Monster Sanctuary is basically a metroidvania Pokemon game. I know that sounds like a strange combination but Monster Sanctuary makes it work really well. You are a young monster keeper on their way to becoming the very best, the best there ever was.
The game has two main phases, exploration and combat. The exploration phase plays out like a metroidvania game. You explore a 2D world with branching pathways. Some pathways require a certain ability to pass through. For example, some pathways may be blocked by vines. You will need a monster that has an ability to cut down vines to proceed. You unlock new abilities by capturing new monster eggs, usually by defeating them.
The combat phase is where the game feels like a Pokemon game. You activate combat phase whenever you physically run into a visible monster. This is a nice touch as you have the option to skip combat encounters by simply jumping over the monsters. You can pick up to three monsters from your active roster to participate in battles. Each monster takes a turn attacking and most attacks will use mana which regenerates by a certain number every turn.
The combat is pretty unique and differs quite a bit from other monster taming games. The game features a combo system where every hit adds to the combo meter. The higher the number, the more damage you deal. This creates an approach to battle where the goal of the first two monsters on your roster are to raise the combo meter as high as possible so the third monster can deal massive damage on its turn. Elemental weaknesses and status effects are a thing as well so you can plan accordingly. Thankfully Monster Sanctuary displays all necessary and relevant information on screen so you don’t have to memorize anything.
In addition to the unique combat system, the game has additional depth that separates it further from other games in the genre. The monsters have a surprising degree of customization. Each monster has a pretty deep skill tree. Each ability can be modified to suit your playstyle. For example, you can modify the heal ability on certain monsters so that it will also heal the weakest monster on your squad. Each monster can also equip one weapon and three accessories. These can boost or lower their attack, magic attack, defense, health, crit chance, crit damage, mana pool, and mana regen. You can also upgrade the monster equipment with crafting materials found in the world or purchased from vendors.
Overall, Monster Sanctuary is surprisingly deep metroidvania game with monster taming mechanics. It streamlines a lot of things that are tedious in other games of the same genre and creates a fun and quick paced experience while retaining a lot of mechanical depth and nuance.