Coromon feels familiar but there's potential - Preview
Coromon is an upcoming monster-catching RPG set to release on PC and mobile devices early next year. I've played a decent amount of similar games but not one that I would directly compare to Pokemon like this. Luckily this comparison comes out significantly favourably towards Coromon, so long as you don’t mind playing such a similar game.
I had a chance to play a special preview build from publisher Freedom Games, but I spent most of my time with the publicly available demo that takes you from the start of the game to beating your first boss battle. Your character starts their first day on the job as a battle researcher for Lux Solis, but you are scouted near immediately for a special role. As part of the Titan Task Force, you must meet up with all the legendary creatures known as titans to acquire some titan essence for research purposes. Simply put, you find and catch Coromon to add to your team, level them up, evolve them, and battle other researchers to reach the titan. Of course it’s never a straight path — even once you arrive in the town — as you’ll have to find someone lost in a cave and then progress past the detailed security measures to keep the titan safe.
Typical turn based combat is present, including things you might expect like weather effects, held items, and traits. Coromon have different elemental types with varying levels of effectiveness against each other in combat. However there are some types that are only for skills, which really just means you won’t find a poison Coromon, but a Coromon might have a poison attack. Coromon can only equip four moves at a time to use in a fight but will never forget them; you’ll just have to change between them later. Moves require the use of SP, which when depleted can be partially restored by resting in the fight. All this means is that the combat feels familiar, but refreshing, with some quality features that let me focus on the actual game more.
Along with experience points to level up, Coromon will also fill up a meter which lets you assign three points to a stat of your choosing whenever it fills. There is a limit to how often this occurs based on the potential (an individual value) of your Coromon, though you can pay a bit to increase their potential. I got a little overexcited when I caught what I thought was the equivalent of a shiny monster but that it was actually a one in thirty-five chance catch. The potential system gives a visual change of appearance between standard, potent or perfect Coromon. Not only encouraging me to catch more Coromon but also giving the prettier ones a practical purpose.
Getting past obstacles like heavy objects is tied to your gauntlet that will be modded with swappable abilities as you help out other researchers. So I can freely organise my team as I please. Furthermore, as an employee, you will be rewarded in your research by filling up milestones like evolving ten Coromon. Completing enough will net you a neat promotion bonus, encouraging me to do more in the game than the bare minimum.
There are multiple difficulty options including an inbuilt nuzlocke mode. Given that the only way to share exp is with a held item, I didn’t feel a need to increase the difficulty. In both the free demo and preview build, levels were capped at twenty five, though that did feel a bit odd in what was clearly a later section of the game and made most of the fights there quite easy. The boss fights were interesting as I was fighting a tougher singular opponent who could sometimes attack more often than I. As you get further through their health bar, they might shake things up a bit by bringing minions into the fray. Despite getting curb stomped the first attempt with Voltgar, a couple level ups later and knowing who my best fighters for the job were made the battle significantly easier.
Coromon doesn’t shy away from including puzzles whether to gain optional treasures or to progress at all. These range from classic sliding floors to a game of mastermind. I found the ones in the public demo to be manageable, but I was a bit more challenged by some in the other build.
The insider preview build took me to a cut up part later in the game with a different team, so I got to try out some different Coromon with Squidma (evolving into Magmilus) being my new favourite. Despite taking place later in the game, the Coromon you fight are leveled in the lower twenties with the same level cap as the public demo. This part felt largely easier, especially the titan fight, perhaps because of this. Strangely in this area I was restricted from catching a potent Coromon but this experience did seem a bit more tailored. It also contained quite a few action sections, like a stealth part or having to time your run to avoid getting hit by arrows. Thankfully you only get set back a short bit. However, I found a select few of the puzzles a lot more frustrating (others might like the challenge). In the temple I was told the other researchers would help me, and found that only one of them really did AFTER I went through all the effort of writing down the puzzle instructions.
I found the overall story interesting and I don’t entirely trust my own employer, but events start to take place in the demo which made things a lot more intriguing. The insider demo didn’t hint about that part at all, but we did learn about some local tyranny. There is plenty of small humor I enjoyed from fighting a fuse box to winning a fantastic hat in a side quest. I definitely went out of my way to talk to everyone.
The pixel art greatly reminds me of the Game Boy Advance era, being very cute and colourful. Though I’m not a fan of how the human sprites look, I can at least show off my cool hats. Battles themselves have lush backgrounds based on the setting and it’s where we see our monsters in action detailed from the front or back. Most moves have pretty cool animations such as Patterbit’s propeller punch showing a boxing glove attached to a propeller hit the opponent. The monster designs themselves vary in terms of uniqueness, but I found a few stand outs especially once battling with them. The music itself would absolutely fit into a game of its inspiration yet stands unique. Of course the random encounter rate meant I didn’t hear too much of an area’s theme, but the battle track is good enough to almost make up for that.
I am quite interested in the full experience both from a gameplay and narrative perspective. The differences between this and a Pokemon game are largely for the better and show what a more classic experience can be like when made by people who really care. If you’re interested I’d definitely recommend trying the public demo as it promises to carry over your save and there’s a couple of challenges to try.