Playing the role of an adventurer while also being a shopkeeper seems like a pretty lucrative lifestyle, and it’s a wonder this isn’t explore more in games. Opposed to finding a store that will buy your trash at whatever price they deem, you get to set your own prices for everything you sell. Explore dungeons, learn the secrets they hold, sell treasure, and rebuild the town you live in. That’s the premise of Moonlighter.
The title of the game serves a couple of purposes – it’s your family name, and you’re the last in the line of store owners, but you also moonlight as an explorer despite the advice of your elder who says you should get out safely once you’ve gotten enough items to pawn off at your store. And this is the addictive gameplay loop that you’ll come to love over the course of the game. While exploring the dungeons, you must make use of your storage and decide when it’s best to head back by teleporting at the cost of some gold. You can only hold a limited amount of items at a time, and if you die, only the items shown on the character will still be available – all the bagged goods will be lost. The storage of items becomes a pretty big part of the game, as goods you find in chests will have different requirements to keep them, such as destroying an item in a given direction, not taking a certain amount of damage while it’s in your possession, turning a selected item into the item shown, among others. After progressing in the first dungeon you’ll come across a way to sell merchandise to make room while in the dungeon, albeit at a much lower amount than you’d be able to make at your store.
Once you’re selling stuff at the store, it’s important to realize that people won’t buy something that’s way overpriced; you can gauge prices by looking in your journal as it determines what is too cheap, just right, a bit overpriced, and way overpriced with what you’ve attempted. Once you’ve made some money, it’s time to invest it. In addition to adding new people to the town which will help with your exploration in the dungeons, you can also upgrade your store. This allows for you to sell more, store more, and actually introduces more elements like thieves and different types of shoppers looking for certain merchandise.
To upgrade your character, you’ll make him some new gear with items you find in the dungeons in addition to gold. This means you have to balance the items you sell and the ones you use for yourself. Of course, this would be much more difficult if the game didn’t offer its wish list feature, which allows you to highlight the items you want to make, which tags any items in your inventory that you need for crafting. This means you only have yourself to blame for selling that rare item you needed for your new sword and shield, bow and arrow, spear, longsword, or gloves. After buying your new gear, you can enchant it to boost the stats of them even more – this goes for any defensive gear you make too. Should you have the money to burn, you can always purchase items from a shop instead of finding them yourself.
When exploring the dungeons, you can have two different weapons equipped at a time, and switch between them on the fly. You have a normal attack and a charge attack (or block with the sword and shield), a dodge roll, and potions for your basic arsenal. Each level of a dungeon has a pool that will restore your health, rooms full of enemies that you may or may not have to demolish to move on, and other secret locations. You’ll find an assortment of lore as you explore, learning more about what exactly is going on with these dungeons. At the end of each dungeon you’ll come across a boss, all of which are absolutely beautiful to look at, but none of which are all that difficult battle wise. Assuming you’ve got a solid setup, these will last a couple minutes. Probably the biggest danger you’ll face is time, as a slime-like ghost appears if you take too long to complete a room, much like the ghost in Spelunky.
The saddest thing about the experience is that it’s plagued with technical issues. When I first started it, I noticed item descriptions being misspelled (shwon instead of shown), but it soon became more than that. While exploring on the last level of dungeons, the boss would be introduced randomly in incorrect rooms. That’s all fine and dandy, but soon the attacks would be hounding me in other rooms, which resulted in the ghost spawning more than I wanted. In addition to that, beating bosses spawns a large chest with unique treasure you’re likely not to find elsewhere. Sadly, on multiple occasions I found the swapping of said treasures into my bag a bit problematic – so much so that the game froze and booted me to the dashboard. As mentioned, the bosses aren’t too difficult, but having your first victory followed by lost progress due to the crash leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
The game’s story is interesting, both the dungeon and store gameplay is solid, and the art as well as the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful. If it weren’t for all the technical issues, this game would be near perfect. Surely a few patches could rectify this, and I hope they do, as this is something truly special that people will no doubt fall in love with. As the dungeons change each time you enter them, there’s plenty of replayability, so there’s a reason to keep coming back. If you’re looking for something addictive that you can play in spurts, this comes highly recommended.
8 out of 10
- Dungeon Crawling/Shop Keeping
- Beautiful Pixel Art and Animation
- Soothing Soundtrack
- Many Technical Issues
Moonlighter was developed by Digital Sun and published by 11 Bit Studios. It launched on PC, PS4, and X1 May 29th, 2018 for $19.99. The game was provided to us for review on X1. If you’d like to see more of Moonlighter, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.