Moonlighter Review | As an adventurer, it’s second nature for you to recklessly explore and look for shiny treasure on your ventures but in Moonlighter, everything you find can be sold at a price. Yep, the unique gameplay concept of Moonlighter sees your character, Will, go through perilous dungeons in search of artefacts and treasures that can then be sold at your shop called Moonlighter. Nevertheless, your adventurer doesn’t stop there as you progress through more advanced dungeons in search of the five gates. As you earn money, you will have options to upgrade your store and even help others open theirs as you try to get the small commercial village of Rynoka up and running once again. Developed by Digital Sun and published by 11 Bit Studios, Moonlighter allows you to gradually restore Rynoka back to its glory days while striving to become the hero you’ve always wanted to be. With two sides to the gameplay, you get the best of both worlds – village management and dungeon crawling.
|Publisher||11 Bit Studios|
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series S | Review code provided by PR/publisher. This review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Variety and pacing | The nature of the gameplay in Moonlighter consists of two main parts – venturing through dangerous but rewarding dungeons and working on selling in your shop, buying upgrades when possible. By selling my items to customers in the daytime and dungeon crawling through the night, I was able to make good use of my time. Of course, you may want to explore as much as possible before you return to your calm selling environment – Moonlighter gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. The pacing is entirely in your hands which makes for a pleasant experience suited to each individual player.
- Dungeon exploration | Every dungeon consists of three levels and you must complete one dungeon before you are allowed entry to the more advanced ones. To complete each floor, you must explore them until you find the mini-boss room, defeat them, and then move on to the next floor but if you die at any point, you will lose any items in your backpack and have to start over again from the very beginning. It did make me play more cautiously, learning each enemy’s moves and how best to approach them so I would take the least damage possible. You can also come across secret areas, notes from Crazy Pete, and additional rooms to explore so it’s worth taking your time.
- Village and shop growth | The most unique part of the game was the Moonlighter; your shop. It’s where you sell most items gained from exploring and looting dungeons in order to make a profit to upgrade your shop, your character, and the village. As you make progress through dungeons, defeating the main boss in each one, you will unlock new upgrades everywhere. It can allow you to sell more items at once, get bigger tips for customers, and even more storage for extra loot! Without these, there is a noticeable struggle with difficulty so it’s highly advised you invest often to make life easier for yourself. Weapons, armour, health – they’re all useful so invest in success; definitely sounds like a plan to me!
- Item selection and pricing | One of my favourite parts of Moonlighter was selling the items in my shop because of the process that has been implemented to mark items at an acceptable price. Now, to do this, you mostly use trial and error. You have an item book that tracks your pricing, allowing you to refer back to it at any given moment to see how satisfied customers are with how much you charge for your items. This can vary through the game as sometimes items are in high demand but low supply, meaning customers will pay more for them. Moonlighter is all about getting the best price for your loot so you can get enough money to buy upgrades for either Will, the shop, or other village shops. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, right?
- Basic combat | Finding out Moonlighter had roguelike dungeon exploration qualities got me extremely excited and the fights between enemies and Will were full of action and excitement. Some enemies didn’t stand a chance whereas others put up a very valiant fight. The combat is straightforward to learn and easy to apply to gameplay, even when against more agile/defensive foes. It’s great for those who don’t want to remember loads of button commands as Moonlighter simply uses the attack, basic and strong, and dodge combination; nothing complicated about that. Saying that, as Will is a mere merchant/adventurer, it would have been out of character to have him casting special abilities and spells so he fits in with the merchant come hero aesthetic exceptionally well.
- Upgrade and crafting possibilities | This aspect is where all your hard-earned money comes into play. Upgrade your village by adding new merchants thus unlocking new gear options, upgrade your shop to allow for more customers and selling capacity, or gather materials to craft improved gear to help you take on tougher dungeons. There are plenty of options and you can take whichever direction you think will benefit you most. It was nice that I had to collect specific materials to upgrade my armour and weapons as it meant you had to explore more rather than just pay for them. Plus, bringing the village back to life by hiring other vendors made everything seem worthwhile and heartwarming.
- Replayability value | When starting the game, there are three difficulty options – normal, hard, and very hard with hard being the original difficulty recommended for most players. Obviously, this is purely down to the players’ preference. However, after completing the game, a new game plus option will be available to play. In this mode, you take more damage and items are more expensive. You keep any items, weapons, and armour your character has on you along with your gold to start the next game so you won’t be empty-handed. There is an achievement for completing the game in under ten hours which could possibly be easier when you’ve got experience with the game. Additionally, due to dungeons being randomly generated, every playthrough is different.
- Acceptable audio | Nothing stood out to me with the audio – I liked the background music but the sound effects weren’t exactly the greatest I’ve ever heard. The soundtrack was heroic, subtle, and touching all in one but it truly peaked whenever I found myself in the dungeons because it made me feel incredibly upbeat and powerful; it gave me a sense of justice and heroism. With regard to the sound effects, they were a slight letdown compared to the quality of the music. The combat sounds didn’t have much substance which hindered my enjoyment and other sound effects didn’t carry the desired impact I would have expected. An incredible well done to the music producer David Fenn for the composed soundtrack.
- Average graphics | Although the appearance is colourful and showcases small details, I was not a massive fan of the overall pixel design. It failed to capture my attention and became quite washed out with the tones and hues used in both the dungeons and the village. However, I did appreciate the appearance of the shop because it felt quite homely and cute with its warm palette but if the art style could have been further modernised, I do think the whole game would have really stood out amongst others that showcase similar gameplay elements. A delightful idea that could have been better executed had the graphics been given more attention to detail.
- Story content | Now this is not something I usually say so please bare with me. For once in my gaming life, I wasn’t in need of a story. I know right? I appreciate that it’s been included to give players some background about Will and Rynoka to understand exactly what happened before we have taken control but it was quite monotonous in my opinion. I was just focused on looting the dungeons, beating the enemies, and upgrading anything I could when I had the appropriate money and/or resources. Also, note to Zenon, a friend of Will’s Grandfather – If you constantly urge me not to explore dungeons, I’m going to do the complete opposite. Thank you for including the story and lore relating to it but apologies in advance if it’s not what I remember Moonligher for.
What we Disliked
- Achievement list | Now, don’t get me started on the achievements for Moonlighter. Yes, for those who don’t like achievements which don’t consist of multiples of five, you’re in for a disappointment with 47 out of the 57 achievements not meeting this criterion. Why do publishers insist on doing this? I’m pretty sure many people get put off playing because of them. The achievements themselves are absolutely fine and can be unlocked naturally through the game other than a couple of miscellaneous ones but as this review is based on my opinion, I simply can’t ignore this as I wouldn’t with any other game. If this does not affect or concern you, then you’ve got an absolute gem with Moonlighter.
How long to beat the story | Approximately 15-20 Hours
How long to achieve 1000G | Approximately 25-30 Hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Cult of the Lamb, UnderMine, The Binding of Isaac, Stardew Valley
Moonlighter, in my opinion, is undoubtedly unique in its approach by successfully combining two genres to make a fantastic gaming experience that can cater to almost anyone. I was easily able to look past any personal opinions on the visuals and audio because the gameplay was simply magnificent. I can easily see myself putting numerous hours into Moonlighter as there is still plenty for me to witness and enjoy.
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Hello, I’m Victoria. I’m from the UK and have been playing video games for as long as I can remember; back on DreamCast. I’ve pretty much fallen for Xbox since I was around eight years old and remember BioShock being my first game on the Xbox360. Although I find it thoroughly enjoyable to not only experience gameplay, I also find comfort in getting lost and engrossed in the online worlds that sometimes differ greatly from what we know. Another side of my Xbox passion would be achievement hunting and gamerscore. I thrive when I hear the little sound of one popping up on the screen and I’m always finding ways to work on my backlog when possible. Horror is my favourite genre so if you have any recommendations, don’t be afraid to send them my way!