Developer: Digital Sun
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: May 29th 2018 (PS4, XB1, PC) / Q3 2018 (Switch)
Price: $19.99 USD / $29.95 AUD – Available Here
Publisher 11 bit studios and the developers from Digital Sun Games want us to work day and night shift in Moonlighter. We took a closer look at the Action-RPG with rogue-lite elements and tell you what we think about trying to be a hero at night while following our job as a shopkeeper during the day.
We are playing Will, a shopkeeper who wants to become a hero one day. The village Rynoka is known for heroes and merchants but Will wants to be both at the same time. One of the reasons for this is being the last family member alive who can continue the legacy, the Moonlighter shop. He takes the decision to explore dungeons, fight monsters at night and sell artifacts together with other items during the day. Will’s goal is to get stronger and stronger until he can prove he’s a hero, but a long and dangerous road lies ahead of him.
The developers mentioned, that they drew inspiration for Moonlighter from titles like Rogue Legacy, The Binding of Isaac and The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. If I’d have to describe the game, I’d call it a mix between Hometown Story and The Binding of Isaac. Our adventure starts with Will having a broom in his hand, which he uses to fight the first monsters. We have access to only one of the five dungeons at the beginning and as we collect items and advance through the different levels of it, we notice that it’s getting more and more difficult. This is the moment where we have to take a decision: Do we continue and risk our life or shall we return to the village? If we die, then our items are lost and we have to start from the beginning. As the dungeons are randomly generated we can then enter again from scratch. This element really helps to create tension while at the same time it can quickly put you in a frustrating situation.
To make life in the dungeons a bit easier we can make use of a teleporter at a certain point, which allows us to continue where we left. This can be helpful if our inventory is full with quality items and we don’t want to risk losing them. If we don’t want to come back and instead start all over again, then we can use a special pendant to get out of the dungeon. Both of these helpful options come at a cost and so we have to make sure to always carry enough cash. This job is done by a magic mirror, that allows us to transform items into gold on the go, as we’ll find a lot of stuff compared to our limited inventory slots, which can not be expanded throughout the game. Another interesting feature is the positioning in our inventory where we have to find the perfect solution. Some items are cursed and can for example only be placed at the top or bottom. There’s even the possibility that another item is getting destroyed if we pick up a cursed one. On the other hand we can also use the curses to our advantage as some give us the chance to teleport items directly into our chest located in the shop. Personally I found this a very interesting mechanic regarding inventory management, as you normally loot whatever drops on the ground without even taking a look at it, right?
Equipment also plays an important role in Moonlighter. We can craft a bunch of different potions with the right ingredients and of course a variety of different weapons and armor sets. While a bow gives us the advantage to attack from the distance, we can also use a big sword or a smaller one with a shield to block attacks. During combat we can only switch between two weapons and as different enemies are waiting in the dungeons, preparation is key. Effects like poison damage can be very helpful, but as we have to enter the five different dungeons various times you might want to get used to the different enemy types in there first. As everything in Moonlighter comes with a cost, I found myself doing a lot of hit and run action, to avoid getting hurt. At the final level of every dungeon there is a boss fight waiting for you.
As soon as we are arriving in the village with our loot, we take on the role of the shopkeeper. Value and demand are the two things, that we have to balance. We can place the products, set a price for them and the expressions of our clients will help us to define the right amount. To give you a more specific example: If there’s a high demand for a special item we have to take care not to oversell it, as this reduces the value. As we don’t know the value of an item before we see the first expression, it can also happen that we sell items with a higher value too cheap. Besides adjusting our prices we have to keep our eyes on every client as Rynoka is also home of some sneaky thieves. An indicator shows us if someone is trying to escape with an unpaid item and we have to catch him before he reaches the exit. During our adventure we can purchase upgrades and even get an assistant, who allows us to fight monsters during the day without having to close the shop. Villagers are still telling stories that there’s a higher chance to find better artifacts at night though. So in the end, you choose between quantity or quality and play Moonlighter the way you want!
Visuals & Audio
Moonlighter uses pixel art, which gives the whole game a nostalgic touch. The villagers and enemies are nicely detailed. Still I have to admit, that I can totally imagine playing Moonlighter with 3D graphics! The soundtrack from David Fenn, who also composed the music for Titan Souls, fits the title very well. While usually some melodies in games can get annoying after hearing them over and over again, he did a great job avoiding this in Moonlighter. I would even go this far and call the soundtrack my personal highlight.
Moonlighter combines a dual nature but you’ll find yourself quickly in a position, where the gameplay is getting very repetitive. The dungeons differ visually from each other, but I would’ve liked to see more enemy types and some environmental puzzles. I also miss more life in the village and maybe some events. The story is unfortunately only a minor matter. Moonlighter offers so much potential but what remains is an interesting idea that lacks depth.