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Moonlighter Review

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Set in the newly found commercial village of Rynoka, Moonlighter takes the player through the adventures of a boy named Will - a young shopkeeper, looking to become a hero. Mixing elements of an action RPG, dungeon crawler and those of a Rogue-lite, Moonlighter sees the player venturing through various different procedurally generated dungeons in search of loot. These dungeons are a result of a recent archaeological excavation and are filled with ancient constructs and monsters which are said to guard the most precious relics a human can find.

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The game does a wonderful job of introducing the player to the basics of combat and movement, with it starting out nice and easy and progressing to more difficult enemies and room layouts. Along with the tutorial, an old man by the name of Zenon serves as a mentor to Will and helps him grasp the basics of the shopkeeping, which includes setting prices for the loot you find, knowing how to tell if the price is right, and always warning us about the dangers of the dungeons.

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The dungeons are procedurally generated and because of this, always unique. Each fight you choose to take or not take can be approached differently, as room layout and enemy spawns will always differ. The dungeons once entered, have three floors to them, with the last floor culminating in an epic and challenging boss battle. As you are moving through the floors, the enemies become progressively more difficult, gaining more health and dealing more damage! But as the difficulty increases, so does the rarity of the sweet, precious loot. The dungeons are also riddled with traps and secret rooms to enter if you’re keen enough to find them. These contain special challenges that are some of the most rewarding in the game, especially in the more difficult dungeons.

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There are various ways to combat the enemies of the perilous dungeons, such as the sword and shield, giant sword, fist weapons, bow and arrow, or my favourite, the spear. Each of these provides a unique way to fight as well as advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the spear can outreach most enemies but lacks the wide sweeps of the giant sword. These weapons, just like all other equippable gear, can be upgraded to gain new appearances as well as improved stats. 

Upgrade paths are also available for weapons, with the player having the choice of going for raw damage, or infusing with an element and having slightly lower base damage with the inclusion of said elements. The stats on armour pieces can be a little bit more complex, with light armour giving fewer bonuses to health, but increasing one's speed and mobility. Same can be about the heavy armour, giving loads more health at the cost of speed.  

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All armour upgrades are done courtesy of Vulcan's forge. This is just one of the many purchasable shops that can move into the town of Rynoka. Once you have accumulated enough money through the sale of your relics and goods found in the dungeons, options to expand the town and your own shop become available. Expanding the town includes bringing other merchants to stay in Rynoka, who will help you along your journey. 

Along with Vulcan’s forge, you can also contract an alchemist, for all your potion and enchantment needs, a retailer, to buy goods that you're short on, a banker, to invest your money and a merchant who sells decorations for your shop. Even the decorations in your shop can have a significant impact. Depending on which of the many you choose to display, you can have customers adding extra tip to their purchase or even having more customers visit your store in one day.

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Expanding your shop is slightly different, with there also being various new things to purchase, or the expansion of the shop to do. Some of the things you can purchase include a fancy cash register, which entices customers to add a tip to every purchase and a comfy new bed which gives the player temporary health everytime they sleep. Expanding the shop gives the player more pedestals to place items on to sell and more expensive expansions even give the player a shop assistant to help with sales. 

Combining some of the shop upgrades with certain decorations for an increased tip after each purchase is highly recommended as it does stack up and sometimes you’ll be surprised how much extra you can earn. Although the shop expansions do bring beneficial stuff for the player, it sometimes felt like the jump from one upgrade to another was very steep and could have possibly used more levels in between it.

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Gaining gold in Moonlighter is basically everything as it lets you purchase upgrades, buy items, use the dungeon pendant and teleporter and also fund the upgrading of gear. The pendant and teleporter are the ways to return to town. The pendant is a one time use and the teleporter allowing the player to keep their progress in a dungeon for one trip, but at a much higher price than the pendant.

Everything in Moonlighter makes you carefully plan what you want to do, be it from setting a price for your goods that you’re selling, approaching a bunch of enemies in a new dungeon or even choosing what loot to take from a dungeon and what to leave behind, the player will always have to think twice before a decision. Moonlighter is a delightful gem that certainly captured my heart more and more as I continued playing. Awesome and unique enemies in each dungeon kept the experience fresh. 

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Constant upkeep of your shop and watching out for thieves during the open time (yes, some people really try to steal your loot) is engaging and does not leave you wanting to go AFK while everyone buys your stuff. A rich pool of loot and materials keep you searching for rarer items to sell or use to upgrade your gear and the fantastic visuals and music of the game always set a mood for the bright and wonderful town of Rynoka.

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Overall, Moonlighter is a true gem. With a fluent and easy combat system, great dungeon system, unique enemies, and shopkeeping mechanics, the game moves away from the traditional rogue-like genre to deliver something fresh and exciting. 

This review was based on a review code sent to us by Digital Sun Games

Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 29 May 2018 | RRP: R329

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"Moonlighter is a delightful gem that certainly captured my heart"

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