By Zatheera, 26 November 2016
Moon Hunters: Beautiful Bedtime Stories
I first spotted Moon Hunters at Pax Prime 2016 just as I was walking past their booth to go meet up with some friends on another floor. Kitfox games’ top down RPG caught my eye, so I paused to grab a card and make a note to look it up later before rushing off.
Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.
What caught my interest was the concept of a co-op personality test RPG. That and I always stop to check out anything made by fellow Canadian’s. Since this was made in Montreal, Canada, I couldn’t just walk by without giving them a chance to show me what they’d created.
Moon Hunters describes itself a mythical and mystical journey, one which you can travel alone or with up to three of your friends. You have the option to play it on PC with keyboard or controller, or on PS4. Since from what I can understand so far, only the couch co-op multiplayer is available for PS4 at the moment, so I opted to test this game out on PC as it would allow me not only to try out the single-player, but both styles of multiplayer (online and couch co-op).
Although some may not like having to invite someone over to play a game, I personally prefer to think of it as a decent reason to actually invite your friends over. An excuse for drinks and delicious snacks. Considering it’s a quick game to play, there’s no good reason not to give it a try the next time your friends come by. You’d definitely be able to reach the end before anyone has to go home and it isn’t a major time sink. In fact, my friend and I played the game straight through while we were waiting to head out to see the new Dr.Strange, which allowed me to finally see an ending I had been trying to get but hadn’t seen yet up to that point.
The concept of the game is fairly simple: there’s you, the village you chose to come from in the randomly generated world of Issaria, the Moon Goddess your people worship, and the evil Sun Worshippers. After a celebration to the Moon that goes awry, you are given five in game days to solve the mystery and find where your Goddess has gone, which sometimes feel a bit short. There isn’t much direction given to you regarding how you’re going to go about doing this at first mind you. Of course, once you get to know some of the tricks of the game, you’ll understand when you really should be venturing North, South, East or West after the festival.
In the beginning, you get to choose to be one of four different characters and are able to unlock two more throughout the game depending on your choices. Each of these characters comes with their own unique abilities and play styles.
You are able to rename them as you see fit and choose between a few different colour schemes and with consequent playthroughs you can open up an additional skin for each character. Speaking of unlocking content, one of the biggest tips I’d give to any new Moon Hunter player is to pick your characters personality right from the start. Don’t play it the same way every time. Have one run through where your character is kind, thoughtful and patient, then the next where they are greedy, flirtatious, and impatient. Another where they are vengeful, cunning and arrogant. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to see all that this game has to offer. If you play it the same way every time, you’re going to miss out on a lot. Back to the characters…
Kubele is a witch that channels blood magic. This one caught me by surprise since the majority of her abilities are melee and I was expecting ranged attacks.
Heduanna is a ritualist and she is a ranged caster. They say she’s a manipulator of mathematical magics, but I see it more as gravity fields.
Enkidu is a druid and a shape shifter, he throws razor sharp leaves and has a bit of crowd control in the form of roots that slow the enemy when they run over them.
Dumuzi is classified as a spell blade and comes off to me as your dual wielding rogue type. Which of course why I played this guy as the dashing flirt who ended up surprising me with his ending.
You can watch this video for a nice preview of some of their abilities.
You can choose between two different backgrounds for them as well until you unlock more which decides your starting zone and story. This was something I actually found to be quite pleasing as it reminded me of tabletop RPGs where you get to decide where your character is from, instead of it being decided for you.
You’ll want to choose your character wisely, for the land of Issaria isn’t a safe one. There are monsters everywhere that want nothing more than to attack you. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to stay away from them and leave them undisturbed, they behave as if you told them that their mother smells of elderberries and come charging after you the moment you are within their line of sight.
Fortunately for you and I, the combat system is pretty straightforward. In fact, it’s so simple that you could easily play this game with a child. Each character has three moves, one of which is always a skill that involves movement, such as a charge, dash, teleport or a handy dandy means of shapeshifting and bolting off. Which means that if you don’t want to fight, you don’t have to. Well, that’s is unless you get trapped in an area with your enemy. Then you have no choice but to turn and fight, that’s if you don’t enjoy taking a good dirt nap now and then. I personally enjoy a good battle, not to mention the loot that follows. I’m pretty much like any rogue type you find in most RPGs. I loot the bodies the moment they hit the floor. After all, it’ll just go to waste if you leave it there. Right? Right???
In regards to your moves, you can customize them by purchasing modifications to them from merchants. Which kind of prevents you from getting bored of their abilities too quickly. Which upgrades or alterations that are available to you are entirely dependent on what the merchant has to offer of course, as well as what you can afford.
Your first run through is fun as you encounter various creatures, learn their moves and how to fight them, but after awhile it can become a bit too repetitive. To be fair, this is a game where you’re repeating the same story over and over again, so that’s going to happen. They do try to vary the creatures depending on the regions you are in which is nice of course and you’ll soon learn which ones are going to give a harder time than others.
The loading screen art is beautiful, I honestly would love this as a poster or a background on my desktop. The character drawings are well done as well and do give a good idea of what the characters are like from their positioning, garb, and expressions. The constellation concept is lovely and I do appreciate seeing additions to it with each playthrough. It looks surprisingly good considering it is made on the Unity engine. The music is beautiful and suits the world setting. My only gripe when it comes to the sound in the game is that the voice actress seems incredibly quiet in comparison to the rest of the game. I found myself straining to hear her during the beginning and ending sequences, which I felt was a bit of a shame.
I ran into a few problems while playing. Some were negligible while others were not. The game would occasionally freeze, which wasn’t fun when I was in combat. I also had a few moments where my sound bugged out. During one of my later runs, my ability bound to Y wouldn’t work, which was resolved by exiting out and reloading the save. During one of my online multiplayer tests, Gwen, Steelix and I ran into troubles on the last day when it came to the loading screen. It froze and no matter have many times we tried to reload the save it just wouldn’t work. We ended having to ditch that save and start anew. Which was fine, since Gwen couldn’t be trusted while playing Sargon and his “Not so friendly fire” and she was likely going to be the death of us during the final battle. So it was best to start again and have her play as someone else.
There was also a couple oddities when it came to the ending summary. It would give me conflicting messages in regards to my character’s personality, which leads me to believe there were some issues in the code in regards to that. This little oversight was even more embellished when I played co-op and it mixed up both my and my friend’s characters. He played a flirtatious, selfish rogue while I was a more reserved character and yet it claimed my character was the one that went around sleeping with everyone and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down.
We didn’t mind, though, it kind of just gave us a bit of a chuckle and I copt it up to being the villagers failing at passing on the stories of their heroes accurately.
I also would really like them to give you a fully expandable map and a recipe book for when you’re cooking that displays all the recipes you’ve already uncovered along with the buffs they provide. Sometimes you skip a section of the zone and end up on the opposite side of the map near a camp location, so it can be a bit tedious running all the way back if you’re afraid you missed something important. I’d love to be able to bring up the entirety of the map for that zone so I can double check whether I’ve cleared everything or not. This would make the completionist in me really happy. When it comes to the cooking, I guess I can just refer to a cooking guide.
My conclusion is that despite the hiccups that this game has, it’s still very enjoyable. The music is well done, the artwork is lovely and it’s charming in its own way. If the developers could tweak some of the more grating issues such as the little lag spikes and the slightly confused storyline summaries this would be the perfect little gem to have in your library when you want to play something that isn’t going to be a major time sink. It also seems to be the perfect game to play with children, since there’s nothing in the game that is overtly gory, vulgar or offensive, which means for $16.99CA ($21.99CA for the Soundtrack edition) you have a pretty fun and safe game to play for the whole family.