Developer(s) – Digital Sun Studios & 11 BIT Studios
A joint venture between Digital Sun Studios & 11-BIT Studios, Moonlighter is a top-down action RPG Rogue-lite with community simulation elements similar to games like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. Picking this game up for the first few times, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of depth and replayability this game has to offer, and I enjoyed it a great deal.
Graphics – 8/10
Rendered in an 8-BIT visual style similar to classic adventure games such as the Legend of Zelda and Ys, the game takes place in the village of Rynoka with dangerous caves on it’s outskirts containing a plethora of intricately designed creatures each with their own unique individual looks and concepts. The variety in conceptual design is unprecedented, and the scenery is just as wonderful to look at throughout the entire game. There are also a series of cutscenes rendered in 8-BIT at the start of the game, which are fantastically well presented, and do extremely well to set the premise of the game.
Gameplay – 9/10
The game requires the player to delve into a series of dungeons battling against dangerous enemies to gather up as much loot as possible in every one venture, and then to sell what loot is acquired at a shop in Rynoka named Moonlighter for prices that can be adjusted by the player in accordance to what customers deem acceptable. Each dungeon is procedurally generated, so each venture in the dungeons offers a new challenge to the player and different loot with every playthrough, including weapons, enemy components and armour among many other things. The game has an overwhelming amount of replayability, and whilst it is a challenging game from the start, it does get exponentially harder as time goes on, whilst remaining thankfully accessible to players; much like Rogue Legacy, but on a much grander scale in terms of gameplay value.
Controls – 10/10
I say this many times with a lot of games I review, but as Moonlighter’s gameplay follows a formula that has been tried and tested many times, it’s reasonable to expect that there should be no problems with the controls, and so there aren’t. What makes this game stand out from the likes of The Legend of Zelda, however, are the additional mechanics such as rolling around to avoid enemy attacks. It’s similar to Titan Souls, but a lot less simplistic in basic design, as there is arguably more strategy required in Moonlighter to defeat the greater amount of enemies.
Lifespan – 9/10
The game’s replay value can make for hours upon hours of entertainment, which is always fantastic to experience; especially in an indie game. A lot of indie developers tend to make games, which are much shorter for various reasons, but games like this just go to show that limitations can only exist in the imagination, and that smaller budgets don’t necessarily mean indie games have to last only a few hours each. But with Moonlighter, it can be played for far, far longer, and whilst some gamers may think that lifespan isn’t as important, I’m firmly in the belief that the longer a game can be made to last, the better it is; and that’s certainly the case with this title.
Storyline – 6/10
The story primarily focuses on a basic premise as opposed to a progressive narrative. It follows a man named Will, who is the owner of a shop in the village of Rynoka named Moonlighter, who has aspirations to become a great adventurer in addition. There are hints of an ongoing narrative with the various clues that the player can find throughout each dungeon to progress through the game, but it can be quite difficult to present a story in that way and to keep it emotionally charged in a game; especially if it’s heavily text-based like Moonlighter is. If, however, players have the patience to discover the depth in story in this way, then the game’s story isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination.
Originality – 8/10
Though this game is not without it’s influences, each element comes together to form something particularly special and unique. I said earlier that developer limitations can only exist in the imagination, but after playing this game, it became obvious to me that the developers of Moonlighter certainly have abundance in imagination in most of every aspect that players can hope to find evidence of it in. The way the game looks, the length that it last and the manner in which it plays out is makes it unlike many other games I’ve played, and its earned every bit of the popularity it has done through it’s community if players.
In summation, Moonlighter is a fantastic game that I would greatly recommend to any fan of either RPGs or simulator games that may also be looking for a stern challenge in gameplay. It looks great, plays great, and stands out more than many other indie titles I’ve played over the years.