Ladies and gentlemen, I have found my summer obsession of 2018. Last year, it was Rogue Legacy, and the summer before that, it was The Binding of Isaac. This year, it’s a beautiful gem of an indie title called Moonlighter from Digital Sun Games. It’s delightfully addicting, deceptively deep, and the game I’m thinking about most when I’m not playing it. I know we’re only in July, but I’ve already found a serious contender for my personal favorite of the year.
Not Your Average Roguelike
On its surface, Moonlighter appears to be your run-of-the-mill roguelike with procedurally-generated dungeons and a pixelated art style. While the Zelda-like corridors have a familiarity to them, that’s only half of the actual gameplay. The other half of your time is spent selling discovered loot in your shop back in town. While this may not seem like anything new to the genre, this game adds an additional layer. Rather than simply unloading your goods to someone else, you’ll set your own prices based on supply and demand.
The tricky part is that you have no idea the value of the items you’ve collected. You have to feel out the market with a test price and wait to see your customers’ reactions. If a guest thinks your price is too high, he/she will put the merchandise back on the shelf and move on. Conversely, if the price is too low, they will react with glee at finding such an incredible deal. Your job is to adjust the price of the item to find that perfect sweet spot that makes both you and the customer happy with the next transaction. It’s an element that adds charm to the roguelike formula, while varying the gameplay from merely spending time slaying enemies.
Your primary goal in Moonlighter is to work your way through four dungeons with three levels within each. As expected, each “run” randomizes the map and grows progressively more difficult with each new location. The combat is slick, offering melee weapons as well as a ranged bow and arrow. The enemies’ design encourages memorization of exactly how to take down each foe. In essence, you learn patterns and grow in your play style on top of your weapon upgrades. Simply put, it’s brilliantly designed and never gets old too quickly.
More Than Meets the Eye
And that’s really only the beginning of just how deep Moonlighter‘s design goes. On top of the previously mentioned mechanics, you have a brilliant progression system. The deeper you traverse the dungeons, the more rare items you will find. The rarer the items, the more gold the townspeople are willing to shell out for them. You spend that gold on a multitude of upgrades for your weapons, your shop, and even the town itself. Everything you spend money on makes your next dungeon run that much easier to handle. This is the truly rewarding part of the game. If you’re willing to put in the “work” back home, it makes taking on the enemies incredibly satisfying.
You really have to enjoy inventory management to get the most out of this title. You’ll spend a good amount of time in your menu setting prices, arranging loot in your pack/chests and unloading items to make room for more valuable ones. While this formula worked perfectly for me, I also understand that these mechanics aren’t for everyone. Don’t let that dissuade you from giving this one a try. It might take some getting used to, but the end result is completely rewarding once you wrap your head around what you’re supposed to do. When that happens, it’s nearly impossible to put down.
Moonlighter Final Verdict
If you can’t tell already, I’m a massive fan of Moonlighter. My hope is that others might discover the joy buried within this charming title. It’s not without its minor flaws, including some text spelling errors, minor menu quirks, and nearly insignificant glitches. None of that takes away from the experience of an otherwise brilliant game. At $19.99, it also stands as one of the better values I’ve seen in terms of the amount of time I’ve spent playing. If you’re a fan of this genre, you will not want to miss this incredible experience. It deserves to stand among the best roguelikes and is well worth your time.
This review is based off of an Xbox One review copy provided by Evolve PR and 11 bit studios for coverage purposes. The screenshots in this review are from the PS4 version, which were downloaded from the online press kit.