The life/shop simulator has always been a niche genre, as while it can offer players an escape to a whole new other life, such as Stardew Valley, it can also be seen as an insufferable slog, much like everyday life.
Moonlighter, a mishmash of an RPG and simulator, from Spanish indie studio, Digital Sun, manages to find the sweet spot, of combining all the different aspects into a unique and utterly enjoyable time.
Players assume the role of a young lad, who inherits the Moonlighter, a shop in the quaint town of Rynoka. The townsfolk remain tight lip over the surroundings of the settlement, where several dungeons popped up many years ago. Many heroes have since passed through, and so have merchants, all looking for treasures to make a profit.
These dangerous dungeons have since been sealed up… until your arrival.
That is essentially the hook of the entire Moonlighter experience. At any time, you can choose to journey into the dungeons, exploring procedurally generated mazes packed full of enemies, treasures, and many other secrets.
Players are able to carry a limited amount of items in and out of the dungeons, aside from their weapons and armour, and Moonlighter forces you to make some tough decisions each time your backpack gets full.
Do you risk all your items by trying to beat the boss of the dungeon, use your trusty amulet to teleport back home by using some gold, or sell off certain items via the Mirror tool (for significantly less profit), to make space for potential valuables? It’s Torchlight all over again!
There are five different dungeons awaiting your visit, each consisting of three floors and the final boss level. While many different elements change with each new dungeon run, you will recognise familiar elements, such as the perpetual healing well pointing you in the right direction.
The environmental storytelling in Moonlighter is kind of hit or miss at times, scattering small hints and secrets you can find that seem to hint at a bigger story than it is letting on. The mysterious nature of the premise of the game will either put you off, or entice you at every corner.
Thankfully, the dungeon crawling itself remains always enjoyable. With five weapon types to choose from – the Swords and Shields, Big Swords, Spears, Gloves, and Bows – learning the tricks and positioning needed to outwit the many denizens of evil is a blast.
Armour can be upgraded, just like weapons, to provide increased protection, and a handy dodge roll is useful in most situations. It is especially important when facing the more capable bosses that punctuate each dungeon’s end. They bring their own rules to the battle and are often entertaining and challenging affairs that will test your mettle.
Your adventures, gear, and even upgrades to the shop and the town are fueled by cold, hard cash. A bigger shop needs money, so pump in the cash, and see new merchants set up in town. A better blade always requires investment, and you can even get an assistant for the right price.
To make that moolah, all the loot you gather can be put up for sale during the day. You choose what items to display, the price, and watch as customers stream in to judge, purchase, and even steal.
Price an item too high and the shoppers will let you know; put it too low, and they gleefully snap it up. It is all delivered in an adorable manner of emotions, and analyzing the market and finding the balance makes Moonlighter an even more irresistible prospect.
You can change the prices on the fly, replenish stocks, and help eager customers check out. On occasions when the unsavoury types decide to drop by and swipe your goods, you need to be alert and tackle them before they escape. Sometimes, it hurts more to have stuff stolen, than losing everything by dying.
Despite some balancing issues during our time with the game, the progression of Moonlighter is well-paced and excellently designed. The further you head into more difficult dungeons, the better the items you will find, and the more cash you can earn.
This progression and gameplay loop is simply addictive, and the satisfaction you get from each successful foray into the dark can be gleaned from your shiny new gear, and a prospering business.
It certainly rounds off the entire experience of Moonlighter well with its striking visuals and harmonious music. Each dungeon comes with its own distinct biome that is wonderfully realised and brought to life, and it is always nice to see Easter eggs and cameos that any video game fan would recognise.
Moonlighter is a brilliant piece of work that manages to mesh different mechanics together to make an intricately designed game. The elements of dungeon crawling, coupled with the always exciting shopkeeping dovetail flawlessly.
Add in great graphics, music, and tight controls, and we have a winner. Moonlighter might be an indie, but it should definitely be a must-buy for all gamers to experience its wonder.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A satisfying blend of making a killing, while doing plenty of killing.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 10/10
User Review( votes)
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help.