Release Date: May 29, 2018
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Developer: Digital Sun
Morgan (reviewing on PC):
I don’t know what it is about pixel art games that makes them so addictive to me, but new release Moonlighter is certainly no exception. In fact, Moonlighter might be one of the most addictive games I’ve played in a very long time. As soon as I had I left one of the dungeons I wanted to sell my loot in my shop, as soon as I sold my loot I wanted to go back into the dungeons to find more expensive loot to sell. It was a never-ending cycle of fun!
Created by Spanish indie developers, Digital Sun, Moonlighter is a roguelite with one very important twist: your character is a shopkeeper, not a hero. Will’s goal might be to adventure through the final, mysterious dungeon near the village, but in the meantime he has to keep his family’s shop open. Potions, swords and armour cost money after all! That’s about all the story Moonlighter has but that’s really all it needs. The game is part roguelite dungeon crawl and part shop management simulator, and strangely enough those the combination of the two genres creates a near-perfect balance.
A main part of the game is exploring the local dungeons, hoping monsters drop loot that will give you a good price. This area is where the majority of the combat is, and for me at least, where the majority of the challenge of the game was as well. The combat itself was a lot of fun, and despite being pretty simple, changed a lot based on the weapons used. I found that different weapons were more suited to different fights though, which adds an extra layer of challenge as I tried to decide which weapons to bring on each raid. I also found the dungeons more frustrating than shopkeeping, particularly as some restrictions on fast travel meant that I was often repeating the first level of the dungeon far more than I felt necessary. It’s a very small nitpick, but it lead me to feel frustrated with some of the dungeon segments as the game went on, despite still mostly enjoying them.
The other half of the game is the shopkeeping which mostly revolves around pricing items with no idea of their true value, as well as defending your store from thieves. I absolutely loved this part of the game as it showcased some really clever bits of design. I loved the idea of the sales notebook in particular which gives you hints to each item’s true value by recording customers’ reactions to its price. There’s also a great bit of visual design in the thieves as each one enters your store wearing a scarf over his face, which gives you a hint to keep an eye on that customer. The shop, and the town in general are a triumph of visual design.
Without a doubt, Moonlighter is one of the most visually beautiful pixel art games in a very long time. The artists at Digital Sun have included much more detail than I would usually expect in similar looking games of the current generation, especially in the town. The soundtrack is great as well. The shop music especially is incredibly catchy, and has become a favourite to hum around my house in the last few days. For me at least, there’s very little to criticise.
Moonlighter is one of the most fun games I’ve played in a while. It doesn’t have the most fascinating story, but with such fun game mechanics, such pretty visuals and such a great idea, it doesn’t need to. It’s a game I can see myself going back to again and again over the years. In fact, I can’t wait for my next sale/adventure.
Ryan (reviewing on PS4):
The developers were kind enough to drop two copies of Moonlighter to The Gamers Lounge, specifically asking for us to take a look at both (Morgan's being PC, whilst mine was PS4). The game is releasing on all systems, but the Switch version is coming at a later date. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Moonlighter, I'd have loved to had the Switch edition, as it really fits the theme and feel of the game: exploring in the wild and returning home. The short-burst gameplay would work well in the portable scene. In discussion, we haven't seen a lot different in play styles. The controller setup is logical and intuitive.
Overall, I agree with Morgan's feelings on core gameplay. The dungeons (at least) start out a bit daunting, while the shop is a whole new mechanic. I've had a few times where I wish my hand was held more in both areas, like the sword enemy in the dungeon who hits you immediately after you hit him, unless you use the shield, or how you literally have no idea of how much an item is worth until you sell a few, haggling back and forth like the Price is Right. In both instances, it's perfectly feasable to drop you in like that, but I wish the sales notebook had a bit of information already in it, given this shop has been handed down for generations.
Speaking of, I do agree I haven't seen a depth of story, which saddened me after seeing the cinematic trailer that advertised the game. It's more of a set-up to the game than a depiction of what happens during. The story also mentions a myriad of adventurers who come through the town, and you see them in your shop, but I wish they had a bit of a tale to tell themselves. The Monkey Island/Zelda motif is really beautiful. Throughout the game, as well as the trailer I watched, it's a joy to see such well-crafted pixel art. I will add a disclaimer that I have not gotten to the end of the game, so I'm hoping as time goes on that trailer gets played out in flashbacks, or we see the growth of the hero on his journey to open the Fifth Gate.
My section shows a lot of criticism simply because Morgan took care of the synopsis and lauded it plenty. I agree with her views, and feel that Moonlighter is a fun game worth a purchase, especially at its budget $19.99 price. With a progressive roguelite mixed into a business management game, Moonlighter helps us see another side of the traditional RPG tale, and what it takes to be one of the random citizens of a town your average adventurer may barrel through, only caring if he can stock up on potions. Moonlighter helps you see what it takes to stock the shelves.
- Very, very pretty game
- Fun combat
- Interesting shopkeeping mechanic
- No real story
- Explanations of both shop and combat mechanics can be confusing and/or not detailed enough to be helpful