Developer: Digital Sun
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Rogue-lites have very special place in my heart. I love the quick action, immense challenge, and inevitable death. In the end it was met with satisfying reward. But what I remember the most is the quick runs and intense action. In Moonlighter, however, the game decides to take a slightly slower pace and adds an additional layer of gameplay. Because in addition to the dungeon crawling you’ll be managing your own item shop as you search for items on your dungeon runs. All which is beautifully rendered in by some of the best pixel art I’ve ever seen.
In Moonlighter, you take the role of a shopkeeper named Will. At night Will moonlights (get it?) as dungeon explorer. He explores these dungeons to collect resources to sell, as well as to create new items to also sell. Will is seeking to get into the fifth dungeon which appears to be important due to how elaborate and big the door is. Of course, Will needs to make his way in there. It isn’t the most exciting or deep storytelling, but it still keeps you engaged.
Moonlighter’s gameplay loop consists of the two different parts of Will’s life: running the shop during the day and dungeon crawling/adventuring at night. You can also adventure during the day, but it means no shop time, which means no money. Also, loot drops aren’t quite as good during the day.
Some items are cursed and may destroy items within a specific direction of an item in your back pack. This creates an additional challenge in managing inventory and getting items back from the dungeon to your shop. It makes for some fun puzzle solving while in dungeons, but it can also unnecessarily slow the game down. For those players who don’t have the patience or attention span for all of this, the gameplay loop can get very tedious.
Moonlighter’s combat is simple. You have a standard three swing combo no matter the weapon. But, there are plenty of weapons you can either pick up or create to offer a little more variety to the combat. It does take some time to build up the materials to build new weapons. Once again for people who may find this kind of collecting grind very tedious may not have the patience for it.
The selling and shop running in the game are fleshed out and very engaging. Materials you gather in dungeons can be sold in your shop and can be used to create items that you can also sell. Say you have several bits of iron you collected from a dungeon crawl. You can take those to the town blacksmith and have them forged together to create a sword you sell in your shop or use for yourself.
Now you may think you’re all set and you’re a shop running pro, right? Well, Moonlighter has mechanic that makes things a little difficult for your life as a shopkeeper. The game has a working economy in which the more frequently you sell an item its value begins to depreciate. So that iron you were making a bank can soon flood the market and customers won’t be willing to buy. Or at the least not buy it at the price you’re selling it for. This adds a nice layer of challenge and variety to selling the materials instead of repetitively selling the same items.
Good, catchy music. Cute shop music and intense, dramatic dungeon music. No matter which part of Moonlighter you’re involved in the music is fitting for the setting and immerses you in the game. Monster noises and sounds are nicely varied. Weapon swings have the proper sounds that give them weight and swinging power.
Moonlighter manages to accomplish a lot of interesting things with its mixture of mechanics as much as it maintains itself as a rogue-lite. But it will still come down to the pacing of the game that may prevent some from playing. I love it for that fact, though. It may not be a crazy round after round, constant action rogue-lite, but those restful moments in such a beautifully rendered game gives Moonlighter its own unique personality. And, one that players who enjoy this kind of pacing will thoroughly enjoy.