Dungeon games are a guilty pleasure of mine, reminding me of the hours I spent in my childhood slaying monsters and looting treasure. But many of the recent games have lacked substance and just weren’t fun (See Adventure Time Explore the Dungeon). But with Moonlighter they have captured the magic of the older games and added a fresh new twist that kept me hooked.
You start the game as Will, the owner of the titular Moonlighter store in the village of Rynoka, which is handily located next to five mysterious dungeons. However four of the dungeons have been closed off, so trade in the town has dwindled leaving the Moonlighter as the only store left open leaving it to Will to restore the once thriving town. This is where Moonlighter comes into it’s own, as you have to take control of both parts of Will’s life where you venture into dungeons at night to loot treasure, and in the day sell them in your store. Some items are more rare than others so you have to set the price accordingly, but wait…what are the prices??
This is where your inner capitalist comes out to play, setting prices that you think travellers and towns folk will find reasonable. They will let you know if they are happy or not by their reactions showing up in speech bubbles either happy, sad or very happy meaning the item was under priced. This is a brilliant addition to the game that put you in control of your finances and makes you start to think if you want to flood the market with the rare items, or keep them back to bump up the demand and price. This becomes very addictive very fast, which helps you to regenerate the town with new shops or hiring yourself more staff so you can keep the Moonlighter open all day. The more shops you reopen the more travellers you get into your shop, which means more money for you. Capitalism at it’s finest.
The dungeons are randomly generated so every time you enter one it will be different, which was pretty cool as each night was a new adventure to find the best items. There is always 3 levels and a boss room, but how to get there changes and gives the game more longevity than if you could just memorise the layout. The Monsters range from blobs of goo to stone guardians which each have their own tricks to beat you and stop you from taking their goods. If you die when in the dungeon you will lose all the treasure you have found, but you are able to transport yourself out at any time by using your medallion, which lets you flee and keep all you have found. The battle mechanics are as simple as you would expect with just slashing and shielding as the main options, but this adds more than it detracts from the game giving it the old school feel that I love.
The graphics look great and a lot of work has gone into making it look like an 8bit game, but polishing it so it looks new and relevant to today’s younger gamers. The music and sounds are spot on and everything in the game just seems to compliment each other in a way that makes it feel just right. If more indie game were like this then I would be one happy adventurer/capitalist shop owner.