Moonlighter is a top-down action role-playing game that also has elements of economics built in. Developed by 11 Bit Studios and published by Digital Sun, this retro adventure game will not only have you slaying enemies during the night like the infamous children’s program, PJ Masks, but also running a business during the day.
Before we go into a detailed look into the game, here are two gameplay videos, the first being the introduction to the game and the second the beginning showing the business elements of the game.
Created by Digital Sun, published by 11 bit studios and partnered with Merge Games for retail distribution, Moonlighter’s story dates back to a time many years ago when a set of magical Gates was discovered during an archaeological excavation. People quickly realized that these ancient passages lead to different realms and dimensions — providing brave and reckless adventurers with treasures beyond measure. Rynoka, a small commercial village, was founded near the excavation site providing refuge and a place for adventurers to sell their hard-earned riches.
Moonlighter is an Action-RPG with rogue-lite elements following the everyday routines of the aforementioned Will, Rynoka’s ambitious shopkeeper that dreams of becoming a hero.
Even though Moonlighter has tons of battles and RPG elements, this game is more a shop / business simulator with RPG elements to reinforce it. Sure, you are able to run around at night and do some decent monster slaying, but that is just so that you can bring back the loot, sell it to the villagers and upgrade your store.
During the day, running your business is essential. Customers will enter your store to view your products, and then react to your prices. They will either be unhappy with high prices, happy with good prices or ecstatic with cheap prices. And it is your job to maintain this price range to not only make them happy, but to make sure you earn a fortune to upgrade your business.
Supply and demand are also essential. If there is too much of an item going around, clients will expect the price to be at its lowest. And if something is rare, you can easily belt the highest price and get away with it.
At night, business closes and you venture into dark dungeons to fight up to five dungeon levels, each with three floors and a boss. You can return to your store with your stolen loot once the boss is defeated, or pay a fee to be returned earlier. At the beginning, returning sooner may not seem necessary. But when your limited inventory becomes tight, you may need to return by portal, like Diablo 3, constantly in order to empty your loot and head back into the fight.
And then the loop begins again. Your business opens in the day and you sell your dungeon loot. You can use the money made from these sells to upgrade your items or your store, or even add up to 5 stores in the village for other types of items.
All in all, it makes for an effective business management game with some sick action RPG to enjoy. Theme Park meets Diablo 3, with retro graphics.
When I first played the introduction section of the game (video 1), I was at a loss for what to do. I wondered if I was meant to figure out myself how the game worked and which keys to use. It took me a moment to realise how important paying attention to every part of the graphical user interface was. The instructions were cast in images at the top of the screen.
And that set the tone for just how brilliant this game secretly is. You don’t realise it at first, but as you play on and master the art of the game, you become addicted to its simple, yet complicated, gameplay. Keys are easy to use, with inventory management becoming tricky at times.
Fighting can be difficult at times, especially when you can’t seem to strike the monsters accurately. You get the hang of this eventually, with sometimes the off-slash just becoming a mild annoyance.
Learning how to manage and grow your business is fun, and is as strategic as any of the old fun economic simulations of the retro days. Having said that, I enjoyed the combat dungeon areas more than running the business, and I would have liked to have seen more depth added to this element, as well as a greater form of a storyline.
SOUND AND GRAPHICS
I might have compared Moonlighter to Diablo 3 earlier, but don’t expect graphics as half as exciting as that. Rather, we are taking back to the retro days of game graphics, which has become all the trend with indie developers these days. Having said that, the graphics do provide some brilliant colour and art which at least makes it easier on the eyes than most games I have played over the last few years.
What I would have enjoyed more was if the armour and items actually changed when you upgraded them, or if you obtained higher level items. You do see a change with some of the weapons that are upgraded, but shields and armour remain the same with a simple stat change.
The music is appropriate for each level, with differences between the business atmosphere and the dark passages of the dungeons made quite clear. They do set the tone for where you are and your activities, making fighting monsters with an awesome back-beat at least enjoyable.
Even though this game is fun and addictive, there are elements that could have been better. I actually look forward to a remastered version of this game one day, with a more enticing story than running a business. I also would like to see the graphics improved on with better battle mechanics.
Having said that, this game is still worth playing and recommended if you are looking for a fun game to waste a few hours, maybe even days, playing. The $19.99 is worth the price for the game, whether it be on PC, Xbox and PS4. A decent enough game with way more potential. Moonlighter is definitely a game worth having in your library.
Here are some links if you would like to read more about the game from the developer:
Disclaimer: AIR Entertainment received a review copy from the publisher for reviewing purposes. This review is the author’s own opinion and not influenced by the developer in any way, as per our reviewing Code of Ethics.
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