RPGs have always contained a healthy dose of dungeon crawling, gathering loot and exp and selling all of the goods you’ve acquired and rinse and repeat until the end of time. Some of the best games, such as Diablo, are based on this dungeon crawling/selling mechanic. Never has there been a game (that I know of) that allows you to go into dungeons to find loot so you can sell it in your own shop. It might sound boring, but selling stuff is half the fun in Moonlighter, an action RPG/rogue-lite/shop manager from Digital Sun Games. If you’re a fan of Dragon Quest IV and thought the third chapter involving weapons merchant Torneko, who wanted to leave his job and go on an adventure was refreshing and unique, Moonlighter will be right up your alley.
The premise for Moonlighter is simple. You play as Will, a silent protagonist with great ambitions of being an adventurer, but who is stuck in a rut running his shop, the Moonlighter in the small, quaint town of Rynoka. There are four dungeons just outside of the town that apparently holds the answers to unlocking the sacred fifth dungeon door that everyone is so interested in. No one has ever achieved this, and if it was up to your grandfather Zenon, it would stay that way. However, Will doesn’t want this life, he wants to become an adventurer. This is where your journey begins.
How you choose to go about your day is entirely up to you. There are only two areas you can travel between; the town and the dungeons. I fell into a loop of traversing the dungeons at night since that’s when monsters are stronger and drop the best loot and selling my findings during the day. It felt a little overwhelming at first selling things, but the folks at Digital Sun Games have simplified the process. You can only place four items for sale when you start, but with shop upgrades, you can place more. When you first acquire an item, you don’t know how much it’s worth, so you just place it on the table for sale and hope for the best.
Once you’re ready, you open up your shop for business and the customers start piling in. They’ll look at what you have for sale and react one of four ways via an emoji face: They’ll think they’re getting a steal of a deal, they’ll think they’ve paid the perfect amount, they’ll be pissed because they thought they paid too much, or they’ll think the price is too high and not make the purchase. It’s strange, but it’s exciting to put something out for what you think it’s worth and sit back and watch as the customers react either negatively or positively. The game keeps track of how they react to certain prices, so you can fluctuate the cost until you hit the perfect amount. The game then saves this number and whenever you put that item up for sale, it sets the price for you. It’s making money made easy. Unless of course, you get a thief in your store, then the chase is on. Numerous times I had to tackle people for trying to steal items from me.
It’s hard work running a shop.
The whole process becomes an addictive experience. Once you’ve started selling things and made a profit, now’s the time to invest in better gear and weapons for the dungeon crawling you’re going to partake in. Not only can you forge armor and weapons, but you can enchant them to become stronger as well. Will doesn’t level up so relying on just crafted gear and items to survive gives Moonlighter a strong Monster Hunter vibe.
Dungeons are three levels deep with a boss fight at the end. You’re given items early on that allows you to either teleport out of the dungeon for a gold fee or teleport out, sell stuff and then teleport back in (this costs a lot more to do). Once you’ve beaten a dungeon, you can go back inside and fight through each of the floors to collect loot to sell again, but it’s much easier this time since you have an understanding of the dungeon and you have overpowered gear. The only downside is you can’t farm the bosses. Once one is dead, it’s dead for good.
Combat is simple, you have a normal attack and a dash attack (or if you have a shield, you block instead of dash) and you can roll with L2. Regular enemies aren’t very difficult if you have some good gear. The real challenge comes from fighting the giant Guardians at the end of each dungeon. These menacing creatures have patterns that you’ll need to learn if you want to stand any chance of beating them. Like in Dark Souls, just keep rolling, rolling, rolling.
Along with trying to run a shop and slay Guardians, you’re responsible for making the town grow. You can upgrade the Moonlighter with various perks like increased item space and a better bed that gives you more health and defense when you sleep in it. You can also hire five different shops to set up in Rynoka such as a Banker, Forge, Potion/Enchantment Master, Item Seller or Furniture Seller, to invest your money into.
If someone would have told me that one of my favorite games this year would be one based on running an item shop, I would have laughed in their face. I guess the joke’s on me. Despite its relatively short length (my first playthrough took about 11 hours), Moonlighter is consistently rewarding and wonderful. It has instantly become one of my favorite games this year. – NVJ
Moonlighter is now available on PS4, Xbox One & PC. A Nintendo Switch release date hasn’t been announced, but it’s on the way!
PS4 review code provided by Evolve PR