I'm just going to get this out of the way right now. I love Moonlighter. From the moment it was announced, I've felt it calling out to me. "Come and play Dan. You can cancel those weekend plans. Just stay a while, explore some dungeons and make your fortune". It was a painful wait, but the game has finally released on the Nintendo Switch and with that, I finally got the opportunity to pillage some dungeons on the go.
I've done my hard time in retail. Now that I've been out of it for several years, the idea of ever going back to it gives me intense chest pain. Yet when presented with the opportunity to play a video game where I can run my own shop AND fight through dungeons, I couldn't have been more excited to jump in and make some virtual profits.
The birds are chirping. The soft glow of the morning sun peeks through the windows. My counters are stacked, my products are priced (greedily) and I am ready to nickel and dime this town for everything it has. I have my target in sight. He's a big-spender with a penchant for over-paying. That sucker is mine. His wallet will pay dearly for entering my emporium of overpriced wares. Don't worry, I'm a nice shopkeeper when it serves. I'll put some of that hard earned money towards upgrading the town (for selfish reasons obviously), and only after I've upgraded my shop of course.
Moonlighter sees you step into the shoes of Will. Will owns the main shop in town and also moonlights (now I get it) as a keen adventurer. Will should be a nice guy, but when controlled by me, he's a bit of a shyster. He watches every person come into his shop like a hungry car salesman. He observes their reactions to his prices with an eagle-eye, making sure they're not too happy with their purchases. That guy looks far too pleased about the price on that Golem Core. He'll make it more expensive. He's not running a charity here. This is business, and business is good.
As Will, you'll have to manage your store during the day, making sure to keep a watchful eye on your customers and their reactions. A little smiley face bubble pops up above each customers head as they browse your wares. Paying careful attention to these is the difference between closing your doors with stocked shelves or being forced to close early because you've sold everything. You'll have to set your own prices and use these reactions to find the perfect spot where you're not loosing out on massive profit, yet, not having prices so high that customers leave empty-handed. You need to be at the till to complete every transaction but you're still free to move around the house/shop to grab stored inventory from chests out back and to replenish your shelves. Small tip; you'll want to make sure you don't leave customers waiting for too long as they'll walk out, leaving a fraction of your asking price in return.
Putting a new item in the shop is always a gamble. As I discovered the hard way, you can sell a seemingly innocuous item for ten gold, only to discover that you could have made two hundred and ninety more for at its perfect price. Being retail, you, of course, have to keep an eye out for customers after a five-finger discount. You have to tackle them before they can leave the store with your product and its earning potential. Running Will's store surprisingly kept me on my toes and engaged throughout. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the shop-based gameplay in Moonlighter. The system is easy to learn but remained deep enough to keep me engaged for the entirety of my journey.
Once the sun sets, it's time to grab your weapon and head into the games wonderfully challenging ever-changing dungeons. My first couple of hours with Moonlighter consisted of me stumbling through procedurally generated dungeons, killing a few creatures and then proceeding to be killed by a small blob of vicious red jelly. Well shit, there goes everything I collected in the past thirty minutes. Better head back in again and fill up my backpack. Twenty minutes later, I'm dead again. What a scrub. Fast forward a couple of hours and Moonlighter is starting to fire on all cylinders. I'm slashing my way through the first dungeon with ease. I've learnt the enemy attack patterns and have refined my dungeon escapades to perfection. I'm hacking and rolling through the dungeons with ease and heading back to town with a jam-packed bag full of profitable goods every morning.
Moonlighter has a simple structure. There are four main dungeons that each contain several floors of enemies and a main boss. Clearing a dungeon boss will unlock the next dungeon and a special key for the final dungeon, with each offering unique loot that you'll need to upgrade and craft new weapons and armour for Will. Another system, which I initially thought would become tiresome is the inventory management. Some items you collect will carry curses like breaking if you take too many hits or destroying loot in adjacent slots upon returning to town. You need to pay attention to these when filling up your bag as they can have both a negative and a positive effect on your inventory. After a few hours, I really started to enjoy the extra layer of depth this added to what could have just been a simple aspect of the game.
As your coffers fill up, you'll also have the opportunity to expand and upgrade your shop. These upgrades range from a fancy till that will make every customer leave a nice tip with their purchase to an extra comfy bed that boosts Will's health for the following day. You'll also pay for new shops to move into town which offer weapons, potions and items you may need for crafting new gear.
If you're looking for the latest great indie title for the Switch, I can't recommend Moonlighter highly enough. I've funnelled my hard earned cash into every upgrade for the town and have now got the biggest store around. I've spent dozens of hours scouring dungeons for the right items to upgrade my armour and weapons. Will has evolved into a shrewd businessman and has tweaked his pricing to penny-pinching perfection. The core loop of Moonlighter remains compelling throughout the entire adventure. All of the game's systems all tie together wonderfully and take the game from just another indie to a must play title. The game feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch, to the point where I couldn't imagine playing it on any other system. Do yourself a favour and play it now.