The main staples of a good dungeon crawler are present. I mean, what would a dungeon crawler be without loot, challenging dungeons, upgradable gear and a decent story line. Moonlighter puts the player into the shoes of an adventurer and shopkeeper. By day players run a small town shop trying to hold onto its successful past and by nightfall, the players’ protagonist is knee deep in dungeons pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a hero.
Crawling in my… Dungeon!
The overall dungeon crawling aspect is lifted straight out of the all-time classic Legend of Zelda. However, the fighting and dodging mechanics can be likened to the Dark Souls series. Hit, dodge, wait, hit, dodge methods are the best way to go about combat. On the flip side, smaller enemies can be wiped out without much effort.
Hits have to be timed perfectly which sometimes can lead to the odd slip up, but once players get around the learning curve there is no beef to be had with this design choice. Death in Moonlighter is by no means the end; however, players will lose the majority of their loot in their inventory. This isn’t the roguelike gameplay where players can run around cracking skulls. One found it is always best practice to assess each room when entering before taking on monsters. Although, if players take too long our protagonist will be chased out of the room by some kind of slimy ghost creature; which at this point, this writer would advise running.
“Yep, this is the best finisher pose by far!”
Loot, not to be confused with ‘A Lute’
This means that players can collect loot to then sell to buyers themselves, instead of taking a cut at the fortune at a normal NPC store. Items can be set at whatever price players desire; however, NPC customers will be quick to judge on whether the item is worth it by showing speech bubble emotes. Players can then guesstimate a reasonable value to their items for sale to great effect. With a chest available for overstock and an in-dungeon mechanic of selling items at a cut rate to free up inventory, this writer found the whole experience very addictive and enjoyable.
Inventory management is also a key component in this game. Some loot can sometimes have curses or various effects which can impact the condition or value of said item. This means players may have to place certain items at the top or bottom of their inventory or keep them away from other items. Although it sounds like a chore, the effect of this little mini game of sorts gives more value to these items, which you can go and sell for yourself.
Whadda Ya Buyin!? Whadda Ya Sellin!?
Weapons and armour can also be found in the wild with a few variants to match the players preferred play style. One prefers having an oversized broadsword for fully offensive gameplay for example. There will come a time when getting further into dungeons and progressing through levels becomes harder and harder, but this is when that hard earned gold comes in handy.
Firstly, the merchant charm our protagonist carries around can teleport players out of dungeons for a fee. This can come in extremely handy when there are no healing pools in sight and health potions are scarce. Secondly, players can choose to invest in revitalizing the town with various merchants and services such as blacksmiths, potion makers and other bespoke points of interest. This in turn draws more people into town which give players more opportunities to flog inventory until their heart’s content.
“Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Saviour Goo Ghost!?”
Smooth, Like Ice!
This games reviewer fell in love with the style and animation in Moonlighter, maybe because it borrows heavily from the Game Boy Advance title LoZ: Minish Cap. Pixel art is lovingly animated to realistic rhythms and forgoes the usual Mortal Kombat result and transcends its own genre of art. It is simply a pleasure to look at. Character movement and environmental effects such as wind have not been overlooked in this title, unlike most dungeon crawlers in the Indie scene.
In game menus are also nicely laid out and additionally has been mapped to the shoulder buttons complete with shortcuts. These are mostly for selecting more than one item out of the chest and inventory. This added feature becomes invaluable as the game progresses as it gives quick access to much needed items at critical times. Another nice menu addition is records of customers’ reactions to pricing of goods. This can come in useful as players explore more dungeons and collect more and more items. With that being said, players need to make sure that they keep items necessary for gear upgrades and creation.
The soundtrack is very in tune with the games overall tone and mood. Players can sync up with tone changes without much effort thanks to a well paced and thought out score. Sound effects match the overall aesthetic of the game, harkening back to a simpler time of chip tunes and graphical prowess measured in bits.
“I thought this was my shop Zenon?”
Graphics and Presentation: 4.5
Overall Score: 4.5/5
Moonlighter is a breath of fresh air and signals the end of an era in this reviewer’s opinion. Although repetitive at points, this is the nature of the dungeon crawling genre. Our protagonists’ strength is only measured by his gear, coin and items. And that’s absolutely fine, Moonlighter was worth every minute.
Formats: PlayStation 4 Pro (Reviewed), Xbox One and Steam
Price: £15.99 (PlayStation Store)
Publisher: Digital Sun
Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Release Date: 29/05/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 7+
Review copy provided by publisher