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Gray Matter

Mar-17-2011
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Moonlighter

Posted by GG Goblin On June - 7 - 2018

Running a shop and diving into dungeons.

 
Moonlighting is the act of having a second job, usually in secret and at night. While it is not unusual to juggle two different jobs in a videogame, very rarely do they compliment each other as well as they do in 11 bit studios’ dungeon-crawling management game Moonlighter.

 
moon1 (Copy)

 
In Moonlighter, the player is tasked with being your average shop keeper during the day, while at night venturing into dungeons and grabbing loads of that lovely loot. The village of Ryonka sprung up thanks to the proximity of five mysterious dungeons. Adventurers would head down into the dungeons and slay monsters, bringing back their loot to sell in the village. However, that was a while back and, after it was decided that the dungeons were too dangerous, dungeons were closed off and the village was more or less abandoned.

 
Will’s family have run a store in the village for some time and, despite the loss of prosperity in Ryonka, Will continues to keep the store going. But what Will really wants to do is have an adventure by exploring the dungeons. Will gets to a point where that other life becomes a possibility and starts dungeon crawling at night, while running the store and selling his loot during the day with the goal of bringing life and prosperity back to the village, and becoming the adventurer her always wanted to be.

 
moon2 (Copy)

 
So, by night Will heads into the dungeons. These are randomly generated and consist of several different levels before coming to a boss. Players will have to defeat bosses to gain access to further dungeons. As they progress through the dungeon levels, the monsters will become more difficult, but the loot will become rarer and more valuable, tempting the player to take risks. The player can leave the dungeon at any point with their loot, but of course, dying in the dungeon will mean going home with nothing.

 
The combat is a standard hack and slash affair, with one button to attack and another to dodge. Players can have two weapons that they can switch between quickly and easily, allowing them to change up their combat abilities as they see fit. It is the weapons that will dictate what damage the player does to any given monster. The action is often frantic, especially once the player faces the dungeon bosses who are massive beasts that will take a fair time to overcome.

 
Once they head back to the village and their shop, it is time for business. In the shop, the player starts with a single table on which they can put four types of items up for sale from their dungeon loot. This is where things get interesting as the game doesn’t give any indication of how much the items are worth. Instead, the player will have to guess a price and then wait for the reactions of the shoppers to work out if the item is overpriced or underpriced. Overpriced items will not sell, while underpriced will sell quickly but leave the player with less profit. Customers will display one of four symbols to show how they feel about the price, and the player will have to watch and react to these symbols in order to make the most money that they can. It takes a little while to get used to, but works really well, especially as it is linked in with the general economy, so selling a lot of one item will reduce its desirability. It is not overly complicated, but it does give the player plenty to think about.

 
moon3 (Copy)

 
With the money they make from selling all of those goodies that they gather from the dungeon, the player can start building up the village by inviting new merchants to set up shop. Once the player has the Blacksmith or Witch in the village, they can even upgrade Will himself with better equipment or magical buffs. The player can also upgrade their own store, setting it up to sell more goods, or hire staff to help with the running.

 
It is the way the two gameplay styles combine that offer the real magic. Players head off into a randomised dungeon filled with monsters and loot, something which has been done so many times before. But then, they leave the dungeon and spend some time with the much more sedate action of running the shop. Once the business day draws to an end, it is back down the dungeon. It’s a great system that switches between adrenaline fuelled adventure and contemplative management, and it is incredibly compelling.

 
Visually, Moonlighter has a retro pixelized look that is both charming and reminiscent of older RPGs. It’s a good looking game, with nice environments, well detailed characters and foreboding looking monsters. The only real problem comes with the fiddliness of the menu when setting stuff to sell. I am not entirely sure how the system could be made better, but playing with a controller, sorting out my wares was my least favourite part of the game.

 
moon4 (Copy)

 
But otherwise there really is little not to like on Moonlighter. The two different gameplay styles are both very well done, but hardly original. However, when combined into one game, it becomes very difficult to put the controller down. For dungeon crawling fans wanting to expand into business, Moonlighter is the obvious choice.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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