Craft your legend
When the moon goddess ceases to rise in a world governed by mystic laws, her worshipers see it as a sign of the end of days. Simultaneously, the Sun Cult begins to conquer their world, bringing progress to its people and wiping out the relics of the past.
It is up to the reincarnating ancestral spirits of epic heroes to discover why the moon has disappeared, and survive against the onslaught of sun worshippers. This quest will take them on a journey that will become the stuff of myth and legend, and etch their stories across the stars as constellations for generations to look up and see.
Moon Hunters’ main gameplay is shown using retro sprite art graphics, and top-down 2D movement similar to Legend of Zelda titles such as A Link Between Worlds. Different characters and NPCs also have hand-drawn portraits, giving the game more depth to characters as they speak and make decisions. A blood witch of awesome power, a fast moving spellsword fighter, a shape-shifting druid, and a mathematical magic-slinging mage come together, or fight alone over the course of three days. At the end of the third day, the heroes face the final boss battle. This might seem strangely short until it becomes clear that playing through the game again and again is the main goal, with each playthrough representing the reincarnated lives and cyclical journey of four heroic souls. It is then possible to unlock permanent rewards each time, including secret ancestral spirits: the sun cult traitor and the song weaver moon priestess.
Each character has their own set of three attacks: physical, magical, and defensive. Physical attacks only deal damage, while magical attacks have more of an effect. For the druid, he transforms into a wolf that moves faster and tears through enemies with his teeth, while the mage can throw gravity balls that hold onto enemies for a little time. They each require unique strategies when playing alone and intentional cooperation when playing with others. Up to four players can play together locally, or in online mode (that’s currently in beta) and embark on a journey to eventually face the sun cult leader.
The game sounded exciting before I started playing it, but the first steps were a little rough as I suddenly gained control of a character and stuttered my way through a level before monsters rushed and killed me on the spot. It’s not a difficult game to figure out and master, it just takes patience. Each time the game begins again, the chosen character starts with somewhat weak base stats, not yet the legend they are destined to become. Also, if there’s a preference, the game can be played with a controller or with a keyboard and mouse.
Combat takes time to get used to. In most instances I was running away, attacking quickly, or striking everything from afar. It was time consuming to fight through groups of monsters, and far too easy to die from a couple of good hits. The death isn’t permanent. However, the level ends as it is and any currency is lost which can feel a bit frustrating and wasteful. This currency, opals filled with moonglow, can be traded with merchants to power up attacks.
In between levels, players have a chance to then strengthen their characters at the campsite by taking on different duties or actions, such as standing watch, hunting, or looking at the stars. These provide specific stat bonuses and can sometimes offer a reputation. The stats help players depend less on button mashing and hit-and-run tactics when used properly. That being said, it can change the dynamics of the game quickly as characters start to feel overpowered, wiping out lions and giant sloths with few hits. It’s odd how it flip-flops, but this also adds to the spirit of how powerful each hero can become.
The journey itself is separated by different levels of diverse terrains, such as deserts, mountains, and forests. There are also populated towns that can offer encounters and places to learn more of the world’s lore. These include the specific moon-worshipping hometowns of each heroic character, which also act as the starting locations for player-controlled characters. Throughout the game, there are various game choices that appear and develop the character’s reputation depending on their decision. I took Hedduana the Mage to study things carefully and observe instead of simply praying, which started to give her reputations as patient and wise. The Witch would hold fast to the old ways, and wouldn’t back down in the face of danger, giving her a reputation as proud and brave. These reputations then come in handy with certain encounters, such as showing your bravery against a lion by beating it in a roaring match, or earning the trust of strangers because of your reputation as compassionate. The reputations follow the characters to their graves and beyond. They shape the stories and legends that forged these characters into the constellations in the sky. Stories to be told and retold with every iteration of the world.
Each playthrough ends with the same boss battle against the leader of the sun cultists. Depending on how well the character’s stats have been improved, they even stand a chance at defeating him without the aid of other heroes or allied familiars. A standard and skippable ending plays out depending on whether you lose and the sun conquers the world, or you win and the moon’s influence continues to permeate a dying world. It all leaves you feeling a little empty inside.
I’d like to note that I don’t feel I’ve gotten anywhere near the end of the game, even though the story is arguably the same each time. There are certain secrets and pieces of lore that players can discover with each subsequent playthrough, expanding the game and offering more avenues to explore the world. This includes terrain, alternate costumes, other hometowns, the language of animals, and secrets about the world that are well hidden and hard to grasp. After I finish writing this, I intend to dive right back in and continue the game to its conclusion. I want to find out why the moon doesn’t rise at some point, and see if there’s a way to fix it. Or to find out that there is no solution, and the world will live in perpetual change for eternity.
Review copy supplied
Tested on PC