We’ve seen plenty of dungeon crawlers that randomize their environments, increase the difficulty the farther you go and give you an absolute thrashing when it comes to punishment. Everyone has done this type of adventure game with a thousand different degrees of pixel art. Some have co-op. Others have a top-down view. Some are side-scrolling. Other are family friendly. And some are ultra-violent. So Moonlighter being the 1001th dungeon crawler game out this month what does it has that makes it different? You run your own shop and sell everything you fine. Good start (I do mean that in all seriousness).
Venturing in the Moonlight
Moonlighter takes players into the role of a lone adventurer named Will. He is trying to restore the fame and fortune of his family’s store, the Moonlighter. However, the young adventurer is pretty rubbish at venturing forth and finding that sweet loot. Then an old man comes and gives him some advice on venturing into the dungeons and running the shop. From here it’s up to Will to unlock all the dungeons and bring his shop and town into wealth and fame.
Set within a fantasy world you better believe there are dungeons, monsters and all manner of creative loot that you can sell for massive profits! Moonlighter hosts a combination of action/adventure, shop management, and resource management to make a more dynamic dungeon crawler.
Story of Retail
In terms of story, there’s very little of it and that’s okay. This is more a personal journey of Will and bringing the Moonlighter to its former glory. You explore each of the five dungeons in order to obtain loot and treasures which you can use to upgrade your gear and sell in the shop. In each dungeon is a guardian which must be defeated in order to progress to the next. With each dungeon unlocked, Will gathers more valuable loot to sell and bring in massive profits for him and the town. As the town’s fame increases with each guardian defeated, new characters come into the town including other merchants and a banker who can invest your money.
There’s plenty of interesting ideas in Moonlighter and I will say that it’s highly engaging despite its flaws. It’s a shame that as an end product it doesn’t take it’s ideas further and plays it very safe.
Retail in a fantasy
Now I’ve worked in retail for over 11 years and I got to say, when I first saw this I was kind of reluctant to play the shop segments. Retail sucks in the real world but Moonlighter actually makes it very fun. Once you gathered your loot it’s up to players to adjust prices and sell off available stock for as much profit as possible. You can tell if your under-charging, over-charging or selling stock for the right price from the reactions of shoppers. You can gain to lose money and waste your time if you’re adapting to correctly pricing your stock and for the first few hours, it can be a drag. There’s a sense of grind when it comes to adjusting prices and it’s more infuriating when trying to save money to improve your gear.
I will be honest and after a few hours I cheated and looked at prices online as it made the game flow quicker and allowed me to enjoy the dungeon crawling more so. I like the idea but due to the massive amount of items from all the dungeons, it can be very slow to set prices and make the most of what you’ve gathered. Other the shop can be upgraded to increase its scale and allow different perks such as a sale bin, better cash register, plants and other items that can help encourage more customers or keep shoplifters away.
There’s enough here to make running the shop enjoyable but aside from the odd shoplifter here and there, not very much happens. You can sell special items you’ve crafted too for certain customers and increase prices for stock which is highly valued. There are also side quests from customers but these mainly focus on just obtaining one certain item or killing a certain enemy in a particular dungeon. It’s a neat idea but after 8 hours of playing the charm is gone of running the shop.
Crawling for that sweet loot
There are a total of five dungeons in total and each of them hosts a unique style, different types of enemies and loot. You’ll traverse each room where you’ll defeat enemies, find secret rooms, gather items and follow the trails of other adventures who give useful hints and tips. In terms of design, the dungeons are randomized so you’ll never visit the same dungeon twice. It’s a decent dungeon crawler though it’s very simple in what it offers. There’s a good variation of enemies, different secret rooms to find and even some dynamic elements such as a giant monster that appears if you spend too long in one location. As I said there’s nothing truly innovative for its design but is strong enough to keep you coming back repeatedly.
Yet the biggest pain of Moonlighter is its inventory system and the annoying technical issues I faced. Will’s backpack is small and there’s no way to upgrade its size at all. This becomes a problem due to the amount of loot you find and even in a single layer of the three-layered dungeon, you’ll soon fill up the backpack quick. You’ll be constantly managing your loot and the lack of features can make it drag. You can sell loot with a magic mirror you have on your person, but there’s no quick way to instantly sell items or move or group together. It’s a tedious chore to drag, drop and repeat. And when the game introduces cursed items, it only gets more annoying.
The slow and tedious resource management kills the flow and takes up too much time than it should. You can open a portal into town and drop off loot, but it’s extremely expensive. Plus, why not just have a feature that empties your backpack without you needing to go back into town? Have both options for those who want to stay in the dungeon and carry on. Then there are the technical issues.
Now there’s nothing that ruins the game outright. But I’ve had long loading times, missing items, invisible characters/weapons and several crashes. This made this game too painful at times. Try spending over an hour exploring a dungeon, manage all your loot and for the game to crash and you lose it all.
I like this game a lot. And I want the developers to make a sequel to expand the ideas they had. The concept of supplying your own shop after venturing into different dungeons is very cool. But this could be considered a rough diamond in some respects with its infuriating inventory system, lack of shop dynamics and grinding nature. I definitely recommend this to everyone but it’s far from perfect and could be much bolder with its ideas.