Gaia Online Goes to Facebook With Monster Galaxy, a Pokemon-Style RPG

Gaia Online, the creator of a virtual world for teens and young adults, has had more success than most in its genre. But following a round of layoffs in November, the company has signaled what may be a new plan for the future with the release of a Facebook RPG called Monster Galaxy.

Inspired by monster-collection games like Pokemon or Digimon, Monster Galaxy starts you off as a trainer with one monster, called a “Moga”. Your goal is to wander the land and capture more Moga, while completing quests and leveling up. Doing so requires items, monsters’ unique powers and attributes, and help from other characters.

The design budget for Monster Galaxy appears to have been larger than the average Facebook game, with well drawn characters and monsters, detailed landscapes and epic music for every occasion. The story is also more prominent than in some Facebook RPGs; although knowingly predictable, with a quest to defeat the big, bad evil and your childhood nemesis, it also has a tongue-in-cheek way of playing up a lot of tropes.

The gameplay doesn’t deviate much from other monster training games. Unlike games that involve collecting gold or resources and building cities or buying armor, you really only have your monsters, called “Moga”. You can carry up to three “Moga” with you at a time, though you can capture up to 120 Moga total using “Star Seeds”.

From the beginning, you’re assigned quests which generally require you to go to a certain location or to defeat a certain number of wild Moga. While traveling the overland map, you’ll also randomly run into wild Moga and other enemies and engage them in combat. In battle, you choose one of your three Moga to start the fight, and during each battle turn you can use one of your Moga’s attacks, use an item, swap Moga, or run. All Moga belong to a Zodiac sign, and this sign determines the relative effectiveness of the Moga’s special attack in a straightforward rock-scissors-paper fashion.

Capturing Moga still involves a fight; once they’re critically damaged, they can be trapped with Star Seeds. The chance of capturing the Moga seems to depend on the damage done, your level, and the rarity of the enemy Moga. If instead you defeat enemy Mogas normally, you’re rewarded with experience points and a chance of finding more Star Seeds. As your Moga gain experience points and level, they grow stronger, but there’s currently no way to customize their growth. Also, enemy Moga grow in strength quite quickly as you progress in the game, requiring time spent grinding levels.

At “Your House” you can swap Moga and let them take naps to fully restore hp and skills. The recovery time for each Moga depends on its level; the higher the level, the longer it’ll take. However, while your Moga are napping, you’re free to swap them out with other Moga you’ve captured, so you can continue your journey without interruption and level other Mogas. If you’re impatient for a particular Moga to revive, you can also use a Blue Coffee item to instantly restore him to full health.

Monster Galaxy is currently lacking in any strong multiplayer or microtransaction incentives for the players, and doesn’t play much like other social games. You can purchase “Star Coins” with real money, which in turn can be used to buy Blue Coffee and Star Seeds to make your game a little easier, but having a lot of those isn’t required to continue. You can visit your friends’ houses and collect Whistles that help you launch special attacks in battle, but those also aren’t necessary. This ends up making the game a pretty level playing field for all players, and in the end the players who play the smartest and play the most will have progressed further than other players.

Having just launched,Monster Galaxy also still has some kinks and bugs to work out. The longer your session runs, the more the game starts to lag, until you reload the page. The UI will often misreport the probability of an attack hitting, or whether your attack will do extra damage or less damage, and sometimes leveling up a monster that just finished napping will put the monster back into a nap. While annoying, the bugs don’t detract much from the gameplay and experience.

At the end of the day, Monster Galaxy feels like a simple, if grindy, single player RPG, where it’s just you versus the world. Given the setup of the game, it can probably be expected that a PvP area will be added in due course, as well as purchasable enhancements for your Moga. But even as-is Monster Galaxy stands as a relatively unique experience among current Facebook titles, with its reliance on story and apparent disdain for forcing players to spend money or push invites to friends.