Moonlighter Review (PC)

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Developer: Digital Sun
Publisher: 11 bit studios

Main Review

Review Context: I’ve previously played other games that involved selling weapons in a shop, like Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! and Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale.
Date of Playthrough: June 11, 2018

PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: 
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: 
Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 
8 GB
Video Card: 
GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Resolution: 1280×800

Disclaimer: This review was based off of a review copy.

Moonlighter, developed by Digital Sun, is an action RPG, where you get to be a shopkeeper and run your own weapon shop. Will, an inheritor of a shop called Moonlighter in the town of Rynoka is given full control of the shop and is tasked to stock, supply, and keep business rolling. You have to go into Gates of dungeons and defeat Guardians of Dungeons to get keys to move on to the next gate. Throughout this process you are bringing items found in the Gates to your shop to sell, upgrading your shop, and upgrading your own weapons/armor to advance further in a rogue-lite type environment.

The process of building up your shop stock starts by entering the first Gate dungeon (Forest). You start out with a sweeper, a cheap broom weapon, but you are eventually given a training sword and shield. The combat in Moonlighter, to me, requires a controller, as I can’t see how keyboard and mouse would work. Your combat approach needs to be careful, as you take a lot of damage for each hit, especially the beginning of the game. The 2D dungeon layout setting is similar to that of The Legend of Zelda and The Binding of Isaac, with many connecting rooms on the different sides. The rooms have traps, obstacles, enemies, and most of all, treasure chests. In order to open the treasure chests every enemy in the room has to be defeated. Treasure chests and can contain many items, usually rarer items, but killing enemies also drops items. This is where inventory management comes into play.

Moonlighter

Moonlighter has a lot of inventory management, much more inventory management than other games I’ve played with lots of loot, like Diablo or Diablo 2. In this game, every item takes up a slot in the backpack, and some items even have specific requirements of where it can be placed. For example, an item may only be able to be placed on the top or bottom of the bag. Items can also contain curses that can affect a nearby item. For example, an item may be cursed where if an item is placed next to it, then it will be destroyed upon returning to town. There are also positive curses that can removed curses from items and duplicate items. All of these elements must be managed while going through the dungeon, but be careful, because if you move too slow through a dungeon a giant slime monster will track you down and kill you in one hit, forcing you to lose all your newly found items.

The give and take of Moonlighter in the dungeons is risk management, by deciding when the proper time to return to town is to fill up your shop with items. In your backpack only a select amount of items will be saved if you die, so using the special abilities available to you to leave the dungeon is very important at the right times. When leaving the dungeon the dungeon resets, but there is a special portal that can be purchased and used inside the dungeon that will allow you to return to the same instance and continue, but for a hefty price.

Managing your shop as a shopkeeper is a bit tedious, as you price items, and wait for customers to buy them. The gameplay loop of running your shop is you price items, wait for customers to look at your items, and then wait for their reactions of your prices. If the customers want to buy your item you have ring it up at the register manually, but if they don’t like your price of an item an unhappy face is shown and it gets logged. The game does a good job of giving you a big tracking guide of every item you sell, logs the prices that are successful and unsuccessful. During the period that customers are buying or rejecting your items you have the opportunity to change the prices, as if you are haggling, to see if the price is now satisfying. For me, I always started reasonably high and worked myself lower until the item was bought. You are given more than enough time to place items, you open up the shop for customers manually, and you can either close up the shop manually for each day or wait for the timer to run out.

This process of going to the dungeon, returning to town, running your shop, and returning the dungeon to reach the boss can be slow if you don’t have a plan of how to use your gold each segment. There are different weapons and armors in the game, like sword and shield, two-handed sword, gauntlets, bow, and spear. If you try to use every weapon in the game then you will never progress, as I found the best way was to pick two weapon setups that are swappable during combat and stick to them. The way to progress your shop is by purchasing upgrades in the town that will allow you to put more items up for sale, but also give you perks to earn extra gold, like a tip jar, as well as other things. You can also use gold to unlock other shopkeepers around town, for example the weapon and armor crafter and the enchanter. With the enchanter, you can increase the damage of your weapons, or increase your HP with armor enchanting. The reason why it is best to pick specific weapons and types of armor is that you have the ability to wishlist all the items you want and whenever you get materials required for them, those items are tagged. What this does is make it easy for you to figure out which materials you can sell in your shop, and what items you might want to save in your treasure chests in your shop for future use. If you try to craft every new item of weapon and armor, then you will always run out of gold, as they are expensive purchases. I personally found it ridiculous that you have to purchase the shopkeepers and other locations in town as a gold sink, given how expensive things are already.

As you level up your shop level, your shop will get more complicated to manage. Thieves will enter your shop trying to steal your item, but you have the ability to tackle them and get your item back. This happened almost every time, making it another tedious and annoying thing to keep track of. As I played the game further, the progression felt mechanical and just like a pure power creep, going from weapon upgrade to weapon upgrade, just increasing numbers. As the game continued, the combat sequences felt more boring, bland, and too many of the enemies are bit of the same. Although tackling the Guardians of Dungeons felt satisfying due to the time investment you made getting to the boss room, if you powered your weapon and armor upgrades through the enchanter well enough, the Guardians felt like a ‘walk in the park’ during battle, with little to no challenge.

Moonlighter is a difficult game for me to give a definitive recommendation, as the pixel art is very good, as is the soundtrack. The soundtrack adds to the setting by providing a proper audio backdrop in each part of the game. Many hours will be spent playing Moonlighter, but many of those hours will feel long, repetitive, and as mentioned above, just feel like a power creep. Once I figured out the way to play the game efficiently, the experience felt formulaic going level to level, with essentially the same upgrade and portal strategy. That being said, of the “weapon shop” genre of games, Moonlighter is the best one I’ve played so far, with a lot of options for you to run and upgrade your shop. Digital Sun has stated that the game will be continually updated, and I will definitely monitor what changes come in the future, as some tweaks in the game could drastically make the game experience more enjoyable.

Similar Games Liked:
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale

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