I liked the looks of this 2-D dungeon-crawling indie RPG, and seeing it had rouge-like elements had me interested as I’ve been wanting to try this genre that has been sweeping the nation.
The pixel art style in this game looks sharp and the music is catchy and calming in town while giving a mysterious tone in the dungeons and its melodic strings work very well at not growing tiring. The environments, enemies, and animation are all thoughtful and colorful and fun and bring so much life and character to the game.
When moonlighter opened up and introduced me to its addicting dungeon-crawling gameplay loop I was happy, but when it started to show its RPG elements alongside that loop, I was very excited. The cherry on top was the story that gave me just enough to keep me intrigued and allowed me to uncover the mystery for myself within the dungeons.
The combat in the game is simple yet effective. The top-down 2-D action allows movement in any direction, including diagonally, while dodging enemies and projectiles. Four different weapon classes exist and give options for two different strikes (or a strike and a block in the case of the sword and shield). This pretty much tells the whole story of combat, but enemies are challenging and varied and forced me to utilize different weapons and strategies. When I pop into a room and see 10 enemies of varying types, thinking quickly and strategizing are important, and my skills are truly tested.
However, the combat will only ever be what I described above. Bosses offer different challenges but those looking for the combat to get deeper and more complicated as the game progresses will be disappointed. Even with stronger and upgraded weapons and armor, the options remain limited. Although there will always be room to improve my skills, I grew a little tired of the combat once I had tried each weapon class. As I got deeper into the game it turned into more of a grind that felt less special. Moving forward typically just meant saving up to buy better gear to be able to take down the dungeon. There is nothing wrong with this gameplay loop I just wish they gave more ways to keep the dungeons and the combat fresh.
Looting, Crafting, and Selling
The crawling through the rogue-like procedurally generated dungeons is addictive and getting loot from each trek into the dungeon and dipping out to sell it was a gameplay loop that had me hooked.
Loot is hidden deep in the dungeons that can be sold back at the shop for money. Money and loot can be used to craft new weapons, potions, and armor. This better armor allows me to get deeper into the dungeon and get better loot. Rinse and repeat. Each aspect plays into itself so thoughtfully.
What sets this game apart from other “looter” games is that the selling aspect of this loop is its own challenge and an important part of the game. Managing the shop is engaging and interesting and a necessary part of the equation in this game. I will admit that as I progressed, I grew less and less interested in shop. After learning the best prices for most items in the dungeon the selling was more of a formality than an interesting chance to maximize my profits.
Crafting as well is an important part of the equation, but the options are so limited that it felt again like more of a formality after the first dungeon. “Seeing the numbers go up” is an important part of any RPG and is what keeps people upgrading and leveling up, but it just fell a bit short here for me as I wish there were a few more options in weapon and armor upgrades that affected gameplay more. At the end of the day this is a small-scale indie game and I can’t expect every aspect of this game to be as deep as The Witcher. It is probably a good sign of how much I enjoyed this game that I kept wanting more.
Overall, every part of the dungeon-crawling, looting, selling, crafting, and inventory management work together perfectly in this game, and I was just left wishing for a little more depth.
Story and World
The story of Moonlighter is wrapped in mystery, as the main character Will is tasked with upkeeping his late father’s store: The Moonlighter. Will sets up shop during the day while dreaming of becoming a hero and exploring the mysterious dungeons outside of town at night. Four different dungeons exist and after unlocking them one by one the unknown fifth door will be unlocked. The story that is set up is simple and interesting but was not too memorable in the end for me.
As good and intriguing as the dungeons are, I was even more interested and captivated by the town of Rynoka. As I progressed, I was able to help build back up the town by helping to fund an armor forge, an item shop, a bank and more. This was very interesting to me and it was so disappointing to see that this aspect too lacked depth. I wished there was more to the town, more ways to interact with NPCs, more ways to build up and customize Rynoka.
Moonlighter doesn’t do much wrong. The world and story that it sets up are interesting, its rogue-like dungeons are challenging, its looting and selling gameplay loop is addictive, and its RPG elements are rewarding. This charming pixel-art adventure holds a lot within it, but after getting past the first dungeon I was left asking for more options.
Progressing deeper into the game the loop didn’t change enough to keep me engaged to the end. I wish there were more weapons, more crafting options, and more ways to interact in the town, more ways to keep the game fresh. This may be asking too much for an indie game, though, that ultimately does give a decent amount of content and challenges to overcome. I would still recommend almost anyone try out Moonlighter as this game is memorable even if it ended up being a little shallower than I wish it was.
Charming story and world
Rewarding looting and selling loop
Challenging and interesting dungeons
Underwhelming crafting and combat options
Little to keep to the gameplay loop fresh
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