‘Moonlighter’ Review: An Ancient Two’fer

by Mitch Stewart
Published: Last Updated on

A Little Background

By day, Will runs a shop, Moonlighter, in the small town of Rynoka. By night, he travels to the Golem Dungeon to gather resources from the enemies within that he can sell in his store. But as Will explores the Golem Dungeon more, he discovers that there may be more to it than meets the eye.

In all, there are five dungeons or gates. They were discovered long, long ago and the town of Rynoka was founded near them. Will’s grandfather started the shop, ‘Moonlighter’, to provide adventurers with supplies and eventually Will took over. Unfortunately, most people saw the dungeons as a get rich quick scheme and all but the Golem Dungeon was shut down and boarded over. After this happened, Rynoka slowly dried up, until it was just ‘Moonlighter’ and a few other buildings around town.

Since Will had started traveling to the Golem Dungeon and keeping the Moonlighter on its feet, he has been entrusted to restore Rynoka to its former glory. But the magically locked fifth dungeon calls out to Will and he can’t help but wonder what’s behind that final door…

Oh, you got jokes, huh?

The Daily Grind

After Will wakes up, he needs to open his store, sell items, and tend to customers. You simply place items for sale on the pedestals and set the price. Watching the customer’s reactions to the price will give you an indication to what you can sell stuff for; too low and you’re making less money, too high and you won’t make the sale. Every item has a sweet spot that customers will pay and you will reap the benefits from.

After work, you’re free to explore the town. You can spend gold from your shop to bring in new merchants or upgrade your shop, as well as meet other townsfolk. This way, you can get some additional quests and learn some lore. You can also buy new weapons, armour, or potions from some other merchants. However, the main draw is the Dungeon.

To start, you will only be able to enter the Golem Dungeon, but more dungeons open up as you get further into the game. The dungeon is procedurally generated every time you re-enter, meaning that no trip will ever be the same twice. You make your way through the dungeon, going deeper and deeper until you eventually reach the boss of the dungeon.

As you defeat enemies, they drop items that you can take back to your store and sell to make money. However, some of the items are cursed and will destroy other items if you leave with them; so organizing your inventory is paramount to success. Combat is very fluid and the inclusion of a dodge button makes for some really intense moments against lots of enemies.

Yup, you got jokes.

But How Does It Look and Sound?

‘Moonlighter’ has a very SNES-inspired look to it, very much in the vein of Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. Everything is animated beautifully and there’s a very polished handmade aesthetic to everything. The dungeons all have little touches of ‘art direction’ that so subtly add to the experience.

The game also has a super SNES-inspired soundtrack, right down to the confirmation for the button presses. The occasional healing pools in the dungeon are also given their own, calming music. The rest of the music through the dungeon is very fast-paced and manages to sit right above the action, insofar as it’s present, but not overwhelming or distracting from the gameplay.

Will I Like It?

‘Moonlighter’ is a game for people that like management sims, action-adventure games, and rogue-likes. It features a really interesting money-making aspect to it, with the shop system, but it also stands on its own as a straight up ARPG game. If you like dungeon crawling, you’re going to love ‘Moonlighter’.

Pros
Running the shop is a very rewarding experience, where you’re learning how far you can push the envelope on prices.
The combat can be strategic and isn’t just straight up button mashing.
Improving the town is fun and strikes a balance between trying to get further in the dungeon or setting up new merchants.

Cons
Stuff is super expensive.
*Nitpicky* It takes a while to create the muscle memory of picking up a stack in inventory, rather than just one.
Bosses can be difficult until you figure out patterns and movement.

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