Capitalism is believed to be derived from feudalism, which was mostly confined to Europe and lasted from the medieval period through to the sixteenth century. Roguelites, on the other hand, have roots which can be traced back to the 1980 game Rogue, hence the name. Both of these have evolved and become something different compared to their original form, some would say better, some would say worse, but no one would think that the two should be mashed together to make a game. No one, that is, except for Digital Sun Games who saw the potential in this partnership and went ahead with the merger.
Moonlighter is set in a small village called Rynoka. The village cropped up near a set of Gates which were discovered during an archaeological excavation and seem to lead to different dimensions. Most importantly, these Gates led to treasure and this discovery quickly led to a slew of two different kinds of people populating Rynoka. You have the Heroes, who plunge themselves into the dungeon in order to see what they can find, and then you have the Merchants, who get in, grab the treasure, and then get back out and sell it.
You play as Will, who runs the Moonlighter, a shop that sells the treasures plundered from beyond the gates. His only wish is to be more than just a Merchant, wanting to be a Hero instead, and to see what is behind the fifth gate. Most of the Gates have been sealed, with only the safest still being available to you at the beginning of the game. To conquer the dungeon you have to clear three floors and then the boss at the end, with the roguelite elements coming into play with the dungeon’s design. Each time you try again the rooms will have shifted and your path through will be different. However, you have a pendant that allows you to escape with all of the treasure you have acquired during your run, and you will have to use it a lot in order to make headway through the game and turn a profit.
When you return to the Moonlighter with your loot it’s your job to set a price and sell it. Price it too high and the customers won’t buy it, too low and you will be making things harder on yourself. With your earnings you can do a few different things, such as reinvest that money in the store, bring new merchants to the town, or upgrade your gear using some of the things you have found and an increasingly hefty investment.
The loop is incredibly rewarding, and while figuring out how to price your wares is easy enough most of the time, it still includes a few surprises in order to keep you paying attention. In fact, as you upgrade your store you will have new patrons coming to visit you, including people who will only buy what they believe to be premium items, as well as thieves, who you need to tackle in order to recover your items. Your income increases exponentially as you unlock new dungeons and can find new items within them. It keeps it inline with upgrading your gear, so you never feel like you have to grind that much as long as you are brave.
Combat is dictated largely by which weapon you want to use, and you have access to a classic sword and shield, great sword, spear, fist weapon and bow and arrow. You can have two equipped at any one time which allows you to switch between two styles, so you can have one close and one long range, or to have one for defence and one for attack. Throw in your dodge roll and you have an enjoyable, if simple combat system that relies on your timing and your ability to read your enemies. That being said, it did feel as though the enemies crumbled under the end game weapons a little too quickly, and revisiting earlier dungeons is almost a joke because of how powerful your weapons become.
Both the graphics and the music instil a sense of awe that few games manage. While old school pixel art has been done to death, it still has so many wonderful little animations and charming assets that it is impossible to play without getting distracted. The music is on a completely other level; it will flow through multiple layers just within the town and even change the instrumental composition depending on who you are talking to. Each dungeon is just as lovingly orchestrated with different themes fitting the setting of each perfectly. It is rare that a game’s music is almost a character in and of itself, but in this case it almost outshines the gameplay.
Moonlighter is an incredibly enjoyable jaunt through some interesting ideas and some fun fights. While the combat gets a little easy as you progress, the fun of watching money pour in as you play is immensely satisfying. It would be nice if there was more reason to play after completion as is normally the case with roguelites, but equally having an actual conclusion is a breath of fresh air for the genre. It is a lot of fun and one that will keep you entertained for a fair while if you want to sink your time into it.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 – Also available for Xbox One, & PC