Moonlighter is a dungeon-crawler RPG indie game developed by Spanish studio Digital Sun with a twist.
The story revolves around an adventurous shop-keeper, our white-haired “Will”, who dreams of becoming a hero. In the quiet town of Ryoka, an archaeological excavation uncovered a set of gates – gates which lead to different dimensions which hold a whole new world of monsters, traps and numerous treasures. Will owns and runs his own store and those treasures will bring him a pretty penny as well as feeding his desire to prove himself to the world. However, as the short tutorial teaches us, things aren’t going to be that easy and you’ll definitely need to embrace the ‘trial and error’ method of getting through the levels of these dungeons. Running the store by day and fighting through swarms of enemies under the glow of moonlight, Will is our very own budget Batman.
But wait, there’s more to it than that. Moonlighter is also a low-cost Sim City. With the money and items you find on your adventures you can buy other stores to fill the village which you can then buy upgraded items, weapons and armour from making your travels a bit easier.
As I said, this game is anything but easy and if you’re not patient enough to die over and over again then maybe this game isn’t for you. However, if you can manage repetition (and trust me, there’s a lot of it) then you may really enjoy building through this game. Don’t worry, every time you step through the gates the dungeons may be pretty similar but the layouts are always randomised and mix things up a little. Also, the baddies you meet are switched up a little – from bouncing blobs which trap inside them you to floating suits of armour which can give you a hard whack with a sword and even static machines which fire blasts of energy, Moonlighter will keep you busy button bashing throughout.
The graphics of the game are similar to that of an updated version of the good ol’ Gameboy’s Pokemon and as I scurried around the village I had to remind myself that cutting through tall grass wasn’t going to let me encounter any kind of pocket monster.
Probably one of the things I enjoyed most about Moonlighter was its soundtrack – a number of serene tracks accompany you through your play and suit the world on a screen so well.
Anyway, back to gameplay – as you go through the dungeons and collect your treasures, you need to make it back to town alive (if you die, you lose everything and that’s just upsetting for everyone) by using a mysterious amulet to teleport yourself out of the caves. There you can put items up for sale, setting your own prices and opening the store to customers. Sometimes you have your wares too cheap and sometimes too pricey (you’ve just risked your life for these goods so they should just be grateful and pay you!) and finding the right balance may take you a while to master as you have to watch for customers reactions and adapt your pricing accordingly. Once you do start selling and stocking up your bank account then you can head out to other shops where you can buy better weapons and armour before heading back into the depths of hell.
One of the most annoying things about this game is that if there are a better shield and sword to be wielded then you’re going to need it. The game seems to taunt you with shinier swords that you can’t afford, but try to enter the dungeons with a less powerful weapon and you may as well sit on the streets of Ryoka and beg for more money as the monsters seem to upgrade as you do. It’s a vicious circle – need gold to buy better weapons, need better weapons to defeat monsters, need to defeat monsters to get gold. My advice is just to start small. Don’t go in guns blazing and aiming for the final boss straight away. Take your time and build yourself up to reap the rewards, get in, grab a few items and get out. This seems to be the only way to make sure you can move forward. Slow and steady wins the race.
All in all, I think Moonlighter is the perfect game to sink your teeth (thumbs) into if you have the stamina for a long fight. It’s not something you can quickly jump into whilst waiting for dinner to be ready. It’s more a game where you grab a pizza wrap up in your duvet and settle in for the evening if you want to see any noticeable progression. Once you get into the rhythm of things it can be really fun and as your village rebuilds it can give you quite a nice sense of achievement.