|October 17th, 2019
Disc Creatures is an interesting amalgamation and love letter to various classic monster collecting games. Whether you were into Pokémon, Digimon, Dragon Quest Monsters, or even SMT, you’ll find a lot here that feels familiar. The unique twist here is that creatures are kept on discs, and people that use the creatures are called DiskRs.
It starts out feeling very similar to Pokémon. You wake up in your house, with this being the day you finally get your Disk Kid, an essential tool of the DiskRs that allows them to control and manage their various disk creatures. After getting it and choosing a set of three creatures to use, you immediately begin helping out your local town. The game is split into chapters, with each chapter starting with checking out a billboard to see where your DiskR talents are needed. These quests sound simple, but involve exploring some new area, tangling with a boss or two, and then heading back home to repeat the process.
There really isn’t a big overarching narrative, each chapter is fairly self-contained. The first one is about checking out some abandoned house, the second was about a haunted forest. The third is when they started getting more involved with people poaching and killing creatures for profit. Disc Creatures tends to follow a minimalistic approach, where you get just enough story to know what you’re doing, but cutscenes are rarely ever more than 30 seconds or so.
An interesting thing about the setting is that the creatures that populate it seem to be sentient. Or some of them are at least. They can own houses and such. Some are content to just live in the wild and attack people though. The way you catch creatures is by burning their data to a disc. The questionable part about this is that creatures you’ve burned to a disc can’t talk, and are effectively your servants. Do they have a will of their own? Are they just copies? Perhaps its best not to think about it.
The gameplay is fairly similar to Dragon Quest Monsters, while have the type advantage system of Pokémon. You have a party of three creatures, but can’t carry any additional creatures with you. You fight 1-3 other creatures at a time. Battles start by queuing up your attacks, and then they all play out. The fastest creatures attack first, of course. The Pokémon-esque type system comes into play and works basically the same there. Each creatures has a certain type, and types are weak against moves of certain other types. For example, fire type attacks do extra damage against grass type creatures. This game has some unique types like magic and spirit to give it its own flavor.
Much like any other of these games, as your creatures level up, they learn new moves. They can only go into battle with four of them, however you can freely select what moves they have from their whole move pool when not in battle. This gives you a good deal of freedom in choosing your moves, but also necessitates some strategy. You need a good balance of offensive and defensive abilities.
The presentation is very bare bones, probably even more so than Pokémon Red and Blue. So much so that it can often impair you in battles. Some enemy attacks have effects that aren’t immediately intuitive. Also text prompts that pop up detailing each attack scroll by extremely quickly, with no way of altering their speed. It does mean that battles go by quickly, but if you’re not paying very close attention, sometimes things can happen and you don’t really understand why. The game would show what types enemies are at the start of a battle, which is handy, but if they became inflicted with a status ailment, it would no longer display this. It wasn’t a very big deal, but when you really wanna know what moves to use, it can be disruptive.
Battles are fun and engaging though, particularly boss fights can be surprisingly tough and involved. Bosses tend to attack in rigid patterns, so their power is offset by their predictability. You need to be able to deal with lots of strong attacks and status effects, so getting a good team together with good movesets is key. There are healing items to keep your creatures in top form, but they cost money and money is extremely sparse. You really want your creatures to be able to be self-sufficient in most ways. Items should be mainly a backup.
There is however one major hiccup to this, and it unfortunately soured much of my experience. When you get a new creature to use, that creature starts at level 1. This alone sounds like it’d make most of the game extremely frustrating, but there is one saving grace. There’s a restaurant near the starting town where you can eat meals that increase a monsters level to a fixed number. What level you can get them to depends on your story progress.
This sounds all well and good, but its very limiting. The most obvious thing is just that if you’re not near the restaurant, any new creatures you get are just gonna sit on the bench. Though more important, it feels like a solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist. Why not just make it so creatures are at the same level you got them? The restaurant could still be really useful for getting underleveled creatures up to snuff. This just results in situations where you’re really far away from that restaurant, and you basically just have to try to chug along with what you have, unless you want to take the long trek there, and then trek back to where you were. It’s an inelegant solution to a problem of its own invention.
Disc Creatures is still a perfectly playable and generally fun homage to monster collecting games. This problem is like a constant weight around its neck though. To compound things further, you can only ever have a team of three creatures with you. If you could have extra creatures with you that didn’t fight but still gained experience, it’d be fine. However when any creature you have with you has to fight, it just means, at best, you’ll be handicapped when using lower level creatures. At worst, they’re just gonna immediately die to whatever you’re fighting and not be able to gain any experience anyways.
For a game that otherwise feels very modern and well thought out, this sort of shortcoming stands out as odd. In some places, it kinda got to the point where my team wasn’t built around any sort of type advantages, but which could survive and do respectable damage.
Visually the game definitely invokes old Game Boy games, though with a resolution that’s much higher than those games had to work with. The music also captures the feeling those old games had as well. Creature designs are pretty cute, though some have a very bootleg Pokémon feel to them, and some others just aren’t particularly memorable designs. Interestingly enough, there’s no evolution mechanic here. The creatures stay the same, with the only exception being that you can fuse two monsters together to create a new one. You need to have the recipe though, and you can’t just mash anything together, so its a bit limited.
I can certainly still recommend the game, but mainly only for those with nostalgia for those old monster collecting games. If you don’t like them, this won’t change your mind. If you do, it might be worth checking out, if you feel like you can get past the weird leveling quirk. It might not blow you away, and it might make you just want to play those old games instead, but its got its own twists that you might end up really liking it. It’s $15 on Steam, and should take at least 20 hours to play through it, and I’d say its worth it.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.