I think there is something wonderfully circular about dungeon crawlers with a shop management mechanic. You first do the typical monster slaying action, combining weapon with wandering beasties to make loot. However, the act of selling loot is no longer a tedious “push loot across table while vaguely gesturing at your wheelbarrow of coins” experience. Instead, selling is a mini-game of picking prices to feel out your customer base. I actually fell in love with Recettear due to it. So when Moonlighter hit Kickstarter with this circular idea in mind, you bet I backed it. Now the beta has been released, I finally got to see if this shop was a wise investment as a preview.
Moonlighter is an action RPG of two halves, one that is being created by Digital Sun Games.
On one-half is the day time. You play as Will, who runs the shop Moonlighter. You get stock, put it on counters and set prices you think the customer base will be drawn to. Charge too much for an item and it wouldn’t be bought. Charge too little for something and you’re rejecting free money (the most delicious type of money).
Even now in what feels like an early beta, there is a level of depth I don’t tend to see within selling loot. Rather than Recettear‘s “guess how far you can push your luck” every time you wanted to sell something, it is a simple case of just setting a price and giving someone a high-five when they come to the counter. There’s something of an automation to it. On one side it saves a lot of faffing about. Just set the price at the highest recorded selling price, which will automatically be set once you throw it on the counter, and off you go. On the other hand, well, I think currently there’s a spirit of mercantile lost as you’re not trying to gauge your customer’s mood as you barter with each individual one.
Although this spirit then creeps back in as every new item you find has to have their intended price found. You can use the auto-seller to find the vague figure (which will always be significantly lower than the right price) and then hone in on specifics by checking their four moods that seem to mean to me “bargain, good price, grumble price, NO”. This is where you’ll be bleeding people dry for cash. Trying it I’m not sure it quite nails the atmosphere of being a shrewd trader trying to rake in every last gold piece you can from your clientele. Perhaps even conning them, boasting “this twig?! ‘Course worth 200 gold! Tis the lady bone of the late maiden saint St Danielle!”. It currently feels less gauging on the public mood, manipulating them to reap in cash, and more just playing “higher or lower” with the price until you win.
That said, any money you make (or stock you don’t sell) can go into the town. While there were features being flaunted to me, batting their eyelashes at me via assets being there but non-functional, one that does work is the blacksmith. There you can have new weapons made (of different types) and/or armor by getting the right materials and the right coin for labor costs. In addition, if you’re scrounging for materials you can’t find you can just pay the local merchant a ridiculous price for it.
Then the sun goes down and you venture into the dungeons below. This aspect of Moonlighter seems like the area that could do with more tweaking. You equip your two weapons (you can switch between), your armor and venture from room to room in a style akin to Binding of Isaac. You can sometimes run from room to room, other times you’ll need to clean the room of enemies to continue. I find it convenient that you can use the auto-seller to get enough money to warp out or even leave a gate to warp back into next time you go crawling.
That said, there’s something about the hit-detection that feels unpredictable currently. As if I can never be quite sure if my swing will connect or not on the Y plane. I’m also not sure how well my shield works when I block, seemingly some attacks connecting after a delay or just slamming straight through my shield.
Before I conclude this little preview, I also want to nit-pick. Below I’ve attached two screenshots which only differ by which way your white-haired lad is facing in the store. Yet he seems to be either angry or weary depending on which way he is facing. It might just be me though (and an artist I asked) so I’ve attached the screenshots, but it seems a little odd personally.
Overall, with the time I spent with Moonlighter, I definitely can see the seeds of something incredibly engrossing. The time in town shows every inclination to scratch the Recettear itch I have, while leaping off to do its own thing. It has ideas not yet implemented I am eager to see more of, and some parts I’m a little critical of might simply need some polish to really leave me glued. Even the dungeons, the part I’m more disheartened about, less shows rotten roots and more the wonderful journey to go. A journey that I hope will lead to a game that allows me to be the smug merchant that I’m really not.
Moonlighter will be released onto PC, Mac, Linux, PS4 and Xbox One. There is currently no release date.