There is some enjoyment in seeing a world from a different perspective. We typically the perspective of a nobody turned hero when it comes to roguelike adventure games. In Moonlighter, the protagonist is not a Link type hero. Instead, he is a shopkeeper. There is no princess to save or an ancient treasure to find. Instead, your goal is to find items to sell in your shop. The idea is very interesting and helps Moonlighter stand out amongst other dungeon crawlers.
The story takes place in the town of Rynoka. A long time ago, portals were opened that led to dangerous dungeons. The town grew into a haven for treasure seekers and traders who sold dungeon artifacts. Your character is a just like the other traders. During the day, the store is open to all searching for items to buy. At night, you scour five different dungeons to gather more wares to buy.
If it wasn’t for the shopkeeping, Moonlighter would be a run of the mill dungeon crawler. Each dungeon is procedurally generated, creating some variability in the level design. Besides that, each dungeon is unique environments and enemies to defeat. While that is fine, the actual combat leaves a little to be desired. I admit that I was expecting combat to be a little more smooth. Your weapon movement is a little on the slow side, which creates problems when there are a lot of enemies out to get you. The game is very challenging, so patience and timing are necessary to survive.
Along the way, you will need to upgrade your equipment if you want to get past all the dungeons and their bosses. The enemies get hard and harder to destroy, so you will need to make sure to collect items not only to sell but to use in upgrades. You never truly feel like a badass in Moonlighter. I never found myself overpowered, even as I made new armor. Again, Moonlighter is very challenging.
What sets Moonlighter apart is the shop. In your nightly raids, you will find an assortment of artifacts and wares to sell. Each dungeon will have different items to find, which is a nice way to ensure multiple returns to the dungeons. Each day, you will set out items to sell. You will decide which items to put out and pick the price for each item. Customers will show whether the price is too low, too high, or just right.
At first, I was a little worried about this mechanic. Luckily, the developers put in a couple fail-safes that will help you make the most money possible. First, you have access to a journal that lists all of the items you have collected. It also saves what you have sold your items for. You will need to do some trial and error when selling, but eventually, the journal will save the perfect price that makes your shop money and your customers happy.
The second fail-safe is the ability to change the price immediately. I assumed that the price will stay put for the whole day, and luckily I was wrong. As soon as I saw a dissatisfied customer, I immediately changed the price to see if I can get a sale. The customers typically stick around, so it’s easy to quickly change the price. Another plus is the opportunity to put another item out for sale as soon as something else is sold. I never left the table empty which helped me with my profits.
The game revolves around a routine. You sell by the day and scour dungeons by night. Lather, rinse, repeat. Besides upgrades, you can get special missions from the townsfolk. These missions can help change the monotony of the gameplay, but not by much. Cursed items and big bosses also break up the repetition. I still think the game is enjoyable, but I still wanted to warn you about the repetition.
I really enjoyed the music and art design of Moonlighter. It was an inspired choice to have a top-down, retro look to the game. The pixels and combat gave me the vibes I used to feel playing Link to the Past. The dungeons look like typical dungeons, but the change in color tone and texture is noticeable in each one. The music fits very nicely, especially when you transition from town to dungeon.
Moonlighter does a lot of things right, but you repeat each one consistently. Dungeon crawling to find loot to sell is a nice little twist to a typical roguelite game. The combat is a bit challenging, and upgrades are necessary to find items for your shop. Despite the repetition, Moonlighter is an entertaining game for those who love looting and price haggling.
Moonlighter is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Note: GameOctane Owner Jason Germino received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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A different take on the Dungeon Crawling genre
Retro look and sound
Maybe too challenging for younger gamers