as there is a lot of fun to be had even if it may feel a little challenging. There is very little to complain about with this release. However, I did have a slight issue with the way that some foreground elements block the screen, which is a minor frustration at times but isn’t a deal breaker. This title is a love letter to classic beat ‘em ups and Kaiju media in general, which can be seen throughout, be it the characters themselves or the references hidden in plain sight.
In the end, I give Dawn of the Monsters a final score of 4.5/5. This is an excellent side scrolling brawler and a love letter to Kaiju media, with characters that reference classic heroes and monsters, action that feels right out of the 90’s and an excellent voice cast that ties the whole experience together. if you want to check this game out for yourself, links to each version of the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)
Link to Xbox version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)