Digital Sun are a small team from Valencia, Spain and they are the creators of the Action RPG dungeon-crawling-meets-shopping-simulator Moonlighter. I know it’s only March and there are some extraordinary games on the horizon like God of War, Detroit: Become Human and Vampyr, but nothing has quite captured my heart the way Moonlighter has, and that’s why it’s my most anticipated game of 2018.
In Moonlighter you take on the role of Will, a handsome chap with white hair, who dreams of becoming a hero. In his home town of Rynoka there are gates that lead to other dimensions, and brave treasure hunters venture inside to find rare and valuable artefacts. During the day Will runs the Moonlighter shop, selling his wares to tourists and treasure hunters; but at night Will moonlights as a treasure hunter himself, entering the archaic dungeons and collecting all kinds of loot. Most of it you will sell in your shop to make a sweet bit of dough but there are items and materials you will want to keep back for yourself to craft potions, enchantments, armour and weapons.
Moonlighter presents you with two gameplay systems where each one feeds the other. You could say Digital Sun have combined two games into one but that would be an unfair and ignorant assessment to make. Digital Sun have successfully fused the grind of harvesting loot with the monotony of running a shop and the result is a compelling experience that I’ve never seen before.
When it comes to running the Moonlighter shop you’re in total control. You are in charge of putting items on shelves so that customers can buy them, and just like working at Asda you will also need to top up your shelves once they’re empty. You’re also responsible for how much each item costs: too cheap and you will lose capital on your wares; too expensive and customers will leave disappointed. It is critical you find the perfect price to maximise your income and your shop’s reputation. Be on the lookout too as pesky thieves attempt to rob you. The bigger and busier your shop is, the more chance there is of a shoplifter getting away with it!
At night you arm yourself to the teeth and enter the dungeons. The dungeon layouts are randomly generated, and I believe the enemies are too. This is where Moonlighter becomes a rogue-lite. Work your way through each dungeon, killing monsters as you go, picking up loot and emptying chests. When you die you will lose everything in your backpack but you have inventory slots on your body, so any items on your person will remain in your possession. Quick tip: keep valuable items on your body to avoid losing them when you die. Some items you find will be cursed and these have effects on your inventory slots. There are items that will destroy other items adjacent to them, or they might replace an item when you leave a dungeon. Some items teleport straight into your shop so that you don’t have to use up space inside your backpack. It’s complex and strategic, and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
The combination of resource-management and resource-collecting is what has me so excited! There’s something wholesome and satisfying about grinding for items that you can monetise to improve your nocturnal adventures, which in turn improves the quality (and size) of your shop – and the cycle continues ad infinitum. Moonlighter will fill you with pride because it will make you realise that everything you have, you have earned. You’ve put the hard work in and it shows – in the strength of your weapons, in the success of your shop and in your dominion over the dungeons.
Moonlighter speaks to me on a deeper level too. Me and my wife run our own online fabric shop and staying on top of products, inventory, prices and customer satisfaction are all balls I juggle with on a daily basis. Unfortunately I don’t have to explore dungeons and slaughter monsters for fabric – we have wholesalers who do that for us – but I think I’ve found an outlet in Moonlighter where the ‘gamer’ and ‘businessman’ can be one and the same. I’ve found somewhere I can go where I can run a shop and hack-and-slash my way through hordes of beasts without any of the real-life consequences (re: bankruptcy and incarceration)!
It doesn’t have a release date yet but Digital Sun and 11 Bit Studios are aiming for an early 2018 release. We’re nearly through March now so fingers crossed it will be available in April. So until then I guess I’ll keep on dreaming about it (I’ve genuinely dreamed about it twice already).
Moonlighter will be available on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch – so unless you only have a Vita or a 3DS you have no excuse.