Developer: Digital Sun Games
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action, Adventure, Role-Playing & Simulation
Release Date: November 5, 2018 (EU & NA)
*Please note, some screenshots were provided by presskit and may not reflect the Switch version.
A tale of dungeon retail!
Digital Sun’s, Moonlighter has finally found its way on to the Switch after being released on multiple platforms over the last year. The Switch release brings all of the enjoyment found in the other releases along with the portability of this Zelda-like dungeon crawler with a shopkeeper aspect that differentiates itself from other games in the genre.
The main idea behind Moonlighter’s story comes in the meshing of a few genres in this one cohesive story. You play as Will, a shopkeeper by day, dungeon master by night. In his town of Rynoka, a small village set near the five gates that lead to different worlds Will runs the family store where he sells the vast array of artifacts and loot dropped by fallen monsters in the various dungeon locales.
Along the way, you will upgrade your shop and some of the other stores around helping to build the economy of Rynoka and allow Will to venture deeper into the caverns all the way through to the final gate.
Each dungeon layout and its varied monster inhabitants change with each playthrough giving Moonlighter some rogue-like elements to its gameplay style. Think of it in some ways to the recent Switch release Dead Cells, but in an art style that is more reminiscent of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Each time you enter the gates in Rynoka you can move throughout the dungeons room by room defeating enemies of varied strength and difficulty levels while looting their corpses, treasure chest and picking finding items scattered throughout the rooms.
As you progress deeper into the dungeons the loot usually becomes rarer and rarer which is then used to either craft items or sell off to others in your village for profit. The game is split into these two areas, dungeon crawling and shopkeeper. The game features a day/night cycle which limits your abilities to do certain tasks.
During the day your shop can be open and you can place items on your store shelves to entice people to buy. Understanding the availability of an item, as well as its price in the world and setting realistic prices, think real-world MSRP/list prices of items, customers will either give you a smile or sad face, along with a money saving ‘wide eye’ as they buy from you.
Along with running a shop during the day, you are welcome to go and talk with people in the village or visit the message board where you can pay to have other shops open up in your town. These shops offer a variety of upgrades such as expanding your store as well as a potions shop and armory. At the potions and enchantments shop, you can order health items using the loot you find or buy them outright if you have enough coin.
The armory allows you to forge better items such as swords and shields with upgraded attack bonuses, boots which increase movement speed and armor which adds defense and health points to Will. These upgrades are essential in progressing through the dungeons and should not be overlooked.
You will also want to spread out your upgrades as sinking too much money into one over the other will result in missing out on certain early game upgrades that can help you in the dungeon grind and in your day to day shopkeeping tasks.
These stores tend to allow for trading and forging of items you will find and collect in the wild along with a price point for upgrading and paying for these items. I found that it was extremely helpful to me in setting items to a wish list, which stars an item in your inventory as your collect them in the dungeons.
During the day you can visit the dungeons for an easier playthrough, but the items you will find and their rareness will vary greatly. I would advise playing the dungeons mostly at night, when it’s more dangerous but the items you will find are better and increase in value.
Because of Moonlighter’s rouge-like nature there is a high risk, high reward system built into the game. As you venture deeper into the dungeons you may find your backpack bursting at the seams of valuable and trash items.
You can trade out some items for less gold to make room for the better stuff, or if you have the coin you can use an item you will find in the game to create a warp point which allows you to go back to your shop and sell off your items and return to that place in the dungeon the following night.
I found myself enjoying the risk and reward that Moonlighter throws at you. Moonlighter has a great “just one more room” approach to its design enticing me to venture further and further into the dungeon.
Oftentimes though my greed usually got the better of me and I would end up dying and losing everything. The game would sometimes spike in difficulty fairly frequently throwing multiple enemies at you in a room and dying can be depressing when you see your backpack empty out on the floor.
There isn’t a lot of variety in the various dungeons but the overall enemy design and dungeon rooms are creative and engaging. Moonlighter takes a lot of cues from The Legend of Zelda franchise in a homage to its source material in how you navigate through rooms one by one as well as its overall presentation. The combat is a bit slower and methodical as you will need to block, roll, and slash at enemies to wear them down but I never felt it was dull or repetitive.
Each dungeon and the overworld areas have their own musical scores. There isn’t anything really memorable here, but at the same time the game’s music is spot on and fitting with the game itself and helps to engage you the various dungeon rooms and town management aspects of the game.
Your character doesn’t talk, but there is game audio like monsters dying, sword and staff slashes, and beeps and boops as you navigate your inventory. The games audio is fitting and harkens back to the SNES RPG games I played growing up.
Moonlighter has a very endearing art style to it. If you ever played a 16-bit era RPG or even The Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past and liked it, the pixel world of Moonlighter will feel familiar to you. The game is gorgeous to look at and the detail in even the smallest of enemies and dungeon rooms will draw you into its world.
I played Moonlighter mostly in docked mode and while the game does have loading screens as you pop in and out of environments, dungeons, and move through the game, none of those were long or obtrusive to the game play. I did not experience any game breaking bugs or frame rate drops even with the boss monsters taking up half the screen or jumping into a room filled with monster minions.
Moonlighter is a unique twist and blend on the dungeon crawling adventure games like Zelda or even the caves in Stardew Valley meshed with the storefront of something like Animal Crossings. The game is great and fun in short burst or long grind sessions.
There is an appeal throughout Moonlighter to go just one more round, one more room, one more dungeon and a high reward system for risking it all. The game is sure to appeal to any entrepreneurial adventurer who wants to jump into a rogue-like game and set up shop in their local village.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by 11 bit studios
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This post was written by jonathanober