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In the eternal struggle between the forces of Heaven and Hell, the latter's realm was frozen over. The demons' final hope lies with one last Pyre, powering the Boneshaker. With it, the remaining clans will take it to the heart of Hell to restore their homeland, at any cost.

Monster Train is a Roguelike Deck Building Game developed by Shiny Shoe and published by Good Shepherd Entertainment. It was released for PC on May 21, 2020. Its DLC, The Final Divinity, was released March 25th 2021.

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Tropes:

  • Amazonian Beauty: Heph the Blacksmith, who upgrades your champion, built like a brick proverbial and is taller than even the giant monsters she upgrades.
  • Asteroids Monster: The Legion of Wax of the Melting Remnant clan is designed around this mechanic. When the base unit is defeated, it instead splits into two units with slightly lesser stats. When each of these units is defeated, they split again into two smaller, again slightly weaker units. Despite the reduction in base stats in each split, all "offspring" retain the base enhancements and bonuses obtained prior to and during the battle. With the proper upgrades, buffing, and/or a key artifact, this can result in an obscenely powerful, nigh-unending wall of fighters that can absorb countless attacks and deal incredible damage.
  • Badass Normal: The first hordes that get thrown your way are all human warriors and mages, entirely normal and entirely willing to serve the Light and throw their lives at the demons... and they do quite well. Daedalus is the epitome, being the first boss and a man who can storm a train full of demons and beat many of them into submission with only a wrench.
  • Bad Boss: Seraph, and apparently a lot of Heaven, all seem to be terribly neglectful of their servants. Daedalus and his cohorts are constantly trying to impress them to get some kind of attention, and the Clipped all lost their wings as punishments. Seeing what they did to their enemies, seems par for the course.
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    • One of the upgrade options for the Shardtail Queen champion has her kill any friendly imps in the same room as her to deal damage to all enemies. With a good build, she should be using this ability every turn.
  • Big Red Devil: The Hellhorned clan, composed of fairly standard red demons and imps and specialized in brute force.
  • Bird People: The Legions of Heaven start off human, but their most powerful soldiers are all multi-limbed avians and harpies.
  • Blob Monster: The Melting Remnant clan is a wax-themed variant, whose candle soldiers break apart into smaller units when damaged.
  • Body of Bodies: Morsel-Made, a hive mind of morsels that severed themselves from the Umbra Shroud, aggressively adding any morsels in their path into its entity.
  • Breakable Weapons: Cards with the Purge keyword do not return to the player's deck after being played, not even at the end of a battle.
  • Cerebus Retcon: While the game was never all sunshine and roses, the plot wasn't really complicated and success meant a happy ending. When The Last Divinity DLC was released, the backstory of the world became a straight-up Cosmic Horror Story, with Divinities uncaring about anything in the world and possessing enough power to make and unmake new worlds on a whim, while all the struggle in the game is made futile by "Groundhog Day" Loop, created by the Last Divinity, which is implied to be going insane
  • Cool Train: The Boneshaker, which apparently joins Heaven and Hell, and which is powered by the very last fragment of the embers that once lit the entirety of Hell. Plus it's got several floors and mechanized stewards. The demons themselves, however, seem to find it to be a complete junker and plan to never board it again once their mission is done; though, since the whole rail is a symbol of a Covenant that Heaven broke, it probably brings far too many painful memories.
  • Cosmetic Award: Clearing a run with a card in your deck will give it a permanent gold frame, which has no tangible benefit. Clearing a run at maximum Covenant (difficulty) adds a crown to the faction combination in the logbook. Clearing Challenge runs, available after clearing the maximum Covenant once, unlocks new frames to replace the gold ones. Finally, as of "The Last Divinity" Downloadable Content, defeating the titular boss adds the faction combination to a new logbook page, as well as adds a stamp to the cards in the deck.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The Last Divinity DLC retcons the game's backstory into something from this genre. The world was created by the Divinities, borderline Eldritch Abominations, as a toy for their Child, with entire species created and destryed on a whim.
  • Cowardly Mooks: Collectors, tiny cherubic angels hauling sacks of money (implied to be from looting Hell), will sometimes show up on a random floor. If you let them live a turn they'll escape, if you manage to kill them you net a nice little profit.
  • Damage Over Time: The Stygian Guard's specialty via Frostbite. Gets better if you can combine it the Cuttlebeard relic, which stops it from decaying; stack it on the boss hard enough and early enough and You Are Already Dead.
  • Death by Irony: Extinguishing the fires of Hell and freezing it over has not rendered Heaven's warriors immune to being frozen to death themselves by the Stygian Guard's icy abilities.
  • Disability Superpower: Wurmkin are eyeless and cannot talk. However their claws are strong enough to etch sign language into crystal, and they evidently have no difficulty locating their enemies.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Last Divinity is a borderline example. While its shape is humanoid, it's as tall as the Boneshaker, its body is formed from numerous rainbow crystals that seem to be coneccted by light/fire looking energy. It has complete control over time and space, enough to trap the Boneshaker in a "Groundhog Day" Loop and it has existed before the world was created. Still, it has an understandable thought process, judging from its battle dialogue, though a piece of flavour text implies it's going insane
  • Eternal Recurrence: Starting with the Friends and Foes update, several characters make mentions of cycles of the hellish forces fighting the armies of heaven for eternity. Explicitly confirmed in The Last Divinity DLC, where you find out that the entire game happens inside a time loop, resetting the state of events over and over again, created by titular Last Divinity, a borderline Eldritch Abomination with complete control over time and barely sane.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The angelic antagonists have literally frozen Hell over. And if you still consider Hell evil, there's always the Stygian Guard and their obsession with freezing their enemies to death.
  • Faction Calculus: Each of the six clans specializes in a particular style of gameplay, with each run involving two clans.
    • The Awoken and Umbra are Powerhouse. Their units are resilient with good stats, plentiful healing, and a tendency to grow stronger over time. However, individually they have their own weaknesses- Awoken are very tanky without much in the way of offense, and thus require some kind of assistance on that front or be eventually overrun. The Umbra, meanwhile, are a Gathering Steam faction, and thus rely heavily on setting up their Morsels to buff up their stats.
    • The Hellhorned are Cannons. They have massive offensive potential but rely on one-shot armor production for defense. As a result, supplying them with defense from the secondary faction is crucial for survival.
    • The Stygian Guard are Subversive, using damage over time and debuffs coupled with a heavy emphasis on spellcasting. This gives them excellent power in generic battles and boss battles, but also renders them very weak to Anti-Magic.
    • The Melting Remnant are The Horde, relying on Zerg Rush tactics and the unique ability to recover dead units before the end of a battle. While their remold mechanic means that you can easily replenish lost units, it also means their energy usage is quite high, and they rely heavily on managing supplies of creatures much more than every other faction.
    • The clan in the first DLC, The Wurmkin, are another Gathering Steam clan. They build Charged Echos from infused cards, which can then be spent on various abilities. Their forces are split between sturdy tanks and fragile smaller units that require a lot of echos to realise their devastating potential.
  • Fallen Angel: In addition to the mainline "winged" forces of Heaven, you will also fight outcast "clipped" enemies with their wings removed.
  • The Ghost: Herzal, of the titular Hoard that leaves Artifacts scattered all over, who built the Train and forged Hell's half of the Covenant, and who writes every note in the Logbook. One of the Cavern events is implied to take place at his frozen corpse. The Last Divinity DLC contains more info about his past: before he came to Hell, he was one of the Judges, beings tasked with creating laws for the world - he specifically wrote down morality. It is implied he got fed the Divinities' total apathy regarding life of mortals and orchestrated an attack against them. However, he came to regret his actions so much that he had his memories of that time removed.
  • Ghost Train: The Boneshaker is protected by all manner of supernatural soldiers, like the demon Hellhorned, or the Awoken sentient plants.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Heph's goggles.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Largely averted - there isn't a concrete benefit for playing on higher Covenants other than bragging rights, though certain Covenants do provide you a benefit rather than just making the game harder. Played straight by "Trials", optional toggles on non-Boss battles where you can give the enemies a significant advantage in exchange for an extra reward, usually a random artifact or (a lot of) gold. Played even straigther by Pact Shards, introduced in The Last Divinity DLC: on the world map you can accept them to get additional money, artifacts and spell upgrades or fuse your units to pass some of their stats and abilities from one to another. The price for them is that certain enemies and bosses will recieve a significant buff, depending on the number of Shards. If you defeat Seraph with over 100 Shards, you gain access to True Final Boss, The Last Divinity
  • Hero Antagonist: Downplayed. Your opponents are angels who invaded Hell and brought "order" by freezing the place. Which also killed all the native life.
  • Jesus Taboo: Although some of the Legions of Hell do resemble Christian depictions of demons, the angelic host share only very cosmetic biblical characteristics and come across more as a kind of hardline bird cult than anything.
  • Jerkass Gods: The Divinities originally created the world solely as a toy for their Child. According to one of the flavour texts, entire civilizations were raised and later cast aside when The Chiled got bored with them. Now the last of them trapped the Boneshaker in an eternal time loop and it's implied it's going insane.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Train Stewards are effectively The Goomba, being available in bulk from the start and having lousy stats and no special traits. They are little more than space fillers until you get better units and are typically first on the chopping block when you need to purge cards. However, there is a relic called the Advanced Prototype that gives them a serious stat spike without inflating their cost. They don't exactly become top-tier, but they can become low-cost Jack-of-All-Trades Elite Mooks that can be neatly slotted into any role necessary.
  • Light Is Not Good: Bringing "order" to Hell, if you ask the Winged, looks suspiciously like "freeze everything to death."
  • Living Shadow: The Umbra clan, which specializes in creating Morsel units that other monsters devour for buffs.
  • Macrogame: The player's total score is kept between runs, unlocking new clans at certain totals (plus high enough total kill counts or unit summons), as well as more cards for whichever factions were recently used.
  • The Mafia: A significant part of the Melting Remnant's creatures, follow the 1920's movie mafia aesthetic.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Awoken use units which tank damage with Regenerate and hit back with Thorns. They can also force the enemy to keep hitting their heads against them by rooting them to that floor. Embodied by their champion The Sentient, who starts off doing no direct damage whatsoever, and is likely to stay so while getting more HP than anyone else and probably a ludicrous number of Thorns.
  • The Minion Master: The Umbra clan's dynamic is the production of Morsels, weak allies that give benefits when the larger demons eat them.
  • Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode: There is a multiplayer option, but rather than letting people play together, it lets you send the seed value of a run to others and see if they can beat your score. There is a timed competition mode which is even worse as there is a minimum of seven minutes of waiting per run as there is no way to start a round without waiting even if everyone is ready.
  • Motive Misidentification: Hinted at. Several of Fel and Seraph's comments suggest they didn't betray the Convent and invade Hell solely out of ambition, but because someone close to them (or Heaven itself) would die if they didn't. Seraph even says that Herzal betrayed them. There's no evidence to back up their claims... yet.
  • Necromancer: The Melting Remnant. Subverted with them actually, as they don't actually die. Instead, they are people made of wax who are constantly melting and then reforming. Played straight when you use their cards to reform other units, despite them not being made of wax.
  • Noble Demon: Your forces just want their home back, despite being the literal Legions of Hell.
  • Order Versus Chaos: This game's Heaven and Hell fall more along these lines than those of Good versus Evil. The forces of Heaven are tightly regimented and are quick to hand out harsh punishments to any and all who don't meet their high standards of both behaviors and being. Hell, meanwhile, is a wildland whose people are made of many completely distinct clans and cultures. The clans were not unified in any way until Herzal, an outsider to Hell, proposed the alliance.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Umbra clan has some monsters that make their ten-limbed, xenomorph-headed champion Penumbra look relatively tame.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Tethys Titansbane, the Stygian Guard's hero. She's tinier than just about any other unit, looks like some fishman's baby daughter, and has pitiful HP, but can strike decently hard and packs nasty effects to all her attacks, such as heavy freezing and spell weakness.
  • Plant Person: The Awoken, monstrous flora that specializes in tanking damage and Thorns (inflicting damage when attacked).
  • Red Shirt: Several, depending on clan:
    • The Train Stewards are a general-purpose one, being the cheapest, most basic unit available to the player, regardless of build. They have lousy stats and no special traits, and largely exist to be space-fillers and meat shields until you can replace them with something better...unless you have the Advanced Prototype relic.
    • The Hellhorned have Imps, dirt-cheap, ultra-weak units that can be spammed for their variety of useful spawn abilities and soak attacks for more important units. Combine them with Endless or another way to recover them after death for extra fun!
    • Umbra technically has their Morsels who can be used this way in a pinch, but it's not the most optimal use of them.
    • The Melting Remnant have their basic unit, a dirt-cheap but decently-powerful melee unit with a limited lifespan. Builds can make them beefy and long-lasting, hard-hitting Glass Cannons, or ephemeral meat shields that can be continously re-summoned, each time stronger than before.
  • Regretful Traitor: Fel. She risked her life to give Herzal some embers of the Pyre before leaving to join Seraph, and her boss battle dialogue is half her missing the times before she betrayed Herzal and half her steeling herself to kill her former lover.
  • Sea Monster: The Stygian Guard clan, consisting of mermaids, squids, and serpents, and specializing in Frostbite (damage over time) and heavy duty spellcraft.
  • Sinister Minister: Rector Flicker is at once the spiritual leader of the Melting Remnants and a mob boss putting his own clan at odds with the other for profit.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: The angel waves are very often led by one that does little to no damage but has a lot of health and/or armor, protecting the more fragile wings unless you have a way around it.
    • Talos summons a statue at the front of each floor when her boss fight starts. The statues can't attack (unless she buffs them with Rage), but are noticeably more resilient than even the tankier regular mooks.
  • Socketed Equipment: Like most games in the genre, most cards can be upgraded. Unlike most others, the upgrade system is modular, attaching "stones" bought from merchants or earned in a Random Encounter that grant specific bonuses. There are separate sets of stones for units and spells, but they follow the same general pattern of adding stats, reducing costs, or adding keyword abilities. By default, cards have 2 sockets, but an artifact exists for each card type that will add a 3rd socket.
    • Champions and Blights are the exception. Champions upgrade at the very beginning of the game and after each boss. Blights are permanent deck debuffs and thus can't be upgraded at all.
  • Space Master: One of the upgrade branches of Penumbra, the champion of the Umbra, makes it so every room they are in have even more capacity. If fully invested, they even take effective negative space.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Cards and Artifacts in the Logbook have brief snippets of lore written in-universe by Herzal, that paint a clearer picture of just what is going on.
    • A large amount of information about the world is kept by the hidden Wurmkin clan, who will be released in the Last Divinity DLC.
  • Resurrection/Death Loop: The Melting Remnant's mechanic. If the angels don't get them many of their units 'burn out' after a set number of turns anyway (since they're candle people). But they have any number of ways of being reborn, usually coming back even stronger. In essence they have a bunch of glass cannons that keep mending themselves.
  • Squishy Wizard: The Stygian Guard specialize in very powerful magic abilities, but generally have very low health. Embodied by their champion Tethys, who takes up next-to-no room and augments magic, but can literally be One Hit Killed by the very first angels that hit your train. To help compensate for this, they have a line of Stone Wall units that get beefier as more spells are cast - get a spammy enough build going and they can become virtually unkillable.
  • Starter Equipment: In addition to your Champion and cards provided by each clan, you get several Train Stewards as unaligned Mecha-Mooks to fill up space while you get other monsters.
  • Throw the Mook at Them: Shardtail Queen's imp toss ability.
  • Unlockable Content: The player only has access to a few cards from the Hellhorned and Awoken clans at the game's start. The three others, and many cards and relics corresponding to each, must be unlocked through various means.
  • Villain Protagonist: Downplayed. Your main goal is to deliver your train's Pyre to the heart of Hell and reignite the flames that angels have snuffed out. Said process also restores the native life the angels' chill has destroyed, and restoring the Balance of Good and Evil. Many battle quotes show the demons showing genuine rage and pain over how the Winged have destroyed their homes.
  • We Have Reserves: The Melting Remnant and the Umbra both operate on the assumption that you'll be throwing fodder units away with abandon. For the Remnant, their Reform keyword will bring them back for another go, while the Umbra power up their large units by feeding them morsels. One upgrade path for the Hellhorned's alternate champion does this as well, giving you weak imp units every turn (in fact, you'll want to make sure they die so you have room to play the next ones).
    • Averted for the other clans. The game's basic rules make it so that spells will constantly reshuffle per normal for a deckbuilding game, but killed units are gone for the rest of the Battle.
  • Zerg Rush: The angels will often throw large groups of low-healthed Clergymen or Witherwings at you, which can be devastatingly effective if they do it before you've built up your defenses. One of the challenges which gives a level a better reward is to have the entire train flooded with these enemies right off the bat.
    • The Melting Remnant give as good as they get in this department. Rector Flicker's default card isn't the usual spell, but instead a 0 Ember, 1 space monster that he can be specced to return them to your hand (and with some upgrades, the returned version will be buffed ) after they die.
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