Every adventure has to pay off…
I’ll be honest in saying I hadn’t heard much about Moonlighter before I was given the chance to review it, and now I can’t put it down. Moonlighter is brought to us by 11 Bit Studios; developed by brand new studio Digital Sun the game focuses around our protagonist Will, a shopkeeper from the village known as Rynoka. 5 mysterious gates have appeared during an archaeological excavation just outside of town. Each gate leads to a new dimension, within can be found dynamic dungeons, changing with each entry. These dungeons are filled with hostile enemies and a mountain of loot. Loot that you take home to your shop and sell.
The 2 main aspects of this game merge incredibly well and make a truly enjoyable grinding experience. It can feel very repetitive to start with, and you will feel that the game does not go past that first dungeon. However, once you get past it and upgrade your equipment enough to make it to the next stage; you will find that the game just escalates in to more and more fun.
Will oversees his late Father’s shop, though his passion in life is now to be an adventurer. Since these gates were discovered, his only aim is to explore them and be the first to open the mysterious 5th gate. Many people from far and wide have attempted to explore the dungeons and many have perished, including Will’s Father. Each dungeon has a theme and will change on each entry. You can find remnants from past explorers, notes and items and such. Your main task is to ascend the 3 levels and take on a boss. That is if you’re fully tooled up.
To get the correct equipment you first need to take care of some housekeeping, or shop keeping if we want to be specific. Will leads a dual life within Moonlighter as by night he takes on dungeons to collect some precious loot, then by day he sells it to the people of the town. The gold you make can be used in upgrading your shop or investing in the town to open new plots such as forges, banks and alchemists. You can use these new locations to buy and upgrade your gear to help you take the next step in your exploration.
The think that sets this game apart for me is the shopkeeper aspect of it. This is not a case of this item is worth x amount of gold, as we have seen a million times in this type of game. It’s not even a case of levelling up a certain skill to gain more coins. You are the owner of this business, and you decide how much things are worth. It is up to your customers whether they think your prices are fair, and they will let you know. It is done in such a simple mechanic, yet it is truly satisfying as you control the market for these odds and ends. You can come across a filthy-looking piece of fabric, with no knowledge of its worth, place it on sale for 10 coins and see a customer’s eyes light up as it’s in high demand. Upon seeing that you know to increase the price as you’re ripping yourself off. Price an item too highly and people will look in disgust and leave the store.
The demand of an item comes into play in a big way, if an item is in high demand then you can put up the prices, just like in real life. You can also set up a bargain bin to fill with all of the common loot that is taking up shelf space. Once you really start making money you can upgrade your store for more space and more chance to make money. You can even get to the point of hiring staff! This all sounds like a game on its own but is only a fraction of the game.
Once night hits or you sell out of stock, it’s time to head back through a gate to take on another dungeon. After playing for a while you get a knowledge for an items worth, and this can make you either tactical, or in my case can case a lot of frustration due to greed. You have a limited inventory space, which will fill up quickly as you progress, you can ‘quick-sell” items on the go, but for a very reduced price. If you die while exploring, you will only keep the top row of your inventory, which means managing it as you go is vital. you will also encounter cursed items, which may destroy an adjacent item, meaning even the placement of items within the inventory is a challenge.
You can exit the dungeon at any time, it will cost you varying amounts of gold depending on how far you have progressed. Or if you make it to the end and beat the boss, you can leave for free. The greed aspect really comes in to play when you find a room that you are locked in. Say you have 3 spaces left, half health and a ton of loot in your bag, that is probably a good time to bail and cash in, right? Just leave, it’s not worth the risk, as locked rooms can be very difficult to handle, and if you die, that loot dies with you!
The combat in the game is basic, with 2 weapon slots, 2 attack types and an action roll for dodging, traversing and most importantly for me, being able to move quickly (read my other reviews and you’ll know what I mean, I’m speaking to you Agony). There are many different weapons and armour along with upgrades for each, it’s not an endless pit but there’s more than enough to suit most playstyles. The vast types of enemies and their different types of attack is just wonderful; you can see that some have been rehashed from previous dungeons to make them slightly different but who cares?! The game randomises each dungeon making everyone have a different experience, and I love this about the game. You can never fully prepare for a fight as you don’t know what it will be.
The music fits the game very well, changing for each level of the dungeon. The art style blew me away, so much colour with a very classic, old school feel. I have played for hours and have only encountered one bug, I died while trapped by my most hated enemy (they aren’t named, so let’s call it The Red Blob of Utter Frustration) and the game glitched so I couldn’t exit. This meant having to reboot the game but as there is an autosave each time you arrive in town I hadn’t lost too much progress. This is the only negative that the game has caused so far. The others have been caused by my greed and poor decisions, another reason to love it, your choices are the only thing stopping you from succeeding.
I hope that they port this to iOS as I could see me taking my iPad battery from 100-0% playing this game. I didn’t expect much, but have really fell in love with this game, Moonlighter is a charming work of art, I can’t wait to see what Digital Sun have in store for us next.
One of a kind game.
Incredible balance of gameplay and pace.
Quite slow to start, could lose people's attention.