PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch
11 Bit Studios
With pretty pixel graphics and great sound, Moonlighter is the right kind of rogue-lite game that keeps you going for “one more round.”
Even before beating my first boss, I have already managed to gather countless treasures from a golem dungeon, warp inside a forest dungeon, expand my store into a freaking Walmart, steal a grimoire from under an evil ghost’s nose, and sell it for profit to the village granny.
I am having a great time with Moonlighter, and I feel like a real businessman.
Moonlighter is a rogue-lite indie game where you play a merchant by day and an adventurer by night. Kind of like if Batman starred in a Legend of Zelda title.
Our Batman is Will, the last in a line of merchants and the new manager of the Moonlighter – a family-owned RPG shop. Secretly, Will wishes to be an adventurer and goes adventuring in the nearby dungeons in search of valuable loot.
Legend has it that each of the four dungeons holds a key, and whoever recovers all five keys will be able to pass through The Fifth Door, a gate to presumably all you’d want to find if you were a merchant adventurer.
So naturally, you start a routine of shopkeeping by day, dungeon-crawling by night. It’s pretty addictive, since the classic Zelda-like gameplay is smooth and fun, and offers quite the variety. As you go around collecting loot, you can find or craft various weapons that help diversify the gameplay.
The game will randomly generate a new dungeon every time you go adventuring. These random dungeons have three floors full of great treasures for you to collect, with a boss at the end of the third one.
Since each time the layout, enemies, and loot are different, you always feel like going back in for another round of dungeon-crawling. There are also a bunch of random but cool events to encounter, such as hidden rooms and gates to other dungeons. This keeps the potentially repetitive cycle diverse and fresh since you never really know what you’ll find.
Since you have a limit to how many items you can carry, you also have inventory management to keep track of. Found a material you desperately need for crafting an upgrade? No problem, but you might need to get rid of a valuable item that you could have sold for a fortune.
It gets all the more complex and interesting when you start dealing with cursed items with different limitations to consider. Some items force you place them in a specific part of your bag, and others might destroy the item next to them. I found that managing my inventory space this way, and exploiting the different curses to make myself a profit is both very challenging and satisfying.
Once you get enough of the dungeon, you can use one of two tools to escape it safely with all your loot. But this isn’t the only way out since once you get down to the third floor, you will eventually encounter a boss. The bosses look cool and attack you in unusual patterns, but unlike the bosses in Zelda games, you don’t have to be clever to beat them.
Instead of solving a puzzle or using a specific item to make them vulnerable like you’d do in a Zelda game, in Moonlighter you only have to bash them with your weapon repeatedly. I see this as an untapped potential since bosses should be more than damage sponges in games of this sort.
Whether you decide to fight or flight, you will eventually find yourself back on the surface with a heavy bag of loot waiting to be unloaded.
In most RPGs you’ll now go to the local shopkeeper, sell all your useless items for spare change and keep the good stuff. In Moonlighter, you’re that shopkeeper, so this time you’ll be selling your stuff to adventurers.
As you start out, you won’t know the value for each item you sell, but customers give you good indications on whether your price was a rare find, a fair price, a ripoff, or just out of the question.
Also, the game encourages you to sell a wide array of items. Otherwise, you’d flood the market, lowering demand. That way you’re always trying to balance prices, supply, and demand, which is surprisingly simple once you get the hang of it. It’s fun, and the indications you get from shoppers are the cutest thing ever.
Keeping your shop starts off as a fairly simple mini-game of sorts, but as you expand your store, you will find yourself having to work harder to maintain profits.
Later on, you’ll find yourself managing discount bins and tackling shoplifters, as what was once a simple task becomes almost an art form.
As you earn more and more money, you’re going to be able to afford to craft better equipment and invest in other, non-disrupting businesses in the town. Bit by bit, you’ll be improving your store until it becomes a grand emporium. I am now very proud of what my little shop has turned into.
My only concern with the gameplay is the save system. You can only save once you enter or exit a dungeon, when you finish selling items in your shop, or if you go to sleep. Many times after selling my inventory, I wanted to buy some items from my wishlist and take a break from the game. Unfortunately, I could never save again afterward my own shopping, which was a bit annoying.
The game’s Zelda-like aesthetics are what caught my eye from the beginning. The pixel art is lovely, and even with the top-down angle, it’s obvious what everything is. But the game doesn’t stop at just looking classy; it’s also incredibly cute.
The villagers will react with a smiley or a frowny face to the prices you choose. Their child-like reactions always put a smile on my face, and I think that’s something I want from every game from now on.
The music in the game was moody, with distinct and dramatic tracks for every floor of every dungeon. The shop has tracks of its own, and so does the town itself by either day or night. Generally, there’s a lot of music for the relatively small spaces you are exploring.
I kept humming the songs even after taking a break from the game (mainly while writing this here review). I feel like this is what you should expect from an excellent sounding indie game.
Moonlighter is the cute, fun game I expected it to be. The Zelda aesthetics and great music are very appealing, and with a good roster of weapons and two different aspects of gameplay, it delivers a diverse but also soothing experience.
On top of all, Moonlighter doesn’t give you the feeling like you’re doing something repetitive. Instead, you become absorbed in the task of adventuring and maintaining your shop.
I had a hard time breaking this cycle, and I bet you will too. But it’s dangerous to go alone; why not check out some of the rare equipment I have here? I’ll cut you a good deal.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.