EA and Insomniac aiming to make monster battling big on Facebook with Outernauts

Insomniac Games’ is getting ready to release its first social title called Outernauts, a monster battle game for Facebook published by EA. While pet/monster collection isn’t new for the platform, it has proven to be a winning formula for some and it could yield another hit summer like 2011’s Monster Galaxy.

In Outernauts, players are cast as members of the titular agency, which is tasked with capturing and training alien monsters (“Beasts”) to help them make the galaxy a better place. As the adventure unfolds, players fight evil corporations and space pirates, help out local populations and investigate a mysterious group known as “The Ancients.”

When the game starts, players have to choose one Beast to accompany their Outernaut on his or her journey across the stars. There are five different Beasts to choose from at the beginning of the adventure, and they can’t be captured later in the game. EA and Insomniac are planning to give players the ability to add these creatures to their menagerie, though, by selling real-world plush versions of each starting Beast. Each plush toy will come with a code that will unlock the associated Beast in Outernauts. Every Beast is based around a specific type of element — like ice, lightning and plants — which are stronger and weaker against other elements. At launch, there will be 12 different element types available.

Gameplay is divided between adventure exploration, puzzles, turn-based monster battles and base-building. Players can visit 30 different worlds and explore world maps by clicking on areas of ground that their Outernaut moves to. Each map contains a story mission and side quests. During our time with the game, we visited a world where we had to prevent space pirates from kidnapping a young girl, which meant defeating the pirates in battle. The game will also require players to do some mild puzzle-solving; in the demo, this involved flipping switches to unlock doors and move platforms.

While players can trigger battles by clicking on enemies, roaming Beasts will also attack players if they come too close while exploring the map. In combat phases, players control whatever beasts they have in their party. Each turn, players choose what their Beasts will do, which is usually limited to attacking or using passive abilities that provide boosts to friendly characters. The battles themselves can be one-on-one, two-on-two or three-on-three affairs. Combat ends when all the Beasts on one side have been knocked out. Every Beast that survives a battle receives experience and will evolve into a more powerful form when it hits predetermined levels. Players acquire new Beasts with special capture items in battles, which are more effective when an enemy Beast has low health.

Every player has a home planet they automatically return to between missions. Home planets serve as bases they visit at any time — even when they’re on an active mission — by clicking a button on their menu. Once they’re finished visiting the home planet, players can return to the mission where they left off. The home planet allows players to construct building that aid them on their adventures, like an armory that allows them to craft weapons or feeding stations that let them own more Beasts. The planets can be expanded  when players have accrued enough raw materials to add a section of land, and new territory unlocks new building types.

Outernauts features both cooperative and competitive social mechanics. Players can visit their friends’ home planets and assist on chores like tending items and helping wounded Beasts recuperate. An asynchronous co-op mode also allows players to play through world maps together. Developer Rowan Belden-Clifford describes this mode as a kind of cooperative leapfrog, where the idea is that one player will move ahead of the other, clearing out enemies and obstacles until they run out of energy, and then their friend will see the progress that’s been made the next time they log in to the game. There’s also a player-versus-player battle system where friends can challenge one another.