When it comes to converting the ubiquitous property trading board game Monopoly from the living room table to digital platforms, things have not always gone well. Despite being released for every console, computer, and mobile device known to man, it’s probably safe to say that there hasn’t been a genuinely good and well thought-out videogame version of Monopoly so far, even if you go all the way back to the 8-bit versions that we used to play back in the late 1980s. Pretty much every major publisher has had a crack at it but generally, the problems have always been the same. With limited computing power, the the AI opposition was never challenging and always made nonsensical decisions. As we moved further down the timeline toward the current day, we realise that the problem was never really addressed, and that as more power was available, it was used to turn what is already a naturally long game into an absolute chore with needless showiness.
We're glad to say that neither of these issues are present with Ubisoft’s new take on the franchise, Monopoly Plus. Launched as part of the Monopoly Party Fun Pack alongside My Monopoly and Monopoly Deal (but available standalone, hence this review), the game manages to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that have caused other attempts to fail.
All of the iconic Monopoly stylings are in place in Monopoly Plus, from the fancy Mr. Monopoly himself, through to the original designs for the Chance and Community Chest cards. Depending on which language you select at startup, you get the properties relevant to that country’s version of the game. So the British version gives you Mayfair and Park Lane, whereas the US language selection switches them to Boardwalk and Park Place, for example. The property prices are identical to the original boxed version of the game, so the most expensive location (Mayfair/Boardwalk) is £400 - as it should be - rather than being converted into the millions and billions that some current Monopoly sets have gone with. There’s an undeniable attention to detail and reverence to the source material going on here, and the developer should be applauded for that. The sharp-eyed will notice that the currency used in-game is “Monopoly Money” rather than Dollars or Pounds Sterling, though. That’s no big deal, though for the remainder of this review, we'll use the good old Pound symbol - mainly because there's no Monopoly Money currency symbol on a keyboard. Though there should be, dammit.
Two boards are on offer, here. The “classic” Monopoly board does away with any extra frippery and just lets you play the game as was originally intended, with the board and tokens all being rendered in 3D and viewed by a camera that swings around to show the most relevant section of the action. The “living” version packs the middle area of the board with rollercoasters, trees, and other buildings, with properties being redeveloped right before your eyes as you acquire them and add houses and hotels. For our money, the living board is great to look at, but it does slow the game down somewhat and the reason is simply that some animations are unskippable. Usually, this is a problem if you're playing against AI opponents, as they’ll let the entire development animation for each property play out every time they buy or make a change to it.
Back on the classic board though, things zip along at a relatively quick pace. Well, a relatively quick pace for Monopoly, anyway. The way everything is laid out makes a good deal of sense, and there are very few moments where you’re left wondering how you get something done. At times, it isn't instantly clear if a property is mortgaged or not, and we’d have liked the “money” portion of the trading screen to allow us to increase and decrease values quicker, as making a big cash offer to someone for something takes longer than it should but again, these aren't major big deals.
But there are a handful of big deals to…well…deal with, though. The first would be a massive bug (or at least an awful design decision) in the game’s online multiplayer mode. If the player that started the game goes bankrupt and they understandably decide to quit instead of watching the rest of the game play out, the game ends and nobody wins. There’s no host migration in place here. That means that online multiplayer is all but useless, as nobody other than the host ever realistically has a chance of winning, unless the host agrees that they won't quit and then sticks to their word. Second up, is how out of whack the trading system is with the AI difficulty level. Against “normal” level AI, you get a good challenge until you realise that they’ll accept any trade that’s even close to the card price of a property. Want all of the railway stations? You'll be able to buy them from your opponents for less than the £800 total it would cost to buy them from the bank. Fancy picking up Mayfair to go with your Park Lane? Offer the opponent Old Kent Road (£60) and £320 for the £400 property and you’re away. You can see how poor they are at making trading decisions when they start to offer you £100 for a £180 property, even though you’re sitting on £1,700 and in the dominant position. They'll even counter-offer to ask you for less than the card price in a lot of cases. You offer £280 for the £350 Park Lane, and they'll predictably decline, but ask you for £300 instead. There are only some very, very rare occassions in which that would happen in real life - such as if the seller was in dire straits and without options. On higher difficulty levels, we're thankful to say that this isn’t an issue, although some may find the general challenge of the higher difficulty levels to be a bit outside their limits. As experienced Monopoly players - seriously, we all sit around wearing monocles and top hats at pX Towers - we’re happy playing amongst the rarefied air of the top setting, but your mileage may vary.
The other major issue with Monopoly Plus, is the lack of truly customisable rules. The official rules are on offer and a modified version is available which uses those official rules but adds a “Speed Die” to the mix in order to speed up the game – which it does with varying success. Aside from that, there are six “House Rules” versions, which allow you to play with only one rule being modified, and no speed die. If you usually play the game where all taxes and penalties are put into the middle of the board and collected by a player if they land on Free Parking, you can do that. If you usually play the game where a player gets double their salary if they land on the GO space, then you can do that. What you can’t do, is use a mixture of those rules. Recently, we’ve played an offline round or two of the physical board game where the house rules stated that we couldn't collect rent when “in Jail” – as that modification makes being in jail less attractive during the endgame. You wouldn’t be able to replicate that in Monopoly Plus, without also making it so that every single property can only be purchased via an auction, as those two rules are inexplicably bound together in a single House Rules version of play. There's no real reason that the developer couldn't have provided a series of switches or toggles for different rules so that you could play the way you want to, or are used to.
You'll also need to turn controller vibration off, as the controller vibrates more strongly than any other game than we've played on Xbox One when it's your turn to roll the dice. Seriously, you'd think it was trying to warn you that a bomb is about to go off. Also, the Kinect functionality is limited to taking photos of players at key points in the game and then showing them after the game is over, so is therefore utterly pointless. Fortunately, you're prompted as to whether you want to use Kinect before each game begins. But aside from those noted issues, Monopoly Plus is probably the most playable version of digital Monopoly that has been released so far. Enjoyable and without too much in the way of unnecessary delays in play, the game offers a stiff challenge if you fancy playing against five top-level AI opponents offline, and also offers the ability for up to six users to play “pass the controller” in flawless offline local multiplayer, as well as allowing for control via several mobile devices through SmartGlass - which is handy if everybody wants their own controller and you don't happen to have six to hand. There’s room for a few extra touches here and there. Maybe some detailed game stats or a reason to keep playing beyond the initial draw of having a game of Monopoly would be nice, but all in all, the development team have done a relatively decent job.
It’s just a shame that the online mode is so horribly broken.
The broken online mode loses Monopoly Plus a fair few points, as it kills the longevity of the product when you consider that there's no real single player challenge other than just playing game after game. Quite why the development team didn’t think that a losing host would probably rather start a new game rather than sit and watch five other people play Monopoly for an hour is beyond us.
However, Monopoly Plus is a very, very solid attempt at bringing the Parker Brothers’ classic board game to the Xbox One. It’ll be right up any Monopoly fan’s street and is certainly one of the first iterations of digital Monopoly that you could sit down and play with the family without the game being needlessly prolonged by complex inputs or overly-flashy gameplay.
@MegaKillScreen I didn't have a problem with the dice rolls here. Mainly because I played Monopoly Streets and I was able to cannonball a chocolate bar in the time it took to roll the dice once in that game.
Really enjoyed reading the review- great job. Was hoping to learn more about the way Smartglass is used. Is it easier for non-gamers who aren't used to a controller (and/or don't have an xbox gamertag- talking very casual folk) to use their mobile to control things? or is it overall still clunky enough to be a feature you wouldn't want to use, like the kinect? I really love the idea of people using their own devices as a controller, because they're familiar with their own phone and many people who would enjoy this game at my house are of an older generation who see the Xbox controller as a confusing mass of buttons.
Thanks for the review. There has been quite a few games that came out that I havnt seen reviews for. Shape up, rabbids invasion, and monopoly was the other.
not too bad, i still haven't played the game yet. the review score of 6/10 is great for a board game. i don't know how many board games get above 7 to be honest. i know the buzz games usually average 7-8 in reviews.
was anyone gotten the you don't know jack bundle? good or not good?? you would figure they would have a demo for this game.
Thanks for the review - really enjoyed it! Think I'll be picking this up, mainly to play couch co-op with my wife over Christmas but I'm sure I'll have a few goes at the single player too.
Can't understand the thought process behind the multiplayer side though - even with the best will in the world nobody wants to sit idle while other people play a game on their xbox for possible hours on end. I thought MS was giving all developers access to free servers for Xone games? That would have made far more sense.
I too would like to know a little about the smartglass integration if possible please? With people coming over for Christmas is it a viable option? Simple enough for your mum to use for example?
Also - can you save your game part way though?
@stylon SmartGlass integeration basically allows you to control the game using the standard inputs. So you get U/D/L/R on your phone screen, and then the four face buttons. It's basically the same as using a controller.
And yep, you can save your game part way through. Just quit out and it'll save your progress. Three save slots are available.
@SuperKMx Thanks - just what I wanted to know
Honestly, I'm not sure how many times you played the computers, but they are nowhere near challenging on hard. You can bs them trades early and easily win every time. For example, you land on Vermont avenue to start the game. They land on Connecticut, and Oriental. Your next turn you can buy both for probably 300-350 max. That's just to start. Don't even get me started on computer to computer trades, simply terrible. Almost every single one. I could tell countless examples. There are many other problems. If you use the house rule go and movement, the computers will never choose movement. What is that... The comp. Had park place, then landed on go with 900 and didn't choose go to boardwalk(which would put him right in front of go) also computers choose pass on chance as if on a 50/50 coin flip. At the most opportune moments to need a chance card they will pass, as well as choose to flip it. Ex. Iker(comp) is destroying in the game with multiple hotels and houses yet he still doesn't pass the chance card and ends up getting house repairs... Also the computers, mind my language... Whore the houses like crazy. They will never ever get hotels unless they can instantly use the houses that will be available. Hood strategy? Yes, but the most annoying thing ever.
I wrote that comment not meaning to 100% rip on monopoly, obviously I've played it about 15 times. (All offline with one friend and 3-4 computers every time) we found out almost instantly that you need to play against hard comps. The most annoying part was that we had to make up our own trading rules because we easily were able to cheat the computers, which really sucks cause it creates controversy between players which shouldn't have to happen. I could go on and on about improvements needed and I hope that they fix or at least give effort into fixing stuff. I still play it, with my own side rules, to keep it interesting. They need to fix the online for sure, and also make it where you can split screen against other people on Xbox live( yes people could cheat, but hopefully not...)
I'd also like to comment about the my monopoly dlc that you can get. I got it thinking, heck yeah, you can make your own board?? So I got it and it was quite a disappointment.
What you can do:
Put logos on each property
Choose 3D or 2D board
Change the middle logo
What you can't do:
Change names of: Chance, Community Chest, GO, Jail, Free Parking
Move around properties
Change the colors of properties
Very very limited choices for logos and they look like Microsoft clip art...
Very limited everything honestly considering I paid ten dollars for it. Not really worth it
@SuperKMx It's good to see that tagline puns translate over to the Xbox side of things.
@AlexOlney I try to get the pun machine going whenever I can.
@Stylon Monopoly Family Fun Pack is under £19 on ShopTo.Net. I'm tempted to get it for some Xmas gaming with the Wife.
@SuperKmx - If I'm not allowed to post links, please delete it and don't kill me
@Captain_Chao5 Cheers chaos, although after reading the comment a few above yours the My Monopoly part of that pack seems a bit of disappointment. Not too fussed about the card game thing either.
According to smartglass it's only £11.99 on the store so seems like a better deal if you don't want the extra stuff... I'm sure I'll get it one way or the other over Christmas though:)
Ah. Cheers @Stylon! I'd not spotted that. £11.99 is better than £18.95
Would not recommend this title. Hard AI is prone skipping over your tiles consistently, and it ruins the game nonstop. Online community has no competitive league nor does it count stats. Everyone quits without repercussions.
Hasbro, you suck and you know it. You get NO MORE of my family's money. Anyone playing online knows this is a 1/10 game.
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