Digital Sun / 11 Bit Studios (studio)
29 May 2018 (released)
15 June 2018
Moonlighter is a roguelike that puts you in the shoes of someone who dungeon crawls by night… and runs a shop by day. How does its business fare?
For a start, the game gives you a simple story. Just outside of the town where your character lives, lay five mysterious gates. These gates lead into randomly generating Dungeons containing loot that fascinate many townspeople, enough that they’ll pay top dollar at your shop for them. It’s an interesting twist on the usual cycle of dungeon crawlers, where you normally sell all the useless junk to hapless shopkeepers in-between runs. The game plays many of the quirks familiar to this genre for comedy, and it pays off well enough.
The combat is simple but effective. There are five different categories of weapons, each with their own style of attacks mapped to two buttons. Which one you choose to work with is entirely up to you; there is no disadvantage in choosing one over another, making it easy to experiment and find one that compliments your playstyle. It’s a tried and true method of giving player choice in what they go with, although you do need to get a few base materials to try out anything other than the sword and shield.
Sadly, in its core elements - dungeon crawling and shopkeeping - it has noticeable faults. Inventory space rapidly becomes a serious problem with moving through the dungeons, even for those who are just shooting for the boss. Items picked up along the way can have ‘curses’ attached to them which means they can only be placed in certain positions, but even worse, they can’t be stacked. This means you can end up with a single stack of items taking up multiple spaces in an already too small backpack, and with no upgrades for it, this becomes an unavoidable issue. You do collect an item that allows you to warp back mid dungeon to deposit your items at home, but this costs a sizeable chunk of money, one that only gets bigger the further into the game you go.
Then there are the issues with running the shop. With the aforementioned small inventory size, you might wonder what the point is in having a larger shop when you’ll rarely have the stock to fill it. The deposit box is utterly worthless, as with the lack of stock you’ll be foolish to sell anything in there when you’ll have sold everything normally by day’s end. That is, if the robbers don’t take it first - catching a robber in the act can be a chore at times, as you have to roll right into them to get the item back, or risk losing it. The game also fails to inform you what certain things mean (such as the bee-looking icon) or give you an idea of what an item might cost, leaving you fumbling in the dark at times to try and turn a profit.
Moonlighter is a game with a great idea, but manages to stumble in its execution. With a few tweaks this game would be an easy recommendation to any lovers of roguelike gameplay or dungeon crawling, but as it is it’s just… meh. It’s not bad, but there are better options for your looting fix.
++ Unique core ideas
+ Sublime and simple combat
-- Faults waylay the main systems
A PS4 copy of Moonlighter was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review