I love this kind of games. Maybe it’s the roguelike genre, maybe it’s how they play, maybe it’s how they look or maybe it’s a combination of all these things together. Long story short, I love Moonlighter. Yes, it has a few problems, but overall it’s a really good game.
Moonlighter is a roguelike game with an interesting twist. You play as a simple shopkeeper who goes moonlighting or adventuring into dungeons to collect loot and, here is the kicker, sell it in his shop for profit. And I really like this idea. In other roguelikes or dungeon crawlers, you collect a ton of crap, crap that you never use since well, you don’t really have to. That’s why this premise really works, sell crap that you don’t need or use to expand your shop, acquire new or upgrade your gear to then adventure deeper into dungeons to well, collect more crap to sell.
Even though very simple, I love this gameplay loop. As any other roguelike, the dungeons are randomly generated, but again as any other roguelike, after 10 or 20 times you will have seen all the possible map layouts. However, since the dungeons are themed like a forest, desert, cave etc. the enemies that populate these dungeons are varied, interesting and sometimes very challenging to fight against. There is a small, but interesting collection of weapons like spears and bows for mid to long range fights and short or long swords for close combat. Rolling and dodging are crucial during the fights since some of the enemies have interesting attack patterns and deal a lot of damage so you always have to be on your toes if you don’t want to die. And then there are the bosses, which are interesting, difficult and if you don’t have a powerful weapon or armor, you will perish, a lot of times.
This in itself is another, let’s say, mechanic in the game. You see, the loot you will collect by killing enemies, smashing stuff or opening chests can be cursed with different requirements, buffs or debuffs. For example, one item can only be placed on the left or right side of the inventory. Another item will destroy the item on its left, right, top etc. Another item will send the item on its left, right, whatever to the shop immediately etc. So apart from just collecting stuff, you will also have to manage how you place the items so that you don’t accidentally delete or destroy an item that you need for a new weapon or armor piece.
Now, managing your inventory can become quite a chore. The game has a nice mechanic where you can “destroy” an item using a mirror to get some money instead of just dropping said item. This is cool and all, but the game at the moment lacks a dedicated button or combination of buttons as a shortcut to just simply use this mirror on the selected item. Instead, you have to select the item, drag it back to the mirror and place it down. It might not sound like a hassle, but once you do that every 2 minutes or so, it can get very annoying really quickly. I wish they consider adding this shortcut in an upcoming patch.
Another annoying thing happens while you are in your shop, but before I touch upon that, let me explain how the shop stuff works. You fight in the dungeons and you collect stuff. You can sell this stuff in the shop for profits. Managing the shop is fun at first since it’s kinda like a guessing game. You never know the right price for a piece of loot. How much does this piece of ancient wood sell for? 100? 200? 1000? 5? You don’t know that and it’s kinda funny to see if you get the right price from the emotions that the shoppers display. If an item is severely underpriced, you will see that. If severely overpriced, you will see that too and you will have to juggle with the price until you find the correct one where the shoppers are happy, but you are still making some money.
The game also says that it has a “demand” mechanic, where if you oversaturate the market with something, it’s demand and value will decrease or vice versa. But after playing the game for a while, I did not really see that happen. The same stuff sells every time for the same price, no matter the demand. And due to that or better say, lack of that, the whole shop thing can become quite monotonous. Place the stuff on the counters, open the shop, gauge the right price or change it accordingly for each item while rolling like a madman all over your shop, sell the stuff, profit and repeat. You can upgrade and expand the shop, selling more stuff at the same time, and you can even hire an assistant to manage it while you are adventuring. Customers will also come with basic fetch quests for you like ” I want 10 pieces of magic wood in 3 days” and if in 3 days you have collected the stuff, you will get a nice payout.
Back to that annoying thing I mentioned before. While you are in the shop, waiting for customers, thieves will try to steal from you. Stopping them is as easy as pressing a button, but that’s not the annoying thing. The annoying thing is that when you catch the thief, you will have to place the item he stole again on display and you have to choose the price again. Again and again and again and that get’s annoying. Why doesn’t the item just places itself on the counter with the price I choose just a few seconds ago before it was stolen?
All things said I love Moonlighter. The game looks and sounds amazing on a 4K TV. The animations are masterfully done, the dungeons are full of details and the music is fantastic. Gameplay is cool and there is variety on both enemy types and weapons you can use, but the managing your shop part can become quite a chore. This and the other two minor problems I have with the game didn’t stop me from enjoying the game and I believe that you will enjoy it too. Thanks to the team for providing the code. And thanks to you for reading!