Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Super Monkey Knight Comrade - Super Monday Night Combat Review

   Super Monday Night Combat (SMNC) is both a third-person shooter and real-time strategy game created by Uber Entertainment (often shortened to Uberent), available through Steam. You take control of one of an assortment of "Pros" to participate in the famous bloodsport of the future, which airs every Monday Night, hence the title. As there is only one gameplay mode at present (Crossfire), the object of the game is to blow through the enemy's Pros, bots, and other hazards, to take down their "Money Ball" and win the match. This game is actually quite a treat to play, and one of few games where I get the feeling the developers had fun creating it. Of course, I must say why this game is so cool, so let's get into what this game does right and wrong...

   Atmosphere: Like a Boss
   This game has an amazing atmosphere, and does a great job of getting you immersed in the game's world. The art style of the game is bright and colorful, looking similar to Team Fortress 2, and the environments are well fleshed-out. There is a large amount of buildings, mountains and other scenery sitting right outside the battle arena which you can look up at any time. You will never be able to traverse these places, but they are nice to look at.
You know we wouldn't have noticed if you just put a wallpaper as the background...
   Announcers: Awesome
   This fits into atmosphere, but I felt this needed it's own section. The announcers on SMNC are far and beyond the best announcers in any competitive game ever made. The announcers do more than just announce things like killing sprees. They are made to sound similar to television sports announcers, if they were a bit crazier. Meaning they talk very often, and announce almost every single thing that happens, all the way down to you respawning. To some, this may be a drawback. To me, this may be the main reason I still play the game. These announcers are both awesome and hilarious, but don't worry. You can turn them off in the options if they somehow manage to annoy you. Note: This game makes quite a few mature jokes, so be wary if you're offended by that sort of thing.

   Tutorials: Informative
   There is a Training Camp you can enter at any time that lets you get a better feel for the game. In it you can learn the names of all the bots, see what all the consoles do, hear how to kill "Chicky Cantor", find out who and what can be grappled, etc. The Training Camp literally tells you absolutely everything you need to know about the game. Everything. In a calm, open arena with nodes you push to learn the facts, meaning you also learn at your own pace. The only way they could have done the tutorial better is if you could also use any Pro in the game to test there. Alas.

   Pay to Win Status: Negative
   Not much to say on this. You can buy the Pros with real money, along with cosmetic suits and hats, but everything else must be bought using the in-game currency (Credits).

   Strategy: Partially Required
   But not obvious. As the game is a third-person shooter, it's easy to get lost in just shooting robots and enemies mindlessly, but... well, actually, doing this without dying would put you ahead of a lot of players.
And here we have Leonardo da Vinci aiming at a gorilla robot in front of a neon disco ball. THIS IS OUR FUTURE.
   However, having a good grasp of the game mechanics along with knowing how to fight will let you win much easier, because this game goes through great lengths specifically so you can't just mindlessly shoot at things and win. Robots from each team travel along one of two lanes and meet in the middle. The bots must touch important structures (team turrets and the Money Ball) before a player can do any damage to them. Besides player skill, the object on the field that can tip the scale the most is the "Annihilator", which destroys absolutely all enemy bots on the field, effectively clearing the arena, and doing a large amount of damage to enemy Pros. In most cases, controlling the Annihilator means winning the game. But this also crosses into one of the game's problems.

   Strategy (Continued): Comebacks...
   ...almost never happen. The Annihilator resides directly in the middle of the field, and whichever team activates it first gets it. The problem is that whichever team was already winning (since they were controlling the middle of the arena already), is the team that's also activating the annihilator, effectively kicking the losing team when they're already down. I hesitate to mention this, since I don't really see a way it could be resolved, but it's something to think about. Aside from Annihilator strikes, as soon as your Money Ball's shield goes down, the game auto-spawns Jackbots (the strongest robot in the game) for the team that brought it down. Which makes bouncing back extremely difficult.

   Frustration: High
   Another reason I appreciate the humor the announcers bring to the game is that the game can become very frustrating very often. Particularly, when it comes to falling off of the map. Falling off of the map is instant death, and a legitimate part of the game. Some hazards, such as the "Ejector", serve knocking players off the map as their main purpose. At no point will falling off of the map for any reason make you a happy person. Another big source of frustration is the amount of people that leave games mid-way through. Remember the first screenshot above? This is what happened about two seconds later:
   The game has no surrender system, and if someone leaves, then you're outnumbered for the entire match (they never come back).  Which means you will lose. This wouldn't be too bad, except that the ratio of players leaving matches is extremely high. Out of about 20 matches fought, I encountered at least one deserter in 16 of them. This ratio went down as I leveled up, but it's too much to begin with.

   Economy: Horrible
   You gain credits in this game crazily slow, to the point where getting anything requires playing the game for a very long amount of time. Pros you can buy with cash, though the prices are a bit strange. I went the free route, though, and chose to just earn my Pro. I went for a cheap one and it still took me about 17 hours to raise the 4500 credits it costs to unlock them. But let's also check out the math on this: Assuming you won every match and did well, you'll earn 100 credits every 20 minutes. That's 300 credits for every hour of actual gameplay. You'll notice that's 15 hours for 4500 credits, if you never lose. For the more expensive Pros, which cost 9000, that'll be a minimum 30 hours of gameplay.
   But let's say you just spend the cash and buy the Pros. Well, now you can afford to look at "Products" and "Endorsements". These are extra items you bring with you when you start a game. Products give three extra passive abilities which activate when certain conditions are met, and Endorsements directly buff your character. These can't be bought with cash, and the prices are just as high as with buying Pros.
I love bacon as much as the next guy but I can't afford to keep spending my life's savings...
   The only thing that lessens the load are end-game prizes, where you are randomly awarded a random item at the end of any random match (happens about every third match). Getting the specific products and endorsements you want can require playing the game for hundreds of hours. You can buy Credit boosters from the shop with cash, though with how bad normal Credit rates are, it almost seems like they're begging for money.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

   I probably would've given this game a 4.5 if I could afford to mess with all the enhancements without spending my whole life playing. Some of us have lives.

Edit: It's also worth mentioning that SMNC updates very often, at once every week. Just one week after I submitted this review, they added a new game mode. Similar to Wrath of Heroes, the game is going to grow very fast!

EditMore: Well, it would have grown fast, but it's dead now. It is still available for download, but it is no longer updated.


  1. Did you mention that there are always FREE Pros to play - Five free ones each week? You never have to purchase Pros even with in-game currency if you don't want to for some reason, or can't play often enough to earn one (maybe 3 days at most).

    1. Yet another detail I seem to have left out. x_x
      I took it for granted since MOBAs always have a certain amount of heroes set aside for free each week. If they didn't, there would be no way of playing in the first place without buying someone. By my own standards, though, I should've mentioned it regardless.