Moonlighter Review - Clever Concept. Solid Execution.

Utilizing a smart mix of tycoon simulator and dungeon crawler, Moonlighter presents compelling concepts, but fails to make the most of them.

A mysterious archaeological site in Rynoka Village leads various people to five mysterious Gates connected to dangerous dungeons full of elaborate traps. You play as Will, a shopkeeper that must clear these dungeons in order to keep his business afloat. Will goes through each Gate, collects resources, and sells them to other adventurers. However, there’s something mysterious surrounding the sudden appearance of the Gates, and Will wants to find out the truth.

Tycoon? Dungeon Crawl?

Moonlighter’s most impressive quality is its attempt to blend two distinct genres. Half of the game is spent exploring randomly generated dungeons, while managing a small inventory of an overwhelming amount of items. The other half consists of bringing these items to shops. The game doesn’t provide any hints for how players should price items, so figuring out how much an item is worth can take a while.

However, Moonlighter is simply a jack of both genres, as It masters neither. The game’s tycoon elements are underwhelming. The upgrade system is incredibly basic and offers few unique additions. Players can upgrade the size of their shop, cash register, and add a sales bin or more chests. It would’ve been nice to have more creative upgrades, but thankfully, the shop mechanics are perfect. Some of the most fun I’ve had in Moonlighter is when I try to find the perfect balance between customer satisfaction and maximum income.

Another issue is Moonlighter’s limited customization options. The player can add tiny decorative items to their shop, but they aren’t very “decorative.” Instead, these items actually increase things like profit, customer walking speed, and the probability of consumers leaving a tip. This mechanic is pretty cool, but being able to change the shop’s color scheme, move objects around, and buy purely cosmetic items would’ve added an extra layer to the game.

The base combat mechanics are very fun, but Moonlighter lacks creative progression. As you earn more money, you can increase your weapon’s damage output and the amount of extra health you gain from armor. You can purchase different weapons, but that only makes the combat more fun rather than further developing a progression system. Moonlighter could’ve done more with leveling mechanics and a number of different stats. Perhaps players could have even used their gold to increase those stats, Dark Souls style.

Exploring The Gate

With every dungeon crawl, there has to be a number of unique and dangerous rooms that threaten the player in various ways. Moonlighter does a great job of this. The Gate’s only flaw is that there aren’t enough of them. You get to explore four different environments, and although the player will spend a lot of time in these dungeons, the game should’ve had two or three more. Essentially, Moonlighter stretches out its content. While it took 16 hours to complete, a lot of that time was spent traversing areas I had already explored.

However, these dungeons have a number of creative enemies and intriguing designs. For example, in the first dungeon a flying orb harasses the player and randomly drops on you, making the section especially difficult since you have to also dodge the other mobs in the room. Another threatening enemy rolls around shooting a gigantic laser. Whenever the player gets close, it reveals a secondary weapon that damages its surroundings. Not only does the creature do a ton of damage, but it is difficult to find its weak spot. Figuring out how to counter these enemies is a lot of fun, and the game consistently keeps them threatening.

One of Moonlighter’s biggest issues is the abrupt conclusion. Having little to no story, the game ends on an exposition drop and a sudden cut to credits. With more content, the ending would’ve felt more fulfilling, but even then, it was hard to care once it was all over.

Verdict

Moonlighter is a good game that has no outstanding flaws, but it falls short of greatness in most aspects. With more cosmetic choices, a creative progression system, and additional Gates to explore, Moonlighter could’ve been fantastic. However, it still kept me satisfied with a clever blend of tycoon simulator and dungeon crawler.

Score

Good Bad
Fun Combat Mechanics Stretched Out Content
Clever Mix of Tycoon and Dungeon Crawl Basic Upgrades
Selling System Lacks Cosmetics
Various Stores Underwhelming Ending
Decorative Items
Randomly Generated Dungeons
Diverse Enemies

- 7/10 -