Monolith is a top-down roguelite action-shooter developed and published by Team-D13. Let’s see if this retro-style point-and-shoot is worth players’ $7.99 on Steam.

Accessibility

As someone who spends little to no time in roguelites, Monolith makes itself immediately accessible upon logging into the game. Players will find a short-and-sweet tutorial on movement, combat, power upgrades, and other in-game systems. The developers designed the first steps in Monolith to be easy, tearing down the barrier of difficulty for those new to the genre altogether. Personally, I was up and running through stages and enjoying myself in less than 10 minutes. The game offers complexities in some areas, but the process in which new players download and fight on a space adventure is not one of them. I appreciate that.

This goes without mentioning how easy the developers make the process of resuming progress after death. After getting obliterated by space cannons and sent spiraling into the dark unknown, players can pick up right where they left off to learn from their previous mistakes and advance another day. The same goes for taking breaks from Monolith or tabbing out of the game—there is an option to pause progress for a short time until players are ready to jump back into the action. This adds a casual element into the game, further expanding the genres for those who don’t enjoy sweating as much as others. For the more hardcore crowd, don’t worry, as there’s an option to start a new game at the main menu. At face value, Monolith has all grounds covered, and that’s pretty cool to see.

Story

I wasn’t expecting much in this category as most roguelites are pretty slim on campaign content, and Monolith is no exception to this rule. Players are greeted with a cut-scene that more-or-less explains a general overview of player purpose. As the protagonists, the players venture into an old facility that is rumored to contain ancient technology within. It is a quest of both adventure as well as mystery, as the facility is powered by some “enigmatic source” that must be discovered. Formally called “a well of power eternal,” dungeon diving is the only method of uncovering the facility’s secrets.

Monolith also introduces NPCs to provide some more context and overarching story elements I was surprised to see. After clearing some stages, an enigmatic cat appears as one example and explains the power eternal is long sought after by other adventurers as well, and others have failed trying to unlock its potential. While a short and simple dialogue, this engagement adds another fresh layer to Monolith‘s storytelling. More small cues and hints to a story is always positive, and I’m sure there’s plenty more to unravel as players progress themselves.

Level Design

Stages themselves begin on the smaller side, but as players level up and clear rooms the map expands to reveal more weapons, bosses, and content. The stages themselves include procedurally generated elements, and so rarely during the early game did I find two levels that appeared exactly the same. Levels sport a retro look that any gamer will appreciate, with bright colors and mini-puzzles that will draw player’s attention every single time. Objects can be shot and destroyed, clearing the path for even more exploration and discoveries, and the developers provide an in-game teleportation system for rooms that have already been cleared. Revisiting previous rooms during longer-stage expeditions is as easy as opening the map and porting there. Forget to pick up an upgrade for your ship? Want to ensure all enemies have been wiped out? The teleportation system allows players to backtrack on the fly, allowing more time for adventure and less downtime. Not only that, but it is super easy and will be used many times over.

Gameplay

When players dive into roguelites, it’s all about the gameplay, and Monolith definitely delivers. While the barrier to entry for the title is low, combat is anything but sub-par. Combat is fast, explosive, and downright fun as players have to carefully aim the reticle in the direction of enemy AI that respond to bullet trajectories. Firing weapons is a skill in itself as enemies evade player shots, but that does not compare to the amount of dodging players have to do for themselves. An array of lasers, rockets, and fireballs are thrown your way during each encounter, and sometimes only the smallest area of real estate is provided to evade attacks. Players are kept on their toes as Monolith is not the most difficult, but it is also not a cakewalk through the park.

Boss Encounters

The combat speaks so much volume about the game that the boss encounters themselves deserve a section in this review. Boss variety should be applauded as players face off against cyclops aliens, floating skeletal creatures, and technological monsters. While the art design is simplistic, the stage bosses still look and feel like something out of this world. The boss encounters themselves are my favorite part of Monolith, as there is nothing like weaving to-and-fro dodging space pulses while firing back with rockets that split into smaller rockets on impact. Defeating these enemies feels absolutely impactful as firing weapons actually means something, and players feel accomplished as the stages clear and new sections of the map become available.

Soundtrack

A feature that compliments Monolith‘s combat very well is the soundtrack. Seriously, the audio designers on this title deserve a medal because the tracks are reminiscent of those old-school arcade shooters we all used to play and enjoy. In this case, the music places the player in the driver seat not only when combat begins but also when simply exploring. Subtle tones and sounds present themselves when necessary, and mysterious cues trigger when advancing into new rooms and stages. When in combat, the audio picks up at a faster pace, raising the stakes as a general warning to the player that shit is about to get real. The tracks might be retro in style, but they augment player adrenaline during these action-packed moments so much so that I would not want to listen to anything else. Monolith‘s audio truly adds to the atmosphere and gets the blood moving, and combat would not be the same without it.

Progression

Monolith provides a fair bit of progression into the mix, and an array of upgrades are available as players delve into these dungeons. The less exciting, but still valuable smaller upgrades replenish immediate player values such as health points and ammo capacity. The larger upgrades are definitely more fun, granting players access to a variety of weapons but only arrive after completing stages. At the start, players are given access to a standard firing low-damage machine gun. Don’t let the game fool you, though, as there are many other tools at one’s disposal. Weapon upgrades formally called salvage grant bonuses such as extra health when switching weapons and stack on top of various weapon types. Piercing weapons, for example, have the ability to shred through the first target while weapons with wider spray inflict more damage in a wider cone. In a game where the most prominent feature is shooting things, progression does not disappoint as the weapons available will keep players entertained.

Monolith Review
The Good
  • Impactful Combat
  • Layered Storytelling
  • Immersive Soundtrack
The Bad
  • Linear Story
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
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About The Author

Anthony G
Review/Editorial Writer

From posting videos on YouTube to livestreaming on Twitch, Anthony enjoys immersing himself in all things video games. Starting with a NES, his love for gaming expanded into handhelds and eventually everything first-person shooter. When he's not shooting ALL THE THINGS, you'll find Anthony reporting on popular and upcoming titles.