When people think of Square Enix and online games, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV -- and perhaps the upcoming Dragon Quest X -- are probably the games that come to mind. But late last year, Square Enix tried its hand at a free-to-play browser game by the name of MONSTERxDRAGON.
MONSTERxDRAGON is a strategy RPG/card game hybrid where players move around a grid map and attack other players by summoning monsters via cards. Unlike most card games -- and SRPGs for that matter -- MONSTERxDRAGON is not turn-based. Rather, actions and summoning monsters requires AP which fills up over time. But if you have enough AP, you can attack almost constantly.
When a round begins, you and your opponent are far apart. At this time, you can choose some of your monsters from your hand to act as defence for your life-points (which they will continue to do until destroyed). Before attacking, you must move into range of your enemy, but this is where the strategy element of the game comes into play. Each square on the map has a set of elemental properties. These properties will boost certain monsters' stats. Therefore, if you are playing a water deck, you want to stand on a lake so your water monsters will become stronger.
Attacking works like a cross between War and Yu-Gi-Oh! If the card you attack with has a higher attack score than the defence score of the defending monster, the defending monster dies. If not, the attack bounces harmlessly away. Either way the attacking monster is discarded and a new monster is drawn from your deck. To prevent the game from just being about who has the better deck, even the strongest defending card can be destroyed by a critical hit -- which tends to happen at least 25 per cent of the time. If your defending monster is destroyed, you are able to choose another one, but at the same time, the other player will be racing to attack you before you can get your new defence in place.
You are able to play missions against the computer or battle live against real players. The problem with the single player missions is that the computer is faster than any player. So if you destroy its defensive monster, it can choose a new defensive card and attack you with another card before you can even make a single click.
The multiplayer team battles are surprisingly fun however, as they bring team strategy into play. Teams will often pick a time (on the game's countdown timer) and attack a single opponent in a coordinated attack. Of course, at the same time, the other team is planning its own movement, strategy, and time to attack. The winners are not usually the teams with the best cards, but those with the fastest movements and best teamwork.
For winning a match, you receive a small amount of in-game money which can be used to buy new cards in packs or at the auction house. Of course, you can also spend your real world money to buy packs and cards even more quickly.
For a browser game, MONSTERxDRAGON was much deeper than I expected. It's definitely one of those games that's easy to play but hard to master. The missions were somewhat boring but the team vs team battles I tried were a ton of fun. If you have even a beginner's knowledge of Japanese, this game is playable; so feel free to try it yourself -- though you will need to make a free Japanese Yahoo account to do so. If you just want to see the game in action, however, check out the video above.
MONSTERxDRAGON was released on October 13, 2011, for web browsers.