Moonlighter is a bit different to your typical dungeon-exploring ARPG since instead of heading off on an adventure, you head into the nearby dungeons in search of wares for your shop.
You play as a young man who runs the namesake shop in their local town which is conveniently located next to a number of dungeons. Although most of them have been closed to protect the locals, the least dangerous one remains open.
Despite the advice of a wise old man to stick to the one quasi-safe dungeon to collect things to sell in your shop, you’re drawn into going deeper and deeper into the dungeon to defeat the boss and open the subsequent dungeons.
An ARPG-business sim might sound like an interesting combination and a new take on the fantasy worlds we’re used to playing in but does Moonlighter manage to balance the two?
- Beautifully animated pixel-art
- An enjoyable loop with balanced intensity
- A decent challenge that won’t have you rage-quitting
- Limited depth for hardcore RPG fans
- The story feels tagged on
- Procedurally-generated levels feel samey
I’ll start by saying that the story in this game isn’t going to draw you in; it feels like its raison-d’etre is just to provide context for the gameplay loop. Some players will probably expect more RPG elements but Moonlighter isn’t an out-and-out RPG.
As an ARPG-business-sim fusion, you first explore randomly-generated dungeons and collect loot. Next, you take said loot and put it on display in the shop and adjust the prices to sell items for as much as you can get away with while trying not to devalue items by flooding the market with them.
Jumping between the two types of game isn’t as jarring as you’d think. For part of the game, you have the action of dungeon crawling where you’re hoping to escape before dying and losing all your loot. For the other part, you’re chilling in the shop and watching all the loot you worked so hard to get earn you tonnes of coin!
The level design in Moonglighter equates to samey rectangular rooms with similar layouts occurring again and again. There are different biomes but these are essentially a different aesthetic but functionally the same.
Speaking of aesthetics, I was hugely impressed by Moonlighter‘s presentation. While pixel art isn’t anything new for indie games, Moonglighter‘s visuals definitely stand out from the crowd and the animations in this game really bring them to life; go watch some videos of this game!
Moonlighter‘s duality is its biggest strength and going between combat and management made for a repetitive loop that provides enjoyable progression where neither part of the game outstays its welcome.
Hardcore fans might be disappointed by the lack of depth from either part but this game is neither hardcore ARPG nor hardcore business sim, it’s a beautiful blend of both and should be taken as such.
Moonlighter was developed by Digital Sun and is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.