Being a shopkeeper is honestly, really enjoyable. It’s the least stressful part of the game and you can really rip off your customers. 300 gold for a leaf?! It’s what they get for window shopping in my store.
Players will acquire their goods to be sold by dungeon crawling, looting chests, and defeating enemies and bosses. A small catch being that if you are killed you will be immediately sent back to the hometown and then you’ll lose all of that loot. Managing your inventory is important and is honestly interesting because when a chest is opened, items inside may come with conditions on how they should be placed. Some will instantaneously teleport an item to your shop, others will destroy an item once you leave, and some will actually remove the curse. You have 20 slots and these fill up rather quickly. I can generally make it through a floor before my inventory is maxed. Although in my case I might just be a hoarder.
There are 5 dungeons in all and each unlock after you defeat the boss. Each dungeon is procedurally generated and if you leave you will have to start over again. However, there is an ability to set up a gate that will bring you back to town and once you return you will start where you stopped. This however costs gold and does increase in cost as you progress through the dungeon. I have only used it before fighting a boss and that was primarily to re-stock on potions. Players are also able to use their talisman to just return to town, this also comes at a cost, but it is helpful if you find yourself wandering into a boss fight unprepared.
Combat is fairly straightforward, depending on the weapon you have a standard strike and then a charge/block ability. Players can roll and this is incredibly helpful seeing how enemies, regardless of their strength, will do a ton of damage. Each enemy has a pattern though but there will be times where you will fight groups with multiple patterns and this can be pretty challenging seeing how your attack is fairly slow. In my time with the game, I have been rolling, striking, and then healing. Except for one boss fight where I went all in and somehow came out alive. You are allotted 5 potions and believe me when I say that they deplete quickly if you aren’t careful.
One of the most interesting mechanics in the game is the world-building, its not too in-depth, but you can upgrade the town you’re in as well as your shop. Doing so, will grant quests, new weapons, armor, enchantments, and potions. There is also a banker and a hawker, the latter selling goods that will liven up the look of your shop. To obtain weapons and armor, you must have both gold and material to craft. There is a small chance that you will come across a weapon or a piece of armor while dungeon crawling, but the drops are random and if you want to get through the game quickly without grinding so much, you might as well craft. So, when you’re selling the products you worked so hard to obtain, it may be smart not to sell in bundles as you may want to upgrade your weapon or armor to help you along your journey.
When it comes to selling, its pretty simple, you set the price and then watch the reactions of the townspeople. Some will indicate that they’re looking for weapons and armor, but for the most part, the townspeople will wander in and purchase whatever goods you’re selling. If someone is displeased, then you can work quickly to adjust the price. If you’re too lenient, then you’re going to get ripped off. Personally, I just put it as high as possible and went down in increments of 200 depending on the item. Books fetch a high price as well as rare loot, make sure that you sell high on those to start, otherwise you’re losing out on profit. It’s weird to say about a dungeon crawler, but this is the best part of the game…because money. Once you get the hang of supply and demand, you’ll make on average over 400K near the end.
As you upgrade your shop, more space will open up and this will enable you to sell more goods and even get an assistant that will sell products for you while you loot. The assistant will get 30% of your profit if you decide to go that route. You can upgrade the storage in your shop as well and this helps with quests for townspeople as they will ask you to enter previous dungeons and acquire loot from certain enemies. As your shop grows there will be looters, these deviants will have a symbol overhead designating them as thieves. Once they grab a floor item, they will make a beeline for the door and it is up to you to stop them. It isn’t hard but, it is fine watching them try.
Now, Moonlighter isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for those who hate inventory management or dungeon crawlers. I imagine that this is a game that some people will look to actively avoid. It can be a bit repetitive and there are certain enemy types with attacks that feel cheap. Looking at the blobs that engulf you and then restrict your movement, those are real pains in the asses, especially in tight situations. This isn’t a game for those who dislike the rogue genre, even though those elements are rather light and Moonlighter doesn’t punish you to harshly for failing.
But those that do happen to pick up this indie title will be pleasantly surprised. For 20 dollars, there is a lot of meat to this game and it actually has some replay value, which is a plus. Its a wonderful game to look at, the character sprites all animate beautifully and some of the effects found in the dungeons and boss fights are excellent. The musical score is great as well as each piece fits whatever setting you find yourself in. This is a really charming game and there is a really nice humorous twist at the end. I found that for a game featuring a rather straightforward story, it was refreshing to see the developers throw a slight curveball. Moonlighter is for the dreamer in all of us.
So what are you? Shopkeeper or Hero?