Moonlighter Review (PS4)
''A full moon''
Moonlighter is a 2D action dungeon crawler game developed by Digital Sun and published by 11 Bit Studios. The developers at Digital Sun decided to take a different approach with the dungeon crawler style genre and mix it with a bit of Stardew Valley. But does it work? Maybe.
The story of Moonlighter acts as a sort of ''untold legend'' type of scenario,one where the age old question of ''Where do all these swords,shields and other magical weapons come from'' is finally answered. Take on the role of a merchant from the village of Rynoka as you adventure and scavenge your way through multiple dungeons in order to find and collect the best wares for your small village. Are you up for the task or will you perish like all past adventurers have?
In the game of Moonlighter you play as a merchant who tried to challenge the 5th floor of a dungeon and got his butt royally handed to you. You are saved by an older man who nurses you back to health and tells you ''boy you suck,get good''. Well those aren't his exact words but he basically meant that. But all joking aside,he bestows upon you knowledge that you're a moonlighter,one of the only people that can conquer dungeons. He offers you a sword and shield to use for future ventures into dangerous dungeons. You are warned to be careful of venturing into dungeons at night,but enough of that, stop sleeping, get up and get to work, you have a shop to run!
This is where the game takes a turn to an economic type of game and it's pretty damn fun. Being a store owner and merchant, it is your job during your days to run the town item shop and to make sure each and every customer that walks through your door are as happy as they can be. Every item you find during your dungeon crawling can be sold and priced at whatever price you wish to put it as, but make sure to watch all the customers reactions to each individual item because this is how you determine what's a good price to sell an item at and what price is just not going to cut it. Coin eyes mean its the perfect price,happy face is content and frowning means they hate it. Watch closely.
Once your day of selling is over you have the option to go back to your room and get a good nights sleep and try to sell some more stuff again in the morning or you can go head out on your adventure and go and visit one of the dungeons to do a bit of scavenging. Upon entering a dungeon you're familiarized by the Zelda like design of the the dungeon structure. However,this game doesn't work like most of the other games in the same genre do because every dungeon you enter is randomly generated and it's never the same experience. For instance you will come into a dungeon where you will find certain items this specific time, but come back again soon after and you'll find totally different items and enemy placements. This makes every time you go into a dungeon feel almost like a new experience.
The only consistent thing that stays the same in each dungeon is making your way past multiple floors, where each floor you move up to, the harder the dungeon and its enemies actually get. Destroy all monsters and enemies in each area and you're rewarded with items a plenty,both rare and common,as well as resulting in an end dungeon boss fight. I do not want to go into full details on these boss fights because they're simply too fun to spoil. I am sorry. Forgive me!
The first dungeon you start off in is a piece of cake. You can venture through there without even taking many hits and its a good way to grind out some quick coin to fill your pocket. But do not let this fool you, the further you get into the game, the harder the dungeons get and the more merciless they get. Each dungeon ramps up its difficulty with hard enemies,faster boss fights and more clever puzzle solving. Do not let your guard down or you will die,over and over again. There is something I need to explain to you about this.
The one thing you should know about the game before venturing off without a care into one of these dungeons and that is if you die during any of one of your runs, you LOSE all your loot,yup, I said it. So say you've been running around a dungeon for 20 minutes exploring and then you end up dying, welp tough luck,all the items you just gained in those last 20 minutes are now gone and you have to re-get them all over again,ouch!. It can be a bummer,but you do have an item that let's you warp out at any given time using your acquired gold. It is called the ''Merchant Pendant''.
The Merchant Pendant is used by holding down the circle button for a short amount of time and then it safely whisks you away in a green blob. If you have done this correctly then you will be given an escape screen that shows you every item that you acquired during this short trip and journey, all of which you can sell at your shop. But wait a second, what happens if you do not have enough gold coins in order to use the Merchant Pendant? I mean sometime's it costs anywhere up to 600 coins in order to teleport away,so what do you do? Use a magical item called a ''Item Mirror''.
This item mirror allows you to grab any items inside your backpack,individually or stacked, and then it determines just how much the item is valued at. Now it wont give you a full value of what's worth but it will give you at least most of its value and this is a good way to earn quick cash for a fast get away should you need to whenever you're in trouble. I used it quite a lot because I found a good bit of rare items that I'd rip my hair out for if I happened to die and lose them all. My sanity has been saved. Woohoo!
Now that you got the idea of how to earn coin both by running a shop and from scavenging through dirty dungeons, it is time for you to graduate and learn about what is even the purpose of having all this dang coin in the first place. Honestly what I'm about to explain is probably something that is either going to turn people off from playing the game or make them completely addicted like I was. It all depends on the type of player you are and if you're a fan of titles such as Stardew Valley and others like it.
In the middle of the village you will find a billboard called ''Investments''. This is where the majority of your hard earned money will go for the majority of the game and its actually a really good investment if you have acquired the right amount of money. With the investment billboard you can make multiple investments for both the ''Town'' and ''Shop'' and each one of these option gives you multiple subcategories for you to choose from that will make the town flourish even more and expand bigger than it currently is. I'll explain a bit.
With the town investments you will be able to hire men and women who will run facilities such as a forge,potion maker,retailers,bankers,and a hawker who can create objects that ''inspire people''. During my journey,the first choices I started off with were the potion maker(The Wooden Hat) and Vulcan's Forge(Weapons). I felt those were key to have early on so I had a way to get new weapons,upgrade weapons and buy any healing potion that I needed for my long dungeon runs. But feel free to do them in whatever order you wish. Make it your own adventure!
It sounds pretty self explanatory right? well that's because it is. With this investment you're able to let merchants decorate and upgrade their own shops as they see fit. From decorations to organizing to better store space, you can have it all,but it will cost you. There are a total of 4 different levels to take your merchants shops to, each getting more expensive than the last and the 4th and final upgrade costing a whopping 250,000 coins! holy sh!@. Other upgrades in this same category range from new registers to bigger storage chests so you can store more items for safe keeping for a later day.
Lastly,real quick,I want to talk about the rpg aspects of the game, though not too in depth, you are able to find,buy and equip various gear for your character ranging from weapon,shield,body,feet. Much like other rpg's, each separate gear piece and item piece will give you a specific stat increase(or decrease). Equipped wisely and spend wisely because every single piece of gold coin matters in this game and I would even go far as to say it's worth more than your own life itself! its true!
The graphics in this game don't really set the world on fire. A lot of 2D type of games have a similar style and shade to their textures. However, when this happens,it forces me to look at other aspects of the graphics and art design and focus squarely on the games animation. This is where Moonlighter gets it right,their animation,each item in the background is individually animated and is always doing something based off the condition of the weather or each villager is busy doing something and moving about. Merchant banners sway nicely in the wind,trees move in the wind,water and fountains look great. It's just nicely done and it shows the developers seemed to put a lot of care into each individual animation they made. Kudos to you kind developers.
In a genre that might be a bit over crowded in today's market,one might think a game like Moonlighter would stumble or fall on its face and well it just might have if it wasn't for its merchant game play. Moonlighter by itself as a dungeon crawler doesn't do anything new or pull off any new tricks,sure its still fun,however it's not something magically new. But when you mix that in with an economic town building mechanic where you have to puzzle manage selling stuff to villagers and help the town grow at the same time, it becomes a very unique experience. Also a VERY addicting experience.
Moonlighter might not be for everyone, but if you're a fan of both dungeon crawlers or even games like Stardew Valley, then I say definitely give this game a go because its so satisfying and addicting to get your town up and running and to see the joy on the villagers faces for a transaction well done!
Moonlighter is out now on Playstation 4,Xbox One,PC.
*Review code for Moonlighter provided by Digital Sun/11 Bit Studios