A Noob’s Review – Moonlighter

Moonlighter is a game in which you hunt for treasures by night, and sell them by day. Both of these jobs create two different modes which construct the daily flow of the game. The dungeons you pillage are randomized in a rogue-like fashion. The further you get into a dungeon, the more valuable loot you will find. Kill the main boss to complete the dungeon and unlock the next one, with a new biome and new loot. Throughout the journey you will be fighting creatures, finding notes and organizing your bag in order to maximize your haul. What is the catch here you may be wondering? Well.. If you die you lose the majority of the loot that you have collected that night. It becomes a game of deciding whether you dare go into the next room. There may be enemies that could kill you, but there also may be a healing pool or something worth everything you have already collected combined. Do you want to risk it all? Or are you satisfied to come back another day.

The second half of this game is managing your shop. Almost everything that you find is sellable. Your job is to figure out the optimal price to sell these items. Price them too low and you are missing out on valuable cash, but price them too high and they will not sell or customer demand for said item will plummet. The game kindly provides you with a book that updates automatically to allow you to focus on pricing up the new goods while quickly selling old ones. Another catch? A lot of what you find are also materials that you will need to upgrade your equipment, so you have to make some decisions – managing money vs benefit when it comes to what you sell. My advice? Prioritize upgrading every time. It makes a huge difference as you can spend longer in the dungeons, allowing you to bring even more valuable loot home. And thus, the loop continues.

+ A Good Podcast Game

My favourite thing about this game is that it is a great podcast game. By which I mean, once you are used to the mechanics and know what you are doing, you can easily put on your favourite podcast and listen away.

– The Combat

I am so hit and miss with combat that anyone would be forgiven for taking my opinion with a grain of salt. However, I found the combat to feel really clunky. Hitboxes were strange, it didn’t feel super responsive and I never really got the hang of it. The first thing that I did was rebound the controls (excellent feature I am always happy to see) to feel more familiar which helped some, but the further I got it never felt better. The only thing that helped me make progress was upgrading my equipment. Of course, that is to be expected, but I never felt like I was improving as a player. I was still feeling as frustrated by the end as I was at the beginning. By the fourth dungeon I ended up turning down the difficulty because I just wasn’t having fun with it. Granted, I am used to playing The Binding of Isaac where you can attack in a different direction than you are facing. You can’t do that here and I felt it a lot. It resulted in lots of running into enemies while trying to face them, taking damage in the process.

+/- The Progression

This being a pro or a con really depends on how much you enjoy the core loop. I did enjoy the loop, but I was excited to see how it was going to progress as I unlocked new areas and facilities in the town. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t enjoy the direction it took. The best way that I can describe it is – more of the same but with a few added annoyances. The dungeons and your gear upgrades all follow the same patterns with a couple of changes here and there. That was fine. It was the shop progression that I had a bit of an issue with. As an example, the larger your shop grows, new mechanics are introduced. One of them is a bird flying into your shop. You have to chase it around and catch it by pressing X. It startles the customers and everyone freezes until you catch it. The first time this happened was fine, but it happened around the same time every single day, with the bird flying in the same predictable pattern. It wasn’t a challenge or a delight. It was just a thing that happened to give you something to do and it didn’t add anything. In fact the opposite, it developed to be quite annoying. I do enjoy how the variety of customers grows as your shop does, but I hoped for more in the shop itself. 

+ The Ease of Use Features

Simple mechanics such as moving everything to and from chests, easily being able to pick up individual items or stacks, sorting via price, getting rid of items mid dungeon, automatically updating my price book, being able to see my price book easily mid looting, and having a wish list option that highlights crafting materials you need as you find them, were all very gratefully received by me. Often when I thought ‘I wish I could do this’ my thought was cut short because the game had already given me a way to do it.

– Valuing items becomes finicky

To create more challenge and variety, your book doesn’t store item price data if the item is in high demand when it is sold. That means that you can charge more than normal for profit, but the number doesn’t get saved. I wish there was a separate section for recording this data. In addition, it doesn’t save the price for certain customers. This can result in an attempt to figure out the best price of a particular item thwarted because some rich or interested dude bought it. This then gets frustrating becasue you not only have to remember the item and price range that you were working with, but find it again and try another day where it is just as likely to happen again. By the third dungeon I would say around 95% of my prices were not getting recorded and it was really frustrating because figuring out the price boundaries was my favourite part of the game. I loved testing the boundaries, slowly testing the maximum I could get without being too cheeky. This aspect was completely taken away due to the progression of the mechanics and instead turned into annoying robbers and just trying to sell everything as fast as I could. It improved slightly in the fourth dungeon but by then I felt defeated. It had me questioning whether my game was bugged, a question I still don’t know the answer to.

– Some Minor Technical Issues

Every time I pressed X – from entering a dungeon to reading a note – the game would switch my weapons. Which would mean I would run up to punch an enemy only to slowly shoot an arrow in their face because I didn’t realise it had switched. This isn’t game ruining at all, but it was an annoyance that added onto previous ones. I also had some chugging and framerate drops occasionally which felt a little strange in a 2D top down game like this.

+ The Familiars

You can happen upon eggs in the dungeons that after a few days hatch into little friends that aid you during your dungeoneering. I loved this addition. They were cute and had some legitimately interesting perks.

– The Notes

There are notes you can find throughout the dungeons and every time I found one I felt excited. They are there to give the player some hints and add some flavour. I just wish they were a bit more interesting. It didn’t take long at all for them to start repeating and I found them to be quite generic. Occasionally it would be a hint for something that I figured out 2 dungeons ago, and it just ended up feeling very disappointing.

Ultimately, the first couple of hours of was my favourite part of the time that I spent with this game. Where I thought it was going based on those first hours and where it actually went turned out to be a little different, which was unfortunate for me. My favourite part of the game was gradually made worse by strange mechanics rather than staying the same or improving, to the point that I pretty much gave up on it. I started my first few hours wanting to craft every weapon to the highest level, but by the end I was just trying to finish the game. It could be that it is just not for me, but what I really think happened is the niggles that I mentioned above wore me down. The later the game, the more niggly mechanics were added which added to the wear down. I think it is a fantastic, fun core concept for a game that was brought down by a few small things. That all being said, if you go in with the expectations set by everything written above then it is a nice game to keep your hands busy while you listen to podcasts.

+ A Good Podcast Game

– The Combat

+/- The Progression

+ The ease of use features

– Valuing items becomes finicky

– Some minor technical issues

+ The Familiars

– The Notes

If you would like to see my first few hours with the game then you can here!

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