Indietail – RogueJack

RNG was always has been a part of the rogue-like genre, from what I’ve seen. Surely, some games don’t rely on RNG at all, be it in the form of items, levels, enemies or stats. Some games don’t need to have that element of chance and randomness in their code but I wouldn’t call “RNG” itself bad as you always, somehow, have to make it work. “Hate the player, not the game.”

But in today’s Indietail, we’re not looking at a game that doesn’t rely on RNG at all but rather one that takes the best out of a lot of rogue-likes and combines it with gambling, or more precisely Blackjack. Today we’re taking a look at RogueJack!

Developer: Ponywolf
Publisher: Ponywolf, LLC
Genre: Casual, Card Game, RPG, Indie, Dungeoncrawler, Rogue-lite
Release Date: May 27, 2020
Available on: PC
Reviewed on: PC
Copy received for free.

In RogueJack we’ve got to crawl through a dungeon and beat enemies in order to level up and evolve our character, ultimately to find some sort of ancient amulet. In our adventure, we fight enemies, dodge their attacks, and get stronger by looting treasure chests and “trusting the heart of the cards”.

The rules are simple: You get two cards and then get to decide whether or not you draw one card or stay at your current number. Face cards grant 10 points, number cards grant their value. Some cards subtract points while others add. Before 10, an ace grants eleven points, and you win fights by getting as close as possible to 21. If you step over it, you lose the fight and the enemy damages you. If you hit 21 (BlackJack!), if your enemy gets more than 21 points or if your number is higher than the enemy’s number, you damage them.

And well, of course, some enemies have bonus effects and “move-sets” of their own. Some enemies win in case of a tie, others tend to play it safe and only play until 16 while others even poison, freeze or set you on fire when you get damaged.

Your damage depends on the items you collect. A six-shooter-gun, for instance, grants you more damage if you’re a cowboy while the Staff of Divination grants you two damage, more vision and even grants you a higher chance to actually see your cards before drawing. There are also shields that block damage before breaking, potions that heal you or cure status effects, daggers, swords and other weapons that grant you more damage and overall, it all depends on what you find and if you can make it work.

In your journey, you’ll encounter a vast variety of enemies in different colours and with different properties. More often than not you’ll try to fight them, to earn money, which you then may use on vending machines to gain more items. Ultimately you are not relying on item-RNG too much nor on any stats but only on your luck and the way you make the cards work. Get greedy and overstep 21. Play it too safe and the enemy hits BlackJack while you’re staying at 16. Ultimately, it’s a card game, but I did quite enjoy it. When you die, you’ll get a second chance. Die again and you’re out. You then get the chance to retrieve your exp and money and continue from the previous level or start anew from Floor 1, your choice.

When you beat enemies, you level up and unlock new characteristics. The Rogue sees all cards, for instance, but while these effects sound over-powered in a way, they are balanced by the fact that it doesn’t help you to know what’s coming when you’ve got bad cards. After you level up, there is no coming-back either. You can’t change your class. You are who you are until you’re someone else. It’s all a game of sorts, a gamble.

And well,… that’s it. The premise is a gamble, too. It can either work out or it doesn’t. I personally really liked the game and only disliked the slow turn-based movement and the unnecessary “freeze”-effect. Once you get rid of that, you can have quite a bit of fun, unless you lose to the cards, or rather the RNG. BlackJack is combining two interesting concepts: The only card-game I really understand… and dungeon-crawlers. The fact that you can’t change your class unless you reset, is interesting. The variety of weapons, enemies and classes is quite fantastic.

In a way, I’m conflicted on whether or not this really is a rogue-like as it actually resembles more of a dungeoncrawler-character… but I guess the borders from one to another are rather fluid and in the end a game is a game, right?

The presentation features a nice pixelated art-style that I found rather pretty while the soundtrack features… one song… that kind of reminded me of older Zelda games and which was fun at first but once it looped for the 42nd time, you probably will turn it off, too, and turn on some music that you enjoy. I would’ve wished for more variety in that regard.

In the end, the game’s premise and looks, the gameplay and the RNG-dependence of the cards are either hit or miss. You either love it or you hate it. I personally liked it so far but I wonder how much I’ll play it. It’s probably one of those games that I’ll turn on every now and then but for not too long per session.

If you already enjoy card games or more specifically BlackJack, you’re gonna love this iteration of the genre. If you enjoy dungeon-crawlers or rogue-lites, you’re going to find this game interesting. So in the end, I’m recommending it and I hope that you have a nice time with this title.

Cheers!

Indietail – Children of Morta

After a small break from the daily posting, we’re back again with another review! Today we’re taking a look at Children of Morta, a game about family-bonds and monster-slaying! Please enjoy this review!

Developer: Dead Mage
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Genres: Rogue-lite, Action, Dungeon Crawler
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (Windows, Linux, Mac OS), Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Copy received from the 11 Bit Studios

But what is Children of Morta about?

Children of Morta is about the Bergson-family consisting of Grandma Margaret, Uncle Ben, Father John, Mother Mary, and their Linda, Kevin, Mark and Joey. They live at the foot of Mount Morta and have to fight against the spreading Corruption which is endangering their homelands, Rhea. To do that, they venture into different dungeons to find clues about the Corruption and the source of it.

In its core, Children of Morta is a story-driven rogue-lite-dungeon-crawler where you’re playing as six of the Bergsons that can be categorized into different classes, ranging from the brawlers John (Bruiser) and Joey (Juggernaut), the swift Mark (Monk) and Kevin (Rogue), and the ranged Lucy (Mage) and Linda (Archer). While John and Joey are rather tanky and have high durability at the cost of less movement speed, Mark and Kevin focus on high mobility, quick strikes and crits, while Lucy and Linda are great at distance but are not that good in close quarters.

By diving into the dungeon, you’re able to receive not only clues about the world’s lore and the source of the Corruption but also gain cosmetic items for your house – and gold which also can get invested into bonus-stats for your characters. These range from simple stat-buffs like attack damage and movement speed to increased “luck” (more gold), increased experience, and others!

When entering the dungeons, you’re able to not only level up your characters permanently but also gain items that improve your chances of beating the boss of the dungeon.
For instance, there’re usable relics with a cooldown that provide you with a shield, blocking all damage for a short while and then exploding for massive damage around you, or, if you don’t like that, why not place a totem that buffs you, slows enemies or even distracts them from you so that you can snipe them as Linda?

Some one-use-items can give you gems, healthpoints, small buffs, etc. while other charms can grant you passive boni like a poison-DoT-effect on enemies that are hurt by you and your abilities or a small little companion that stuns enemies for you. There’re tons of combinations for items on every run, which is hella rad!

But how does one acquire items?

Well, on every level there’s at least one item-room with a divine relic, which helps you a lot. It can be an active item or a passive charm but usually you don’t want to miss out on those anyways! There’s also crates all around levels that have to be opened with gems that get dropped by enemies or are found at corpses and pots and the like. These crates can contain gold or more gems, runes and items. When you have spare gems, you can also invest them at the shop before the end of the current floor to heal up or receive more items!

There are also special rooms where you’re able to help refugees that fled from the Corruption into the Dungeon or where you do other tasks like defeating hordes, playing a game of “God’s Pong”, escort NPCs to other rooms, and lots more. At the end of all of them you’re rewarded with items, again. However, while some are rather easy to complete, others can cost you some life points or are rather tricky to master. Hence, you should always wager if it’s worth it to risk your precious life points for an item now or if you should rather push for the boss, especially since some items might not synergize with your character, like a damage-aura around your character when you’re playing a ranged one.

And while there are items that may not be that good on your character, there are no bad items.

Items do not synergies in a bad way like in The Binding of Isaac where you can get boomerang tears and ipecac, which is quite bad unless you also have explosion immunity.

So, it’s always great to pick up items in Children of Morta! I once even had an item that sets enemies on fire while I had a rune that poisoned enemies that I hurt, which lead to two DoT-effects proccing on all enemies!

With items you can make up for your character’s flaws or empower your strengths – an aspect that I really enjoyed!

On top of items and the stat-upgrades, you’re also able to level your characters by defeating enemies. When levelling up, you gain skill points which then can be invested into powerful new skills or upgrades for recent ones. By investing points into your skills, you reach new skill-levels, unlocking bonuses for ALL other family members. For instance, John unlocks a passive skill for all characters at level 20 that recovers some HP every few seconds. Usually, you could only get healed by potions and items, so HP-regeneration is a pretty big deal. Other family members also unlock stuff like “more movement speed”, “more crit/dodge chance” or even a free gem on every new run. Runes get unlocked with levels, too, not only for your own character – though – but also other members. Hence, when you level Linda, her runes become available for other members – i.e. Mark uses his magic whipping-ability and also casts Linda’s explosive crescendo when equipped with the that rune! Runes, however, are used up over time making them not as overpowered as one might reckon!

While combat and all the strategies and stuff are quite cool in Children of Morta, the game truly shines in the cutscenes in between runs.

When you end a run, you’re presented with different cutscenes about the daily lives of the different characters, giving you insight over the character relationships, their dreams, wishes, values, worries, flaws and other weaknesses. I love slice-of-life-shows and I definitely am getting those vibes in this game, too. On top of that, when you unlock characters you get some more cutscenes where they interact with their family members.

Relatively early into the game, you can see Kevin training in secret and even receiving his own daggers from his uncle, the family’s smith Ben! He’s excited and wants to help his family in every way but his mother is worried about him. There’s a few cutscenes for this one that are shown after every other run, I think, which changes the pace by quite alot. After all, you’re able to see these lovely scenes after getting back from dangerous runs!

I really enjoyed these little scenes and the interactions between characters. Even when you’re not doing anything and just relaxing in between runs, the characters are talking to each other or training or doing something else – which is quite neat to spectate.

There’s also a few log entries that you can check out once in a while to find out more about the characters’ pasts. I highly recommend reading those entries once you find them! They’re very interesting! My favourite character, by the way, is Ben!

He’s a lovely old fella and his background story is also really cool. I love seeing him interact with everyone and dwell in the past and all that.

Overall this is a lovely game, as one can see in its presentation!

The music is great and very atmospheric, the narrator is awesome, has a warm voice and makes every scene better, and then there’s the art style: It’s pixel art and while you surely feel like you’ve seen pixel art in basically every indie game ever made, you’ll shortly notice that it’s very detailed and quite beautiful. Especially the lighting in some places makes the world feel so lively and the dungeons so enigmatic! It’s truly a beautiful game.

But now onto some flaws. While the soundeffects and the soundtrack are great, there’s moments where a track stopped or where the game isn’t sure about what to do next. It’s just silent. Another thing I noticed was the fact that aiming feels a little bit sluggish here and there, especially when playing a ranged character like Lucy or Linda. But other than that I didn’t really have any issues with the game. The game surely is hard at the beginning but due to the levelling, the upgrades, the unlocked runes, abilities, and items, you get the hang out of it quite fast. When you get stomped once, you often can go to older dungeons, level up and return to the higher dungeons in order to master them. Every run feels refreshing and, as you probably can tell, I am, frankly, in love with this game which is why I highly recommend this game!

I hope you enjoyed today’s review! I tried to use topic sentences and highlight important bits of pieces while not making the review too long. If you’ve played Children of Morta, too, feel free to comment on your experiences with it. I’d love to receive some feedback on this post so feel free to also comment on suggestions or point out mistakes of mine!

Anyways, I wish you a lovely rest-weekend and hope you don’t mind tomorrow’s mondayness too much.
Cya! 🙂

Note: I haven’t touched the Multiplayer at all since right now it only features local multiplayer. There’s Online-Multiplayer planned for the near future, according to the devs’ twitter and steam page, so stay tuned for that when I’m getting to it in another post.

Indietail – Book of Demons

Book of Demons is the first part of Thing Trunk’s “Return2Games”-series and is currently in the Early Access Phase on Steam.

The genre of Hack and Slay games is known for its combat, its looting and levelling, and its big and dark areas? Well, yeah, mostly, but there are also games that don’t follow that same pattern out there! Today’s game is a card-based ARPG called Book of Demons that dares to change up the formula of hack and slay games a little bit and mix it with a well- “crafted” world and some interesting mechanics.

After a long journey, you’re returning to your hometown where seemingly everything has changed. Everything seems darker and you’re recognizing feer in your old friends. That’s because the old priest of the local church has been kidnapped by a dark force into the depths of the catacombs and even bigger dangers seem to be awaiting you! That’s why you have to embark onto an adventure into those depths to save the world from fear and loathing!

What seems to be the most generic story of all time, is the story of the first part of Thing Trunk’s Return2Games-series. Thing Trunk is planning on releasing six more parts to this big project although those haven’t been announced yet. In Book of Demons (Trailer/Shop) you’re playing an adventurer who has to save the local priest and defeat all evils that are lurking in the shadows. For that, you’re embarking on instance-based adventures and can decide on your own how long you want to explore and what abilities you’re using, but I’ll tell you about that later.

The warrior class with three of his skills.

Before starting your dungeon-crawling-experience, you’ll have to choose from one out of three classes: The warrior, the rogue and the mage.

To unlock the mage you and the rogue though, you’ll have to play the warrior to level 5 first which may seem tedious but is done quite fastly. This has the advantage that you’re able to play as a rather sturdy class before playing one of the more fragile characters. Every class has its own skills and cards and is played differently although it all is different compared to other hack and slay games anyways.

For instance, you’re not using normal attacks and abilities but have to click and use cards. Instead of roaming big areas, you’re chained to paths and have to kill enemies that can roam freely. In the beginning, you may feel very restricted because of that. Sometimes enemies are in the way, so you have to slay those first before you’re able to proceed which on the one hand seems unlogical since you could walk past them  but on the other hand also is kind of nostalgic and reminded me of old JRPGs where you could either fight or run but never just walk past enemies.

The rogue on one of the paths

When enemies are approaching you’ll have to click on them to deal damage. You can also hold down the left mouse button to more damage if you don’t feel like spamming your mouse button. If you don’t do anything, your character also attacks by itself but at a slower rate as when you’d click. While the warrior might be a melee unit in most RPGs you’re still able to slay enemies that aren’t directly near. I guess that’s due to some insanely long limbs or weapons or just a quality of life change. The rogue, on the other hand, is fighting with a bow and has more range and more attack speed. I had some trouble seeing the advantage of the rogue over the warrior since both seem to be ranged and since the rogue’s arrows have to travel a distance first before they hit a target while the warrior’s attacks are instant. This is where the right click comes into play: Every character has a special ability that can be used via right-clicking.

The rogue is able to shoot a long-range arrow that is able to hit enemies and objects that aren’t in sight yet. This makes it rather easy to thing out waves of enemies that can’t be targeted at this point so that you don’t get overwhelmed by them. The mage, however, also has ranged attacks but is able to shoot magic homing missiles that can’t be blocked by enemies that stand in front of the target that you’re aiming at you, which is an advantage that the mage has over the rogue. So while the rogue has a higher distance and can attack more frequently, the mage is a tactician that is able to precisely shut down enemies and isn’t hindered by enemies that stand right in front of him. The warrior, on the other hand, is rather beefy and a hybrid between those two with instant attacks that are slower than the rogue’s and with less damage than the magician.

Artwork of the Rogue

While the combat system is something rather unique, the skill-system is rather similar to other games’: Slain enemies drop experience points and once you have enough of those, you gain a level. On top of the experience-resource, you also have mana, health and gold. Gold is dropped by enemies but also can be acquired by looting alongside items and even permanent health- or mana-points. Health and Mana can be increased at every level-up. While the warrior with his beefy nature has a lot of health but less mana, the mage, for instance, has a lot more mana than health. The rogue, on the other hand, is rather balanced on those fronts.

But let’s talk about the cards. I already mentioned that this is a card-based hack and slay/dungeon crawling title, so I’m now going to talk about those. Each class has different available skills to them which are unique to their class. On top of that, you can also acquire runes, artefacts and items through looting.

Runes are needed to upgrade your cards. For example, you can get a sun-rune to upgrade the fire-spell of the mage. With that rune and some gold that spell card’s damage increases and it has a higher chance to ignite the floor and enemies hit by it. To upgrade your abilities you’re in need for different runes and quite some gold, so eventually, you’ll have to grind it if you want to proceed into the late game. I for my part enjoyed that part of the game quite a lot but it may seem tedious for some people since the grinding takes up quite a lot of time in this game.

Artefacts are useful things that give you passive Boni. There are all kinds of artefacts from shields that have a chance to block attacks to amulets that recover your health and mana over time. The latter is basically a must for most builds since both health and mana have to be recovered using either potions or mana/health-pools like in other games such as Torchlight or Diablo or by levelling up. When you use artefacts, they not only take up a card slot in your card bar but also lock a part of your mana, turning it from blue to green and making it unusable until you unequip the artefact.

Items can be used to do all kinds of things like healing and buffing yourself or escaping out of the dungeon. For example there’s the health- or the mana-potion that fill the respecting bars in times of need but get used up permanently. Although that sounds not that useful you will agree that these are quite handy, especially since the drop rate for them on explorations doesn’t seem to be that low. Surely, you won’t find them every now and then but you can always use your gold to recharge them in town!

While every class has all runes, artefacts and items available to them, skills are exclusive to every class, as previously mentioned! Skills are equipped in the card slot and activated by right-clicking onto them. The warrior, for instance, has abilities to either deal damage to enemies, to disarm them, to protect himself or to throw poison bombs and the like into hordes of enemies. For example, there’s the ability “Mighty Blow” that costs only one mana point but deals quite a lot of damage. Meanwhile, there’s another artefact-like skill called “Shadow Sword” which blocks a bit of Mana but gives you an extra hit on every click passively.


The rogue, on the other hand, is the DPS-class and therefore has abilities to buff her arrows or escape via invisibility. I really liked how you could create poison arrows and split them into many enemies.
But my absolute favourite class was the mage who’s using elementary spells. He’s able to create frost-novas, fireballs, ice walls and create golems. While he’s really fragile, he’s still able to position himself somewhere safer via teleport-spell and overall he’s got quite a lot of utility and burst-damage which I really liked about him.

Book of Demons uses a new approach for the same system. The classes seem to be the same as every ability-wise but are played differently from other games but in its core, this is still the typical ARPG-adventure – just with some cards instead of everything else.

In town, NPCs will tend to your wounds and help you out whenever they can.

When you want to rest from your expeditions in the dungeon, you’re returning to the city where you’re able to identify cards at the sage’s or where you can unlock more card slots. The other NPCs all have their own useful sides to them: You’re able to read about rumours, inform your self about enemies that you’ve spotted, upgrade your cards, charge some other cards with gold or visit the Barmaid:


The barmaid has a cauldron where you can “store items”. Whenever you put a skill point into your mana, you gain a skill point for your health in the cauldron, and vice versa. Also when you loot items, you’re able to gain runes, experience, experience boosts, gold, artefacts, cards, more skill points and other items in the cauldron, but the price for buying them rises the longer you wait and all items except for skill points are lost when you die. So, it’s kind of a risk-reward-minigame if you may call it like that but it really helps out to balance your character and make the mage a bit less fragile, for instance.

Mini-Boss Jelly-belly Bomb with different stages and minions.

While the game is set in a Paperverse with its pop-up-book-like style and is able to draw you in with its atmospheric soundtrack, it truly sticks out with its session-based exploration system:


I really liked this feature since you sometimes may not have all that much time to go on a quest that lasts for an hour or more. When I play games like League of Legends, for example, I need to plan in the time it takes to find a game, hover your champion, ban a champion, pick those champions, set up your runes and then there’s also the loading screen that may be faster or slower depending on people’s wifi connection and rig, and then you’re in the game and it may last for 20 to maybe even 60 minutes depending on how long people drag it out or how much of a stomp it is. You don’t always have time for that. In Book of Demons, on the other hand, you’ve got the Flexiscope-Tool that allows you to match the size of the dungeon to the time you have. You can choose between “very small”, “small”, “medium”, “big” and “very big” that each takes a different time to explore and to clear. On top of that, the game analyses your playstyle and give you an approximate time it will take you to clear those dungeons – since some people try to play it safer while others are going full-Rambo when it comes to ARPGs.

Next to the approximate time that it will take it also displays you possible loot-possibilities. It shows you an average between the lowest and highest gold you may get, possible items and the progress towards your quest to save the priest. For example, in my newest session, it showed me 25+ rewards (including cards or new cauldron-items) for “big” on top of 22,353 Gold and 10% towards the next boss-enemy. As for the time, this would take me about 41 minutes, based on my playstyle as the mage. While this seems to be a very rewarding session for me, it would also take quite a lot of time, so I get to plan it out more precisely if I still have something to do afterwards. And you’re always able to just quit and come back later if you have something urgent coming up.

The deckbuilder is available in the Dungeon as well but the game doesn’t get paused while you’re in this menu. Time only slows down for enemies that may approach and attack you.

On top of the procedurally generated levels, the session-system and the different classes, Book of Demons presents you with 70 different enemy times (at this point of time) that all have different abilities, attack patterns and loottables. With that you’ve got quite a lot of re-play value. Later you can also go for the Freeplay-Mode to play your favorite quests with higher difficulties and you may as well consider using one of the different modes, such as the Rogue-like-mode where you can’t buy Health-, Mana- or Rejuvenation-potions and have to pay gold to revive in the city. Eventually you’ll run out of recources which makes the game really hard and if you can’t buy the increasing price for revival, your character gets deleted instead. There’s also the daredevil-mode with permanent death for those of you that like the extra thrill in games.Usually you’re revived in town for free and just have to collect your items in the dungeon again which makes it less frustrating, but if you don’t want to go for that easy-going playstyle, the daredevil-mode might be just for you!

To summorize I’d like to say that this game has a lot to offer especially due to its concept and its overall presentation, although it surely has some negatives to it. Usually you’ll have to grind in ARPGs which may seem tedious to most people, especially when you don’t get the drops you needed. This is also the case in Book of Demons where you eventually have to grind gold for card upgrades, card slots, card charges and the cauldron while also farming runes and the like to be able to upgrade your build to the fullest. For that you’ll have to enter the dungeon over and over again which seems repetetive but is actually not that bad since you’re able to use the session-system to manage your time used at the game.

Due to its Early-Access-status there’s always some little bugs that you can find but those get patched so often that you might encounter it today and forget about it tomorrow. With the ranger for example, I had an issue where an enemy was stuck behind a pillar and I couldn’t reach it due to the fact that I’ve got projectiles to shoot, which was quite frustrating, but going back into town and coming back fixed it for me quite easily. Also you’re able to report every bug to the devs at every point of the game via a small tool at the side of your screen which is a nice addition that every Early-Access-Game should have, in my opinion.

I’d recommend this game to every fan of ARPGs and Dungeon-Crawlers since it has a lovely artstyle but still captures the dark nature of games like Grim Dawn and Diablo. It is available on Steam and for the XBOX One!

Anyways, cheers!

Note: While I’ve (or have I?) posted shorter reviews until now, this post has been scheduled for quite some time now and is therefore not going to get changed as I need to compare this one’s reception to the short reviews’ to decide if I’m going for shorter or longer ones in the future. I hope you don’t mind this and if so, it’s too late anyways. Future posts will be fresher (or rather have been? I’m writing from the past!)!

This post is part of a contest/challenge called Blaugust! The goal is to post as much as possible and participants are awarded with different prizes depending on the goal they achieved. My aim is to post on all 31 days of August and if you’d like to know more about this “event”, you should check this post out.

Indietail – Moonlighter

In every RPG, merchants are selling you all kinds of goods. But have you ever asked yourself where those goods come from or those merchants got so far? Well, in today’s review, we’re talking about a game that lets you experience both sides of the same coin: Merchants and Heroes!

Moonlighter is an Action-RPG developed by Digital Sun Games and published by 11 bit studios.

The Plot

Moonlighter is about a set of gates that have been found after an archaeological excavation. Those gates are referred to as the Dungeon and consist of four doors to four realms, each full of different artefacts and enemies. There’s also a fifth door that hasn’t been opened yet since nobody knows how to do so.
Once word of the dungeon has spread, a small town of merchants has been found near the excavation site, Rynoka.

Back to the present, the game presents us with Will, a young merchant who’s the heir of one of the oldest shop in Rynoka, the Moonlighter. After his grandfather “Crazy Ol’ Pete” has been lost in the dungeons, the protagonist Will has to take care of the shop while secretly dreaming of becoming a hero.

That’s where the game sets in. We accompany Will on one of his expeditions into the Golem Dungeon where he fights off enemies with a Broom and collects their dropped artefacts.
After being swarmed by them, however, we pass out and are set back at the entrance of the dungeon where Zenon finds us and brings us back to our room in the Moonlighter. He then explains to us how to sell items and even gives us a sword and shield that he once used.

Fun little joke by Zenon who gives us our first and his old sword in a zelda-esque fashion.

Gameplay

After this little tutorial, we’re beginning our adventure of capitalism and monster-slaying! At nighttime, we’re going into the dungeon to slay monsters and collect the artefacts dropped by them. At daytime, we then sell these artefacts in the store to get richer. Of course, you can always go into the dungeon during daytime but while it’s safer during that time the possible loot is also less valuable. Another reason why we’re only venturing into the dungeon at night is the fact that we can only sell items during the day.

This is the point where you might ask yourself:

What do I need the money for?

maybe you

That’s a good question, I’d say.
Basically, you’re able to upgrade your shop with the money you earn which then leads to you being able to earn even more money. You can also use the money to bring new NPCs into the town who then open their own shops, bringing the town of Rynoka to its former glory.
The bigger the town, the more customers you get!

Now, this is the point where you might ask yourself:

Why do I want other shop-keepers in my town?

maybe you, again

Well, while this question is justified – after all, we’re capitalists – it’s also not. The new shops that open in the town are rather useful to you and do not steal your customers.

Andrei’s introducing himself.

For instance, there’s Andrei, Forge Master Extraordinaire, who’s running Vulcan’s Forge and is able to grant you new equipment and upgrade yours.

For that, you need to bring him the needed materials and pay him a fee that is needed to craft those items. At Vulcan’s Forge, you’re able to craft five weapon types that each has two different paths to be upgraded to. There’re “swords with shields” or rather short swords (you get one from Zenon, btw), bows, big swords (or rather buster swords?), spears, and gloves that each have a normal and an empowered attack.

Each weapon has its own range and attack-set, so everyone might find a weapon that suits his playstyle. As previously mentioned, weapons are upgradeable and there’re two paths to take for those upgrades. You either go for the bonus stat which grants you an on-hit-chance to poison, burn, stun, etc. the enemy (it also deals more damage!) or you go for just more damage (which is more than the elemental variant).

As for armour, there’re helmets, chest plates and boots that all come with three different versions: Fabric, Steel and Iron. While Fabric is lighter and grants you a bit of movement speed, Steel is heavier and slows you down but also grants you more health (or rather resistance). Iron is the hybrid, I guess, as it doesn’t give you a movement speed bonus, nor does it slow you down, and as for armour, it’s in the middle between those two. These material-properties go hand in hand for all of the equipment which is quite handy since you might want to get a fabric bandana, some steel chest plate and some iron boots, for example, to not get slowed down at all but still get more armour, or you go for full plating to be slow but beefy like a true tank.. or you go for the ninja-playstyle with no resistances but some antelope-speed.

Crazy Ol’ Pete’s drawing of the dungeons and his theory on the guardians with their keys and the fifth door being opened with those.

There’s also Eris the Weaver and Potion Master who runs The Wooden Hat. She’s selling potions and enchantments at her store, allowing you to further upgrade your equipment or to craft or just buy potions for your adventures in the dungeon. While you can just buy potions with your gold, you can also bring her items dropped by slimes in the dungeon to craft the potions as well, meaning that you save half the price but have to collect some of those not-so valuable slimes.

There’s also Julien who owns the rival store “Le Retailer” and sells items, just like Will, but at a much higher price (speaking of gold, not your soul or anything), as well as Alan and Edward. Alan runs the Hawker Stand where you can get decorations for your store that give you benefits for your shop like extra-tip and Edward is the town banker who helps you with investments which is a high risk/high reward kinda thing that you may do if you’d like to risk losing some money but get a chance of cashing out big. It’s the bitcoin of gaming!

But let’s get busy. Once you open your store, citizens come in and want to buy stuff. To do so, you’ll need to place them on pedestals in your store and set a price. The game has a nice mechanic here where it shows you the expression of people looking at an item. If you set the price too high, people will be mad about it and won’t buy that item. If you set it too low, they’ll be really happy about it but you will make less profit (although you always make a profit since you get the items for free from the dungeon…but you could get more money is what I’m trying to say).

A fully upgraded store with some decent items in stock!

There’s the right price for every item that you have to find out about which sometimes can be a little tedious. Your merchant’s log helps you with that. In your merchant’s log, you can find all kinds of information regarding the items you’re selling as well as the prices you’ve set before. But I guess now’s the time where you’d be pulling out the only guides with the right prices, right?
Well, that’s where you’re wrong since there’re always variables in the market that make it hard to determine such a price:

If you sell too much of a specific item, the market gets flooded which is why the demand for that specific item is low and you won’t sell that item for the “normal” price anymore. If the demand is high, however, you can set the price even higher to earn even more money! To work around flooding the market, you need to put variation into your shop, even if it means selling less valuable items!

In the beginning, this “more” means a few hundreds maybe but as your game goes on, you’ll unlock new dungeons with new dangers but also new items – which means even more money! We’re living the capitalist dream!

Level Design/Variety

Speaking of dungeons, there’re four types of them (and the fifth one but I won’t talk about that one because of spoilers! duh.):
The Golem Dungeon, the Forest Dungeon, the Desert Dungeon and the Tech Dungeon.

The fountain, the safe spot of every dungeon-floor where you can rest up and heal your wounds before continuing your exploration. The longer you’re in there, the darker the water gets. A nice detail, reminding us that even adventurers have to take a bath!

Each of these feature different enemies that all have different attack-patterns and may also apply effects on you like poison, fire and electric damage. What I really liked about this game is that the different enemies aren’t just recoloured previously met enemies. There’s an actual variety of monsters. In the Golem Dungeon you’re facing off against flying golems, rolling golems, mage golems, fighting golems, golems with shields, bush monsters, mimics, slimes and all kinds of other enemies and while most of these early monsters have “golem” in their name, they still all look unique!

What surprised me when first facing off against these was that some of them needed to be kited first, like the rolling ones that charge at you and get stunned when they hit a wall making them vulnerable. Some other enemies can only be hit when from behind while others are flying and have to be taken out when they’re low enough – while they’re attacking. There are also ranged enemies that you’ve got to get close to and slimy ones that trap you in their bodies where you need to wiggle out of.

And while these attack-patterns were unique, the next dungeon also had other enemies that all worked differently! The forest dungeon featured enemies that were mostly ranged with some applying poison to you while others were constantly moving around.
Sometimes you encounter weird doors where the dungeon gets deformed so that a room from the previous or the next dungeon appears there instead of the actual one. That way you sometimes come into a dungeon, prepared to fight against enemies with poison, but then encounter enemies from the desert dungeon that you’ve never seen before since the Desert Dungeon is still locked up when you’re only getting used to the Forest Dungeon.

Even the back of the shop is full of small details like this mirror! Lovely!

More features!

An interesting feature in the game is also the time spent in the dungeon. To combat the player sleeping in the dungeon (that’s a joke, you may laugh. You can’t sleep in the dungeon, duh.) after a while the “watcher” as I call him spawns, an invulnerable monster that chases you around the dungeon and kills you if you don’t kite around it. You either have to return to town early or get to the next floor. Just don’t spend too much time on one floor and you’re safe. This kind of reminded me of that little gimmick of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon where a mysterious force would come near you if you’d take too long to find your way to the next floor. If you’d wait long enough, it would instantly kill you while you’re not even getting a glimpse of it. I once tried to fight the watcher in Moonlighter and, well,… I died. It just doesn’t work. So, don’t take your sweet time.

Every dungeon is procedurally generated, meaning that there’re the same tilesets for each “run” available but the combination of those is “random”. There’re all kinds of rooms featuring monsters, chests and even timed chests that are sinking into the ground until you defeat all monsters in the room, meaning that you may lose the items that chest contained if you’re not fast enough.

On top of that, there’re also rooms with secrets like a wave-mode where you can unlock better loot at the risk of losing it all while fighting against those waves. There’s also boring secret rooms with loot laying around at the ground or rather useful ones with an open chest that sends your items to town once.

A successful haul! A full inventory of items, 4 chests looted and 71 enemies slayn! Nice!

The latter is my favourite secret since inventory management is key in Moonlighter. Your haul determines how much money you earn so you can’t just take everything, especially since your inventory space is limited to only 20 spaces, divided into four rows with five spaces each. If you die in the dungeon, the first row is kept while the last three rows are lost. Some items stack to up to 10 items while others only stack once or up to five.

There’re also curses that do all kinds of things like breaking the curses item if you take too many hits or destroying the item to the upper left corner once you return home. This means that you need to move items around in your inventory so that some items are in certain spots where they don’t hurt your profit.

Some other curses transform other items into the cursed item on return while others cause the item to be only placed at the vertical or horizontal edge of your inventory. Mechanics like these make the inventory management here unique and special, which I really like! The problem, however, is that while there is a sort-function it doesn’t automatically stack stackables items. Sometimes I encounter items that can be stacked up to five that are split into two slots which I manually have to stack together which is kind of annoying, especially since you may as well overlook those and, in the end, make less profit.

In your inventory, you also have three other options of dealing with full inventories that are unlocked over time. The first you unlock is your merchant’s Pendle that teleports you back to the hometown for a small price. The second you unlock is a portal that eats items in your inventory (either drag items into it or drag the portal to the items you want to destroy), giving you some money for those items. However, you always would make more money when selling those items in the store, but this is kind of like a safety net in case you do not have enough money to teleport back home.

After a little fight at this dead-end, I ended up quite low and nearly lost quite a lot of items! So, I better quit for now but since I’m on my way to the boss, I’ll use the pricey portal instead of the pendant, so that I can come back after restocking on potions and healing up!

And then there’s the last option to open a portal to home that you can re-enter to gain access to the dungeon at the last point you entered. This is especially useful for when you found the final boss door but you’re low on potions and have used up your inventory space and shields and stuff. This option is quite pricey, so I only used it when I was at the entrance of the guardian since everything else would mean losing income for some loot that is probably less valuable.

While in the dungeon, you have to face different “normal” enemies while exploring the rooms until you find the door that leads to the next floor. The door to the next floor, however, is protected by the “guard” who’s basically a mini-boss. Once you defeat him, you get to go to the next floor which yields better items but also has more dangerous enemies and another guard who’s “corrupted” and therefore stronger with a slightly different attack pattern. On the third floor, there’s the “guardian” at the end of it – it’s basically the boss. Each guardian can only be defeated once and has a key for the fifth door, meaning that you need to kill all four to unlock that one and proceed with the story. After defeating the guardian of the Golem Dungeon, you’re free to go to the Forest Dungeon. After that one comes the Desert Dungeon and after that one there’s the Tech Dungeon. It’s a known concept that you see in all kinds of games like Pokémon or Zelda – before you can go to the next temple/gym, you’ve got to defeat the one before that. It’s simple, but works.

The Golem King! The first guardian that you’ll have to defeat!

Combat

The combat feels fluid for the most part. The devs of Moonlighter recommend playing with the controller but apparently the keyboard also works. I actually only tested the keyboard just a few minutes ago and while it certainly works, I didn’t really like it. In combat, you use your X-button for the heavy attack, the A-button for the normal attack. Holding B teleports you back to town while pressing Y opens your inventory. With the right trigger, you’re able to chug potions that you’ve equipped prior the fight, while you role with the left trigger, making you able to jump over cliffs, dodging projectiles and attacks while also travelling a small distance.

With the left shoulder button, you’re able to swap between weapons, as you can equip two sets of weapons. My favourite weapon so far was the bow and the gloves. The gloves have a three-attack-combo which is quite cool to use, while the bow is able to hit enemies from across the room. I really liked that combo but also enjoyed playing with the great sword and the spear. While the shortswords are handy they didn’t really appeal to me since the blocking doesn’t really work against AoE-attacks and since you also need to time the block quite well which I just couldn’t be arsed to practice. Meanwhile, the gloves have fast attacks and a three-attack-combo while with the spear you’re able to pierce and charge through enemies. The greatsword is slow but has a big horizontal range which is quite fun to play with.
Sometimes I got frustrated because of enemies’ hitboxes being unclear to me, e.g. when they were flying or when they were standing in front of me but only a pixel or something to the side which resulted in them being able to hit me but me missing, but, after some practice, I also got the hang out of those hitboxes.

You can’t let your guard down – even in the shop! Sometimes there’s thiefs trying to run off with some of your merchandise. Hop onto them and get your artefacts back!

Another way to make your explorations easy is by upgrading your shop since you’re getting a better bed that gives you some bonus-health (or rather a shield) as well as three free hits on every dungeon-run. On top of that, you can also get a familiar that comes with you on your runs and either collects items or attacks enemies for you. Currently, there are nine familiars to acquire that all come with different perks like boosting your damage, converting enemies into potions or even a mimic that attacks enemies and is able to carry some items as well!

Presentation

As for the art, this game is absolutely lovely. The animations and the pixel art style are really cute and overall nice to look at. The music that was composed by David Fenn creates the perfect atmosphere for the game.

While in the dungeon, it sets up a great mood for the Dungeoncrawling-aspects. Every dungeon track is unique and tailored to that dungeon’s theme. Some of the game’s music is a variation of the game’s title screen song, like “Naja” which can be heard in the Desert Dungeon, which I found quite neat as a detail.
While in the town and in the shop, the music is really relaxed and nice to listen to it’s not elevator-music-ish. The town music also reminds me of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Soundtrack which I found quite cool, but that may be the nostalgia speaking.

Replay-Value?

While the combat feels fluid and while the boss fights are unique, the shop system is really cool and sets you up with hours upon hours of fun. I guess there’s not much replay value to the game right now but there may be some added quite soon. After around 20 hours I’ve been through quite a lot of stuff but haven’t finished everything, yet.
Later on, for example, you’ll have to grind some items and some gold for some of your weapons, especially if you’re out for all 67 of Moonlighter’s steam achievements! And if you don’t like grinding all that much, you can just stick to your weapon of choice and just get that one. The game doesn’t require you to enchant and upgrade every weapon and armour-piece and you can generally finish the game with every weapon – even the broom!

I wonder what kind of monstrosity hides under this blanket!

Once you’re done with those achievements, you can try out the game in the “very hard”-difficulty if you’re up for a challenge and still in need for something else, although the game’s recommended difficulty is “Hard” while the “Normal difficulty” could be considered easy.
I don’t really understand why they went for normal, hard and very hard instead of some other names there, but it works for me since you always (apart from when you’re in the dungeon) have the chance to change the difficulty to something higher or lower.

Once you’ve beaten the game, you unlock the New Game+ mode where costs and prices are about five times higher and where you can get new weapons and amulets that are exclusive to that mode. On top of that, nothing else really changes which seems like a bummer to me since some sort of boss-rush-mode or something like that might have been quite cool.
Another thing I would have loved would be to be able to play more afterwards with new content in the same campaign but while you certainly can play more, there’s not really much to do afterwards.

Ready for an adventure?

Conclusion

All in all, I’d say that this is a great game and I’d really recommend it to fans of Dungeon Crawlers, RPGs and games like Recettear where you own a shop and go on adventures and stuff. Moonlighter is a lovely game with quite a lot of content and while the new game+ mode doesn’t really seem to add anything to the game apart from new equipment, the new DLC “Between Dimensions” adds all kinds of new content, which I’m really excited for and which I’ll be covering in another post soon! The game is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, XBO One, Play Station 4 and other major platforms — as well as in retail with both standard edition and limited Signature Edition

Anyways, cheers!

Note: At this point in time (July, 19th), I’ve played the game for 26 hours, not including offline-playtime. I played through the main story, checked out New Game+ for a bit and also tried to play as much of every aspect of the game.
I bought this game myself and didn’t receive any compensation by the devs or publishers.