Moonlighter is an asymmetric rogue-lite RPG with shopkeep management elements thrown in. It may seem impossible for all the elements to work together to be a cohesive and fun game but 3 hours in, I found myself completely sucked in. You play as Will, a young shopkeeper in the small trading village of Rynoka who secretly dreams of becoming a hero. The goal of this game is to explore the dungeons nearby the town and progressively unlock them by dungeon crawling and collecting loot to sell and buy better equipment.
The charm of this trading village is accentuated by the pixel art direction taken by the Digital Sun team. Never have I seen slime or character hair animated so well in this style. Each dungeon has a visually distinct feel, which makes them easily identifiable at a glance. This design is consistent across the materials that you collect from the dungeon as well. Digital Sun has managed to create their own personality even while using a design style that has been a commonplace among indie developers. It is both cute and highly detailed that is pleasant to look at on all the different platforms (PC, Xbox One, PS4, and coming soon to Nintendo Switch)
We know it looks great, but can we say the same about the gameplay in this game? The gameplay features Legend of Zelda-esque style combat, swinging a sword and dodge rolling in this game felt like riding a bicycle. With different weapons to suit different playstyles, you could go for balanced combat with a sword and shield or go for a greatsword for high risk but get high damage returns. Even use spears to do a charged stunning attack or stay at a distance with a bow and arrow. Combat is varied and there are different enemy types that have specific attack patterns that often require you to think on your feet. There are some levels that seems like enemies from earlier on had been reskinned though and may get abit repetitive later on.
Exploring the dungeons is similar to Binding of Isaac, minus the blood and crying fetuses. The levels are procedurally generated every time you enter the dungeon so each session feels different. Each dungeon has only a few levels that presents its own dangers and rewards. At the end of each dungeon there is a boss that provides the key to the next dungeon and so the cycle continues. If you don’t want to lose any of the progress you made in a dungeon from dying, you may use an item that lets you teleport back to your home and still be able to go back to the dungeon to continue where you left off.
Let's get to the most exciting part of the game: being a shopkeeper. This gameplay feature is what makes this game so addictive to me. With a business-commerce mechanic of managing your item shop much alike Reccetear, You need to adjust your price to find that sweet spot for maximum profitability yet still keep customers happy with their purchase. Part of the fun is acquiring new loot from dungeons and finding out how much they are worth when selling them in your shop.
This plays into the interesting inventory management mechanic in the game where certain items are cursed and will cause you to only place them in specific positions in your bag. Since space in the backpack is scarce and items in the dungeon are destroyed after you leave, discovering how much they are worth really helps you decide what to keep or forgo. You progress by combining and creating new items to sell and using the profits to craft better armour or weapons so that your dungeon runs are much easier. The commerce aspect of the game is well fleshed out and it reacts like an actual marketplace whereby if you oversupply a certain item, demand for it will drop. Its ingenious really. Kudos to the the game creators for building this amazing mechanic.
From the pixel graphics, to its Zelda-like combat system, the procedurally generated levels and the addictive nature of collecting new items to sell in your shop. I’m completely sold on the debut offering by the developers at Digital Sun and their publishers 11bit Studios. Now, I’ve got to go back to my shop and sell that stone golem blueprints I found. Happy Moonlighting!
Moonlighter is available on Steam for RM39. We got a review copy from the publishers.