Review: Moonlighter (Switch)

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Well, it took a while, but it is time at last to review the game Moonlighter. This game was recommended by a friend, and it sounded interesting at the time, so I decided to have a look. After over 40 hours of play in order to finish the game, I am ready to cover what makes Moonlighter tick, and whether it might be worth your time. Let’s take a look.

Moonlighter is a hybrid of town/shop management, and dungeon exploration. Managing your shop happens by day, while the dungeon exploration occurs at night. These two phases happen separately, and in such a way that every player has to experience both in order to complete the game.

Dungeons are procedurally generated, meaning they aren’t exactly the same every time you visit them. This is much-needed, as you will have to make several trips through each dungeon simply to complete them. The items you loot from these dungeons are sold in your shop during the day portions of the game, and the gold you get from selling these items are used to buy equipment, potions, town upgrades, and shop upgrades. Additionally, you need money to escape from dungeons, using a pendant that is always on the main character’s person. This is best to do when your pack is full, so you have more goods to sell later.

MoonligherDungeon
Dungeons in Moonlighter require many visits to complete.

The shop management portions of the game were interesting at first. You get to sell your items at any price you choose, but selling too high means customers might not buy your goods. On the flip side, setting a price that is too low only has the drawback of you not getting more gold. Thankfully, the game records customer reactions to your prices as they buy your goods, so you can tweak the price in case you forget their reactions.

This portion of the game does get old after a while. In many other games, selling your goods to shops takes only a few seconds per item. In Moonlighter, you are the shop owner, so you have to place the goods on shelves, open the door for business, wait for customers to come in, wait for the customer to pick the item they want, and wait for them to carry it to the cash register. You then have to place more items on empty shelves, and hope that the customers don’t buy everything by the time the day is over (you do need some goods to craft weapons or potions). This is essentially working retail, and it can get dull, frustrating, and lasts a little too long. While I can sympathize with the main character’s desire to explore over shopkeeping, I also don’t find this portion of the game to be fun after the novelty wore off.

MoonlighterShop
The shopkeeping portions can be quite slow.

You can also invest in new shops for the town, or upgrade the shop in order to sell more goods. These investments are pretty quick to obtain in contrast, once you have enough gold to do so. The potion shop and the forge are must-haves, as these allow you to become strong enough to get through the four dungeons. After a while, I started focusing more on weapon upgrades over shop upgrades, as I wanted to complete the game as soon as I could.

Additionally, I found the difficulty curve of this game to be a little odd. Some of the early game dungeons were harder, as I was familiarizing myself with the game, and had no idea how strong I had to be to complete the current dungeon. The first boss had well telegraphed attacks, so it didn’t feel too tough to complete the dungeon, once I was comfortable getting to the end. The third dungeon was the most challenging, as I was equipped with the best equipment, and I still lost to the boss, even with a surplus of the best potions using the available materials at the time. I had to buy better potions that required materials not available at the time (doing so without the materials simply costs more gold) in order to complete the third dungeon. After that, the bosses and dungeons got somewhat easier, and required fewer tries and upgrades to complete (though plenty of return trips were still needed to get to that point). The game was also wearing thin around that time, at least in my case.

MoonlighterBoss
This first boss of Moonlighter was well designed. The others are either just as well made, or were tough bullet hells.

Moonlighter is a game that sounds interesting on paper, and is initially a novelty, but like working retail, it isn’t something you want to do in the long-term. It can be long, tedious, and sort of simple to the extent the game gets a little bland. Some players might get more than I did out of this game, so you may want to try it out if it catches your eye.

Here are some play recommendations:

  • Choose your difficulty carefully. Normal is the easiest, but may be the most bland. Hard difficulty adds sub bosses, and alters a few things. I have not tried super hard, although you can change the game difficulty outside of dungeons to check all this out.
  • You may want to gather as much gold and equipment as you can for new gear before you try to finish a dungeon. They are more difficult than you might think.
  • Upgrade the town with the potion shop and forge first, as you need both to safely navigate dungeons.
  • Upgrade the shop at least once, and buy storage and some of the smaller shop upgrades till around halfway through the game. Focus on equipment after that, at least if you just want to finish the game.
  • After the story is over, you may be tired of the game. You may try harder difficulties, buy every shop and town upgrade, and so forth if you can’t get enough of this game.

Time for the Pros and Cons of the game:

Pros:

  • A neat hybrid of genres.
  • Adequate graphics and music.
  • Some bosses are well designed.
  • Procedurally generated dungeons keep the game fresh enough.

Cons: 

  • Selling goods in the shop is a slow process.
  • Game required a lot of item and cash gathering than expected, causing the game to wear thin before finishing.
  • Combat and dungeon exploration is too simple (possible con).

So, what is the verdict?

7.5/10 Good, but game wears thin due to its length

Personally, if the game was about half the length, I might have liked it more. If I didn’t have to sell items as much, it would have been more fun.


And that was what I thought of Moonlighter. But what about you? Did you like this game? Which parts did you like the most? Did you enjoy the shop management portions? Tell me what you liked and why in the comments below!

 

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