Have you ever wondered how the shopkeeper in any RPG obtains his sale items? Moonlighter answers this question by letting the player dungeon crawl for loot while getting a lesson in economics.
You play as a kid left to carry on his parent’s shop. While the life of a shopkeeper has its moments, the real fun is slaying monsters and taking their loot. By day, the name of the game is setting up your store with collected loot, being sure to monitor prices. Sell low and you won’t make any profit. Sell high and no one will buy anything. Adding another twisted layer to the shopkeeping sim, that one rare weapon might not sell at all as it is too rare or too high priced. Other than paying close attention the facial emojis of the customers, there is not an ideal pricing schedule. The player just needs to figure things out as time passes and with trial and error.
The other half of the game involves dungeon crawling. Somewhat similar to A Link to the Past, the player can sword swipe through a few different environments. Adding some twisted flavor to combat are the cursed items. When collected, some items feature debuffs that can impede the looting process by having items break or even reducing overall inventory space. It makes the player think instead of having loot become a mindless grab bag as inventory management can become cumbersome to manage even in the game’s opening hours.
Sword swinging and shield blocking is straightforward enough but the reliance on dashing cannot be underestimated. Dashing not only avoids attacks from enemies, it is used to cross gaps both big and small. The initial opening hours are also difficult and unbalanced. Starting with nothing but a broom as an attacking weapon, it will take patience and grinding to earn enough money to invite a blacksmith to town and craft upgraded weapons and armor. Item management is also a double-edged sword as the player posts these materials for sale to earn gold but these same materials are also required to build new weaponry. It is even more heartbreaking since the material that sells for the most cash are the same pieces often required to make that better set of armor or sword. This forces players to grind for dinky items that clog up inventory space. This wouldn’t be so tedious if the load times weren’t so long when transitioning from a dungeon to the town.
Moonlighter’s biggest issue are the repetitive motions, plateauing the entire experience. After getting over the difficult hurdle of the first couple hours, the player will dungeon crawl while managing the limited inventory slots, then head back to town and post for sale, rinse and repeat. Unlike other RPGs, the player will reuse the same combat mechanics without gaining new abilities which can make each dungeon feel more of the same just with a new coat of paint.
Speaking of paint, the retro pixelated Moonlighter looks like something from the Gameboy Advance era. The pixelated sprits are animated whimsically and each environment has a great sense of charm. As endearing as the visuals are, the soundtrack is even better. From the relaxing town theme to the tense battle tempos, Moonlighter’s soundtrack is one of its best features.
The interesting mix of exploring random dungeons at night but then experimenting with the puzzle-like structure of the store mechanic by day is something unique. The continuous loop of exploring dungeons to collect more and more loot sounds great on paper but eventually gets stale upon necessary repetition. For players that don’t mind the grind, however, Moonlighter has its moments.
Not As Good As: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Better Than: taking out a massive loan to open your own pawn shop
Also Try: Animal Crossing: New Leaf
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com