There’s a real fable-like air to Moonlighter. A story of a man separated from dreams by duty and family. It’s so easy to catch yourself rooting for Will to succeed in his passion. The game’s narrative is minimal, although it really only needs to exist to add context to the world and your actions, and the narrative that does exist really fits with the feel of the game. You have to work hard to improve yourself, but you have to also work hard to help those around you. There’s a real duality of purpose, and it reflects well with the design. You can’t just abandon the store and go questing all day. You also can’t just work the day job. Both jobs feed into each other.
The day job sees Will run the item store, in an interesting twist on the tycoon genre. Here you sell loot you get from the dungeons alongside items bought from other vendors in the town. What’s interesting is you have no idea what things are worth at the start. When you plonk down an item on one of your tables for the first time, you’re taking a stab in the dark. As customers look at your wares they’ll visibly react, maybe it’s a bit cheap? Bit pricey? Each new reaction is a step closer to zeroing in on the optimum price point for an item. You can also sell a bunch of items in one go, if the unit price is on point. Just keep in mind the classic supply and demand, flood the market and an item’s popularity can plummet.
The item store is quite the buffet of management games. You’ve got the pricing to figure out, but you also must manage the store during opening hours. Where should items be placed? Some special tables can attract different buyers. Which items should you display? Not only must you avoid oversupplying, but some customers may only be interested in specific items. Time must be managed too. Customers will only wait for so long before they leave with your unpaid items in tow. Throw in a limited inventory leading to trips to the back rooms, and criminals looking to steal your wares, and suddenly timing becomes very important. It feels like a mishmash of Diner Dash and Recettear, but in a good way. There are enough things going on that you must pay attention and sometimes make hard choices. But the concepts are simple and communicated well in the game’s visual language.