Moonlighter, developed by Digital Sun, is a charming game reminiscent of top-down dungeon-crawlers like The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and The Binding of Isaac. At first glance, the game on PlayStation 4 looks simple enough: dungeon, loot, sell, repeat. The gameplay, however, will hook you, enrage you and have you coming back for more.
In Moonlighter, you play as Will, a merchant by day and dungeon explorer by night. Luckily, your house is in a town that sits right next to five secret doors that lead to various dungeons, all with varying difficulties. What luck!
You start the game with a basic sword and shield and immediately begin the cycle mentioned above. You enter a randomly-generated dungeon, kill everything you can and when it gets too tough or you’ve looted a bag full, you can hold circle and be on your way back to town. If that was all the game was, it would be a good little dungeon crawler. The fighting is smooth and the action frantic at points and you’ll constantly be debating the pros and cons of just one more room. If you die, you lose everything you’re carrying, rendering all that you’ve done during that run useless. If you survive one more room, you may find that special item you’ve been looking for. It’s a constant battle to either press on or head home with your loot.
The items you loot can also be cursed, and must be placed in certain spots in your bag. This inventory management system keeps you on your toes as you’re looting. Some items will destroy the item next to it when placed there and some items can only be placed in certain parts of the bag. You’re constantly keeping an eye on your bags and making sure that your items are in the right spots.
But there is an entirely different system in this game, one that takes place outside of the dungeons. You, as mentioned above, also run a shop where you sell all of the spoils of your adventures. The shop keeping aspect of the game is as addictive as the fighting. You don’t simply sell them, you run your shop. You decide when it opens and closes, set the prices for all of your loot and gauge the reactions of your customers as they browse to see if you’re selling too high, or *gasp* too low. It’s very satisfying to find the perfect price of an item and watch a customer buy it – especially after watching them tire-kick for two or three rounds through your shop frowning at your price. It is also, however, equally distressing when you watch a customer’s eyes light up when you’ve obviously priced an item way to low and they’re about to get the deal of the century. You constantly refine your pricing to get the perfect price for each item, and the quick display option is a nice touch, automatically displaying items at your chosen price. Sometimes you’ll even have to tackle a shoplifter when the situation calls for it, which is a nice touch.
You can upgrade your items, weapons and shop, and even invite new vendors to town including a retailer, hawker, banker and more. You use materials looted from your runs to purchase potions, enchantments and more, giving even more weight to deciding which items to sell in your store and which to keep for yourself. You’ll constantly find yourself heading back into the dungeons to find that last material for your new sword or armor.
Moonlighter doesn’t do much in the way of cosmetics though, as your shop can be upgraded for space, but never really looks. Some new colours or display items would have been a nice addition to show off to your customers. The pricing game, while fun at first, gets dull once you’ve discovered the perfect prices for your items, and I ended up just using the quick sell option with my most recent price later in the game for almost every item.
All in all, Moonlighter is a fun, charming roguelike with a great hook. Once completed though, it offers little replay value and it’s something that you’ll likely finish and then never play again, unlike some other roguelikes in recent memory. It’s definitely worth playing, and I’d suggest getting it if you’re into this type of game!
If you’ve played it, let us know what you think in the comments!