Moonlighter originally release in May this year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. A procedurally generated dungeon crawler rogue-like combined addictive combat with a nostalgic art-style that popped off the screen, with an additional element of running an effective shop to sell the loot you collect giving extra motivation. It impressed us, and many others, and is now finally available on the Nintendo Switch.
In our original review, we said: “I’m surprised to say Moonlighter managed to exceed my high standards. There’s a real duality that seems to flow through everything here. You slide from the (at times) peaceful quiet of the item shop to the sometimes technical and nerve-racking dungeon crawls. The design has pixelated graphics but the palette and overall fidelity make it something distinct from any possible sources of nostalgia. You can practically feel the love and care stitched into this game.”
The gameplay loop is a simple one that feels ingenious. How many times have you played an RPG and explored dungeons for loot, excited to find something expensive that you can take to a town, sell off and get that sweet gold to go towards your next weapon or piece of armour? This isn’t just a side-mechanic in Moonlighter… it’s the entire experience. Better still, you don’t just sell what you find at a specific rate – you set the prices yourself.
It’s a cool twist, and the game revolves around heading down into the dungeons (one initially but others open up as you progress through their mysterious floors), fighting monsters, collecting as much loot as possible and bringing it back to your shop to sell. If you get killed, you drop all that you’re carrying and must start again. It’s classic risk vs. reward, and of course the rarer and more interesting loot is deeper in each dungeon.
Procedurally generated levels ensures that each run is slightly different, but enemies and their attack patterns become familiar eventually, allowing you to learn the best way to tackle each room effectively and efficiently. Using your attack, block and dodge, tackling every section soon becomes a rhythm as the goodies pile up as your reward. Your backpack has limited space so you can only carry so much, and you’ll want the best items possible to sell back in town.
The intricacies of rogue-like dungeon crawling aside, it’s back at your shop where the other half of Moonlighter comes into play. You choose the pricing of each item you sell to customers, and if it’s too expensive, they won’t buy it. If it’s too cheap, they will express their satisfaction at picking up a bargain. By seeing which reaction they give and adjusting prices accordingly, you can find the “sweet spot” for each piece of loot and make a lot of money quite quickly once you have it figured out.
It’s very satisfying to achieve this steady cash flow, and the money can be used to add new elements to your town, upgrade your shop, or go towards new weapons and gear. Other items must be scavenged and used towards your upgrades as well so it’s not as simple as selling everything, and there are handy UI tools in place like tracking which ingredients are required as you go and being able to bundle things together easily. It’s just a thoughtful experience overall, and one that is a joy to play end-to-end.
I’ll take this release as another opportunity to recommend Moonlighter, which in my opinion is one of the more memorable indies from 2018. It takes a lot of ideas ingrained in us RPG lovers and turns it into a satisfying and fruitful gameplay loop that is constantly inspiring me to go back for just one more dungeon or just one more day of selling. It’s short-burst nature of these elements makes it perfectly suited to the Switch, so if you haven’t already, now is the time to pick this one up.