Moonlighter is an action RPG with rogue-lite elements developed by Digital Sun and published by 11 bit Studios.
Moonlighter asks the age old question: “How do video game merchants obtain the merchandise for their store?”, and provides an actual answer. The playable character, Will, lives in the commercial village of Rynoka, and is the merchant of the titular store, which was passed down to him by his now deceased parents. As a merchant, Will has to gather merchandise for his store by exploring five different dungeons filled with ancient artifacts and enemies which reward various materials.
Although there are only five dungeons in total, each of them has procedurally generated floors with slight changes each time you enter. Each dungeon has a theme — golem dungeon, forest dungeon, etc. — and each one introduces a few new types of enemies. When fighting enemies early on, learning their attack patterns is important and requires you to utilize your roll dodge jump, which allows you to avoid enemy attacks as well as jump over enemies and other obstacles when needed. This can be a challenge when having a smaller amount of health, and may end up leading you to your death by accident a few times. but becomes a simple reflex as you improve.
Due to being able to lose items if you fall in battle, your magic pendant will allow you to return to town for a small fee, while items you pick up but don’t need can be offered to a magic mirror for a small amount of gold. Items can also be held in chests in your bedroom for safekeeping, and additional chests can be added when you can afford them. Additionally, another key item will allow you to create a portal between town and whichever room of the dungeon you’re currently in, for a more expensive price. This can be useful prior to a boss fight if you have needed materials you’d rather not lose.
Like other roguelites, making progress can be a difficult task before upgrading your weapons and armor. A bulletin board in the center of town will allow you to add new shops for weapons, potions, and more, as well as buy upgrades for your shop. All of these cost a couple thousand coins, so some dungeon crawling and item selling is required to obtain enough money for what you need .
Selling your items as store products adds another layer to Moonlighter, and has more depth than expected. You set the price for each item yourself and depending on how your customers react you can determine when items are too expensive, too cheap, or an acceptable price. Successfully selling items requires some trial and error, but becomes a simple venture once you understand how to.
At first I wrote off Moonlighter as just another one of the many Legend of Zelda inspired indie titles released in the past few years — a style which I’ve never been fond of (with a few exceptions) –, but after understanding the mechanics better, I find myself still going back to it even if only for a brief play session. The choices you have to make between going back to town and selling items or risking everything you’ve gathered for a chance to get more valuable loot adds an intriguing aspect, and choice making becomes easier as you become more familiar with each dungeon. Although I’ve been enjoying it on PlayStation 4, I’m disappointed that Moonlighter isn’t on Nintendo Switch yet, as I feel that it will do well there — and perhaps better than on other platforms.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.