by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Moonlighter was a bit of a side quest for our team. We had not heard of the game until we were invited to come and see it at Gamescom but it got funded on Kickstarter just over a year ago and has been gaining popularity since.
The title refers to the game’s central character, a busy shopkeeper Will who would really rather be a hero than do something as mundane as selling his wares. But perhaps he can combine his need to stock his shop with his urge to slay monsters? He starts moonlighting as a hero, slaying foul beasts at night and selling the loot in his shop by day. The town in which Will lives has five strange portals, only one of which can be accessed and leads to a strange dungeon. Curious as he is, he decides to try and figure out how the other four can be opened and, most importantly, why the portals are there at all.
Will fight for money
His nightly ventures into the dungeons are not without danger. There are all sorts of creatures, big and small, that need to be destroyed before he can get to the loot. We saw giant gnats, some sort of walking sponges and spitting cauldrons as some of the early creatures Will encounters. They weren’t that menacing looking either but Will is only a beginning hero with modest skills and equipment. And while staying longer yields more rewards, overstaying his welcome might attract the attention of the dungeon’s master and we sure did not feel ready for that! Luckily there is a wide variety of really odd looking creatures further ahead to spice things up.
Items that you bring back can be put up for sale in your shop. If the quality and the price are ok, they’ll find happy buyers. Customers will give your goods a rating. You can keep track of the rating to optimize the sales price when you find the same item again. The gold that you earn from your sales can be used to craft gear and enchantments. Will can’t do any crafting himself so he needs to take the gold, along with any materials he will need, to the blacksmith or potion maker. And when I say “needs”, I really mean needs – there are no character stats in the game which means the only way to improve your odds in the dungeons is by getting better gear.
There are a few clever ideas that will keep things interesting. For instance, you can go on adventure any time but the shop is only open by day. However, the dungeons are more difficult at night so you’ll need to make choices. Also, if you get killed you keep your equipment but anything that you found in the dungeon is lost – sometimes it is better to run than to fight.
Moonlighter looks like it will be one of those simple but fun pastimes that you play for a few hours, put aside and then come back for another session the next day, and the next. We did not see much beyond the starter dungeon but if the other dungeons can offer a few twists there’s no doubt in my mind there will be many “next days” following.