Moonlighter PC Review

Moonlighter provides an engaging loop of dungeoneering and shopkeeping.

By Woozie, Posted 28 May 2018

The village of Rynoka is set apart from others by is its proximity to a handful of gates leading to other dimensions. Moonlighter follows Will, a shopkeeper with a burning desire for adventure, as he enters these gates, facing the creatures on the other side and retrieving treasure which he then sells in his shop during the daytime; all while looking to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious fifth door nobody has yet managed to open.

Will starts off modestly, with only a broom, a training sword and his small Moonlighter shop. As he begins venturing in the sole dungeon that’s open to him, he’ll find objects of varying worth (and questionable use) that people coming through the town are more than willing to take off his hands in exchange for gold. A few runs (and monster giblets sold) later his purse will most likely be full enough to convince Andrei the blacksmith and Eris the potion maker to come to town. Both vendors are vital to Will’s efforts as they allow him to purchase new weapons, armor and potions which help him push further through the game’s four distinct dungeons. Desired items can be neatly wishlisted, so you know which materials to prioritize getting and avoid selling.

Moonlighter, PC, Screenshot, Review

Out of the five available weapon types, Will can quickly switch between two at any given time. Each weapon has a three hit combo and a special attack. The sword and shield can slash in an arc and block incoming damage. Spear thrusts allow for putting a bit of distance between you and your foe in melee, with a charge acting as special attack. Just like the three available armor types, weapons can be upgraded with materials from each dungeon, either for a bigger flat damage increase, or a smaller flat damage increase with added extra effects like stun or fire to their attacks; enchanting offers further small damage boosts that may come in handy when dealing with bosses. Moonlighter’s big baddies stay dead once killed, making for a clear sense of progress.

Unless he wears the heaviest of armors, Will moves fairly quickly while also being able to dodge away from or through enemy attacks. He is limited to attacking in only four directions, although slashes behind corners and thrusts through solid objects are possible with the appropriate weapon. Committing to an attack means he can’t move for a little bit, requiring extra care when it comes to his positioning. That charging ball of metal he just dodged might be vulnerable while recovering from its attack, but the golem in the corner of the room could be close to laying down a patch of electricity under our adventurer’s feet, resulting in toasted Will. On Hard difficulty – the middle point between Normal and Very Hard – the nasty things inside dungeons did keep me on my toes, even after I had encountered them for the umpteenth time.

Moonlighter, PC, Review, Screenshot

Just like gusts of wind disturb clothes hanging out to dry and the hair on the pixelated NPCs heads reacts to each step, a rolling stone golem opens up to show a molten core prior to attacking, while crackling electricity surrounds the robotic foes in the final dungeon. From steel balls looking for targets to slam into and beams of flame reaching across the room to the heavy sword strike of a stoic stone golem, there’s a good amount of detail going into Moonlighter’s beautiful pixel art. It brings the locations to life in such a way that makes it stand out among its peers. Things get more interesting in the last two dungeons, as certain enemies use more than one single attack. Akin to many other rogue-lites, repeated runs teach you how and when to react to each foe. A foe that lobs molten lava at you when you’re far away can resort to charging you when you get closer to poke it with your pointy stick. If Moonlighter’s vertical progression didn’t more or less force grinding one dungeon at a time, its varied roster of foes would lose novelty much slower.

Seeing how items from later dungeons are considerably more expensive, it’s hard to make a case against spending time in just one of them. Once you’ve upgraded the shop enough, NPCs will offer optional quests for items found in previous dungeons, but the worth of actually going back is debatable. The challenge will also not be there anymore, once Will upgrades his swanky spear of electrical destruction and obtains an equally powerful suit of armor. This somewhat works against the effort put into making the roster of enemies as diverse as it is, although it’s far from draining Moonlighter’s dungeoneering of its thrills. The ability to ramp up or lower the difficulty whenever you’re not in a dungeon does also contribute to making runs engaging. But when you’re fighting the same slow moving golem or plant for the tenth time in a row, it’s hard not to see the lack of worth in jumping between dungeons as a missed opportunity.

Moonlighter, PC, Review, Screenshot

The levels’ random generation doesn’t help either as area layouts rarely add elements that affect or influence the combat in any way and end up repeating quite a bit. At times, it even put enemies in positions where I could attack without fear of them retaliating, at least when using the spear/bow combo I ran with for most of my time with the game. The three floors of each dungeon aren’t particularly lengthy and, coupled with the guaranteed hot spring that regenerates health, ensure steady pacing. Sometimes, accidentally dodging into what looks like an open pit sends you to a secret room that doubles as a horde mode arena, rewarding chests filled with loot of increasing quality as you beat its four waves.

Foes drop items of different value that Will then sells back at the Moonlighter. Nighttime dungeoneering is prone to yield more expensive items and added challenge. Will’s backpack can only carry so many items, however, requiring being selective with what you bring back. Some items will be cursed and can be placed only in specific areas of the backpack. Others destroy adjacent items once you return to town. Luckily, you can also find items that remove these curses, or instantly send other items back to the chest in the shop. All these elements make up an impromptu inventory management minigame of sorts. While a nice break from the regular slashing and dashing, the lack of mouse support means that when loot is plentiful, moving item stacks across the entire interface one square at a time, can be quite the hassle.  A special mirror found early on turns surplus items into gold while adventuring and, in true rogue-lite fashion, dying results in losing most of the items in the backpack. In exchange for a modest sum of gold, Will can return home with his plunder. If he wants to exact vengeance on that Mimic that made him turn tail, he can pay more for a portal that allows for a one-time return to the same exact dungeon.

Moonlighter, PC, Review, Screenshot

When Will is not out adventuring, he’s selling slimy and wiry monster guts. The Moonlighter starts out as a small shop and during the daytime, after placing items in showcases and deciding on a price, would-be customers can be allowed in to peruse the wares. They express their opinions on the price through smiling or frowning faces that appear in speech bubbles over their heads. These reactions are then tracked in a notebook, making it easy to remember how much customers are willing to pay for items or which prices they considered to be expensive or a bargain. As all NPCs seem to have the same price threshold, you can quickly drop prices as you notice frowning faces popping up without consequence. Not all those entering the Moonlighter have good intentions, though. Pesky thieves show up on occasion, but they’re rarely anything more than a nuisance. They give themselves away upon entering with a suspicious face-in-a-speech-bubble, wait around for a bit, then pick up something and make for the exit. It’s easy to identify them, considering the four-or-so character models used, and repeatedly placing items back in their showcase (and potentially setting the price again) becomes annoying rather quickly.

The gold Will earns can be spent on expanding the Moonlighter. This translates to more space to store and place items, a bed that grants protection in dungeons when used to advance time or a fancier cash register that persuades customers to leave a tip with their purchase. Will can even hire an assistant to sell wares while he does extra adventuring, at the cost of 30% of the profits. Shopkeeping is a pleasant break from dungeon delving, but it does become a fairly static, repetitive task that requires going through only a handful of motions. There’s not a lot of meat to this side of things and, even if the sound of gold filling my pouch as satisfied customers bought wares was ultimately fulfilling, it happened because I knew it would lead to getting new equipment that would bring me on equal footing with the foes in the dungeon I was currently approaching.

Moonlighter, PC, Review, Screenshot

Will can also spend gold on bringing other merchants to Rynoka. Aside from the blacksmith and potion maker, there’s the Hawker who sells decorations for the shop, convincing more people to visit it, or waiting longer in queue. There’s a merchant that sells items found in dungeons, for when you’re one iron bar away from crafting that new pair of boots and a Banker who claimed he could make me money, but was always busy when I tried interacting with him. Even when you’ve brought them all to Rynoka, the shadows of moving clouds have more life to them than anything else in the village. The few NPCs roaming around briefly talk about your undertakings, or the dungeons themselves, but they never add to the feeling of a proper world. The only thing which noticeably evolves is the shop which gets physically bigger as you upgrade it. Demand does play a role in how quickly certain items are sold, but I never had issues finding stuff to sell, nor did I feel pushed to alter my offer so as to cater to certain needs. Selling random stuff I found in dungeons always resulted in profit.

There’s a satisfying loop to Moonlighter, where dungeoneering feeds into shopkeeping which then increases Will’s abilities as an adventurer. It’s easy to lose track of time and turn one extra run into several as you brave dungeons both lively and ominous, brought to life with delightful pixel art and an equally varied and catchy soundtrack. The Moonlighter provides a well-deserved break in between sessions of treasure hunting. It’s true that the title more or less forces you to run one dungeon until you’ve beaten its boss, lacks mouse control and is a bit light in the shopkeeping department. But at the end of my 20+ hours spent with Moonlighter, its smooth flow made it easy to look past its flaws.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information



Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): 11 bit studios
Developer(s): Digital Sun
Genres: Action, Role-Playing
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2018-05-29

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