It seems almost a common occurrence nowadays. Studios developing an indie game start a Kickstarter campaign, get funded and die out because they underestimated the cost of actually making a game. Hundreds of thousands of dollars going down the drain in the name of broken dreams who are crushed by overambition. However, every now and then, the developers come through on their promises of sword fights, monsters, and princesses in other castles. Developers who set realistic goals, make amazing promises, and who put any excess money back into the game they and their community want to make into a reality. A game of dungeon crawling, sword fighting, and shopkeeping.
A game like Moonlighter.
In May of 2018, Digital Sun Games had a vision; an action rogue-lite game where the player is thrown into elaborate dungeons to fight off enemies and take their glorious loot for themselves. Simply to go back to the surface and sell that loot for coin. Into development, they knew they had something special, but needed the funds to make it a reality. And so, Moonlighter was put on Kickstarter with a goal of $40,000 in order to see the game to fruition.
They raised nearly $135,000.
Any developer could have made the game for the initial amount, released the game they promised, and pocket the extra money. However, Digital Sun took a different approach by reinvesting that money back into the game they were building. Adding features that would expand the world, and it’s choices and the experiences inside. Things like secret optional bosses, Thematic weapon and armor sets unique to each boss, special unique rooms that may appear in dungeons to aid you on your quest, and so much more. Not only delivering on their promises but exceeding them.
The game itself is stunning. Pixel art that is beautifully animated, controls that feel natural and responsive, and a soundtrack that is truly a treat to listen to.
After getting through the rather lengthy tutorial of 15 minutes maximum; the player is thrust into the gameplay loop that is Moonlighter. Gathering weapons and armor to go down into the dungeons to kill enemies, raid chests, and collect their loot. Once you’ve collected a haul fit for a king, you make your way back to the surface to go into your shop, Moonlighter, and sell those precious materials for coin. When you are stock full on coin, you can purchase things like Armor, Weapons, Potions, and enchantments so that you are stronger and can go deeper into the dungeons. The deeper you go, the harder the enemies, but the greater the reward.
Know your limits though, if you die in the dungeons, you lose all the loot you’ve gathered through that run, and it spits you back up to the surface. But when you eventually get strong enough to reach the bottom of the dungeon, you’ll meet its boss. A foe worthy of its own floor. Lose, and feel the sting of defeat. Win, and bask in the ecstasy of victory.
Until the next dungeon.
THE DUNGEON LIFE
As we’ve already discussed, dungeons are where you find the loot you’ll put up for sale in your shop, but what can you expect from these pits of misery?
Each dungeon, of which there are at least 4, is a multileveled cave. Each level is different every time you enter. Sure, the same rooms are there, but in a different order, with different enemies, and different floor plans. Some rooms are easy going healing rooms, others lock you in until you defeat the enemies inside, or you perish. Lore of plunderers who traversed before your arrival litter some of the rooms in each dungeon. Artifacts left behind by these travelers can be found and used to aid you on your journey. All of the dungeons are different, with different themes, enemies, and rooms.
Enemies are unique to the dungeons you choose to pillage but keep in mind, so is that dungeons loot. Some weapons and armor need items that can only be found in specific dungeons, meaning even if you beat one, you may still have to go back in. And those unique weapons and armor sets? They’re only craftable after defeating the boss of a dungeon several times and taking its loot. Providing replayability, and the best part about looters; the grind.
Managing Moonlighter is easy enough as it starts. You’re a lone trader, a small number of shelves, not too much storage space in the back, but hey, it’s home. Keep progressing in the game though, and it may become your Emporium.
You’re first introduced to the basics. Supply and demand run this shop just like they do in the real world. You have to figure out pricing by trial and error. Set a price too low, you lose out on profit, set a price too high, you get no profit. The customers help out with this though, when they go to look at an item for sale, an emote displays above their heads, telling you too low, too high, or just right.
Progress in the game, however, and things start to get interesting. All the money you collect from selling your loot can be reinvested into Moonlighter, expanding shelf space, accepting tips, a bed that gives you a well rested bonus, and much more. As well as investing in the other shops around you such as the Armorer or the Enchantress. These expansions don’t come for cheap though. For when there are things for sale, there are things to take. Keep out the ruffians who want to steal your goods, hire additional hands to help with the store, keep an eye on what people want when they walk through the door, and always keep your shelves stocked.
Moonlighter is a wonderful game with a story to tell, both in its development as well as in the actual game. The gameplay mechanics are solid, the controls are smooth, the music is beautiful, and all with an intriguing story of what lies behind the 5th and final dungeon. All of this allows for a game that is truly amazing. A game I can see myself sinking dozens of hours into. A game well worth the measly $19.99 price tag.
Moonlighter is available right now, on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and coming to the Switch at a later date.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got a Gollum boss to go die to.