Moonfall Ultimate has, at its heart, a brilliant premise. What if we take the RPG elements of Diablo and combine it with the side scrolling arcade beat-’em-up sensibilities of Golden Axe? Surely you’d have the formula for a delightfully fun game? That’s a sound theory but is that the reality Fishcow has been able to create? Obviously I’m not going to tell you that right now, you’ll have to read through to the end of this review to find out. I’m mean like that.
Moonfall begins with the most spectacularly incoherent opening cut scene of all time. The story, both here and throughout the many diary entries you find scattered throughout the game, is near incomprehensible. It manages to be both overly complex – with regards to world building – and yet painfully simplistic in it’s method of delivery. Reading ream after ream of tediously written – or perhaps just poorly translated – text is not an enjoyable distraction. Best to ignore it and get stuck in to the hack and slash action instead.
Presented in a delightful hand-painted art style, Moonfall Ultimate is certainly pretty to look at and stands out from its rather more dour contemporaries. The cost of these good looks are stilted animations, with character models jerking like marionettes as they swing axes, shoot crossbows and cast spells. Perhaps it is this that removes any sense of vicarious energy to the combat. Too often battles descend into stationary figures wailing away at each other until someone dies of premature death or perhaps boredom. This issue is felt even more keenly due to the lack of NPC reaction to being struck, and without a brief respite there’s little opportunity or reason to use powers any more interesting than the player’s basic attack again and again.
Moonfall Ultimate is also breathtakingly unfair. I needed multiple playthroughs of the tutorial just to make it through to the end, the difficulty spikes here are tear inducingly frustrating. Groups of enemies attack your one lonely character from all sides – and thanks to the lack of visual representation of the damage the player is receiving – you’ll find yourself being prompted to restart long before realising taking a health potion is necessary. The best approach is to constantly run away to recharge your health and abilities, before attacking once again. It’s a slog, and as an RPG, the result of this is to make you feel utterly unlike the heroic warrior the game is portraying you to be.
Then there’s the controls, that, to put it bluntly, suck. The standard attack and block are mapped to the left and right triggers which is incredibly unintuitive. Having to depress a trigger entirely until finally launching an attack is unwieldy and leads to a lack of sensation of control. Also, using the Touch Pad to pick up items is just plain odd. The game provides no opportunity to customise these controls and so the player is stuck with them from beginning to end.
The local co-op mode improves matters significantly. Not only does it have the effect of making the difficulty level more bearable, but it also provides the opportunity for tactical play that is absent elsewhere. One player can be the tank-like soldier, absorbing damage on the frontlines, whilst the other plays as a ranger and shoots crossbow bolts from afar. It’s a shame then that there is little in the game that specifically asks of or challenges you in local play.
The result of merging together Diablo and Golden Axe should have been brilliant. It’s a shame then that Moonfall Ultimate falls a long way short of that expectation. With more of a focus on explosive arcade combat this could have been a fun diversion, as it stands however there’s far too many frustrating issues to see you to the end of its limited run time.
Version Tested: PS4 – also available on Xbox One, PC and Switch