Kitfox Games’ Moon Hunters is the first roguelike I’ve really enjoyed.
The premise is simple: the moon disappears, and you have five days to find out what happened. Once those days are up, whether you succeed or not, the game “ends.” Much like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, only you cannot reset the time limit. You will see a “bad” ending multiple times, but things play out a little differently each time; based on your actions and decisions, you unlock constellations (which are often new characters and world types), as you play, and no two playthroughs are the same. As you progress, you will eventually reveal more of the story as told by an old priestess, and even unlock a very challenging battle arena. Your story is reflected by your own personality, in many ways, through those you aid and how you respond to conversations. The developer has described this as a “personality test RPG.” The end result of your playthrough is reflected on this idea. Your ending, and the constellation’s history, are relayed to you by the old priestess, giving that character a personality of its own.
It is often compared to Zelda or Diablo, though, to be honest, other than a few similar gameplay elements, I don’t really see the resemblance. It is a dungeon crawler of sorts, with plenty of enemies, but no loot save for currency, no hookshot or bombs, etc, and your abilities are fairly limited to just three attacks/moves. You also do not level up or obtain new gear, but instead your stats increase based on how you play. Each character has different move sets, much like those of Diablo. This adds a level of challenge to gameplay, and depth to character progression. In a way, it’s based on how your character’s personality develops. For example, you can increase stats through dialogue options. Stats also increase through actions between stages, when your characters are camping for the night. You get one choice, as the usual; for example, you can add to your stamina by watching over your camp, or upgrade your strength by hunting. Sleeping also benefits you, as often you will encounter spirits and people who may come to aid you. It is even possible to gain animal allies as well, if you play your cards right. As you have only five days, your character progression is limited, and does not carry over to new games. However, I do believe this is intended as part of the challenge and gameplay, though it would be nice if some stats carried over. Again, this heavily influences the ending and history for that character, making each playthrough unique.
The fun part is discovering different events and people as you play each time. A playthrough takes about 30-45 minutes, so it’s great for quick gaming sessions. It does offer a lot of content, and while I’ve played a few hours, I’ve only unlocked around four or five characters and several world locations. The choices you choose when “creating” a character influence the setting of your quest, as well as lore, enemies, and people you encounter.
One of the selling points of Moon Hunters is that it offers online multiplayer. Getting into it is a bit of a challenge, as the system requires you to obtain a lobby code from a friend, or to share yours if you’re hosting a game. There is a Discord server dedicated to finding other players to join (check the Steam discussion boards). The multiplayer option seems a bit daunting at first, but I do think if you can get past that, it’s a rewarding experience.
All in all, it is quite a fun game. The graphics are beautiful, and the story is very well-written. Dialogue is quite descriptive, weaving an imaginative world and colorful characters. You’ll often meet new people with each playthrough, giving more back story to the world and its people.
Here’s a decently lengthy gameplay video I made:
Yes, I know, I’m not very good at this, but to be fair, this was my third time (I think) playing. Single-player can be difficult. I do think it depicts the game very well and it speaks for itself. It’s quite long, as it is a complete playthrough, so I recommend watching the first couple minutes at the very least to get an idea of what’s in store for you.
- A fun roguelike with straightforward, easy-to-pick-up gameplay
- Good, challenging fun
- Great for quick gaming sessions
- Nice pixel graphics and music
- A different experience every time with a wide variety of characters to unlock
- A unique “personality test” feature which is based on your actions and choices each time you play, shaping your experience and character’s history
- Multiplayer games can be a bit difficult to start/join in
- Previous character progression doesn’t apply to main game, except to the arena
- Limited time to progress and improve character stats
I’d say the cons are far outweighed by the pros, as I’m really just nitpicking. The gameplay mechanics are growing on me. Long story short, I highly recommend Moon Hunters. It is available on consoles and on PC.