“Moonlighter” is an indie game that might be worth checking out during a time that is crowded with great game releases. It’s a fun time, but isn’t necessary for everyone.
Players control Will, a shopkeep who desperately wants to be an adventurer. These two ideas mesh well and form an interesting gameplay experience which involves procuring unique items and looting dungeons before returning to your store to sell them. As players build their virtual economy, their town grows stronger, with new characters and business appearing throughout gameplay.
“Moonlighter” splits itself between two worlds but does so successfully.
However, the shopkeeping side does feel a bit more compelling. The in-game economy works really well; if the market is oversaturated for an item, price goes down; if an item is rare and necessary, people will pay more for it. This level of shopkeeping hasn’t been seen much since “Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale” in 2007.
The act of running a shop is also more active than expected. Instead of just putting items up for sale and waiting for a profit while players look over their shops NPCs can actually attempt to rob them.
It’s really terrifying when you have a rare item out and an NPC picks it up and bolts for the door. The rush of rolling over to stop them before they get to the door is actually heart-stopping.
Shopkeeping is also required in order to upgrade equipment and buy new things, which is a necessity to make it through the game. It’s just a shame that the looting isn’t as fun as it could be.
With such a focus on building a good shop, it’s also great that scouring dungeons and fighting enemies to find loot is enjoyable, even if it isn’t as compelling as the shopkeeping. The combat system is fast and quite difficult, although a little cumbersome at times.
Early on, it is easy to fumble through fights and lose them, but it can be learned after a play session or so.
Enemy variation is also a little sparse. The enemies include slimes and golems that look great and are fun to fight, but a bit more depth there would’ve been nice.
While out looting through dungeons, players have limited inventory space as well, which creates an interesting dynamic of looting what players think they really need. There may be an item that could sell for a lot but it might take up too much space.
The inventory management is done well and doesn’t feel obtuse thankfully, but instead adds to a fun experience.
The dungeons are procedurally generated, which is fine for replayability, but also kind of a bummer. It’s nice in a game like this because randomly-generated loot and monsters add a level of depth to a game revolving around looting and then selling.
That said, the environments can start to feel a little bland after a while. None of the environments have a good, hand-crafted feeling.
“Moonlighter” is an adorable game with a fine art style — the graphics are fine, but nothing too crazy. It follows the art style of many indie games in a 32-bit-esque style.
It’s also upsetting that the soundtrack and sound effects are quite generic. It feels like just about any other random indie game soundtrack, which is a shame when other, older games like “Bastion” or “Undertale” have such phenomenal music.
Despite this, the shopkeeping elements of “Moonlighter” kept me playing. The constant desire to upgrade your shop and check out the economy is very fun.
While the combat and looting may not have been for me, “Moonlighter” is still worth checking out, especially if the game drops to a good sale. Currently, it’s $13.99 on Steam.
Moonlighter is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and Steam.