“You have 5 days before King Mardokh and the Sun Cultists declare war on Issaria’s tribes. Multiple playthroughs of this short story will let you see it from different angles and uncover new sides to characters, conflicts, and narratives. Try out all 4 player hometowns and 6 character classes, each with their own abilities and randomly generated upgrades as you build your mythology.
Every action and choice you make contributes to your legend, as a constellation in the night sky. How will you be remembered?”
Another uneventful day of world quests in World of Warcraft: Legion had gone by when I had the sudden urge to check out theindiebox.com for their Indie Game Collector Editions. They’re basically the collector's edition content without the outrageous price tag. I’d been wary of subscription services for “Geek Items” ever since I had many consecutive months of disliking the boxes I received through Loot Crate (Sorry guys. The first year was amazing, but then it lost its spark). That day, I was surprised to see Owlboy, a game I had been following for a while, had a Standard Edition, but no collectors yet. So I looked around on the rest of the site, and that’s when a game called Moon Hunters caught my eye.
I have always been interested in 8-bit RPG games, but the main selling point for Moon Hunters was its 1 to 4 player local co-op. I usually go to a friend’s house to play video games and our latest obsession was a game called Risk of Rain. We played it for months, but all great things must come to an end, and it came time to move on to something else. I was on a mission to find a new game that would bring us all together again, and it seemed that Moon Hunters would do the trick.
Alongside my love for local co-op, Moon Hunters piqued my interest when it was described as a “personality test,” which is a flashy way of saying that the decisions you make affect how others see you. The way you interact with others also affects which stats are leveled up. An example would be if you spoke to a villager and chose a “wise” decision, it would raise your faith which translates to your Intellect stat. Games like Dragon Age and Black and White have been doing this for a long time, but Moon Hunters’ developer KitFox Games was able to make it feel like something fresh and new.
What came in the box helped convince me to buy it as well. If I could narrow down what is most important to me in a collector’s edition, it would be that it must come with a physical soundtrack. I love music, and video game composers put a lot of extra effort into making music that sets the tone of a game, so having that physical soundtrack can be a deal-breaker for me. Luckily, Moon Hunters came with one, but it was still a gamble on something I had never heard. But there was more in the box than just a soundtrack. First, cute stickers and magnets are always a plus for me, especially if they pertain to the game. This came with food magnets. You can mix and match different food combinations to increase specific stats in-game, so I thought that was incredibly clever. Finally (and most impressively) the game came with a USB drive shaped like the Sun Temple. The drive contains a DRM-free Windows copy of the game for you to share it with others if you so choose. Or you a just keep it for yourself, I won’t judge.
With all this great stuff added up, I decided to place my order and was immediately faced with the hardest challenge of all: waiting for it to ship and arrive at my door. It didn’t help that I was watching trailers of it up until just before it got to me. The hype was real.
The day finally arrived and I had prepared to do an unboxing, but I was too excited for that. Instead, I brought it over to my friend’s house so we could start playing together immediately. I have so many first impressions, but THE very first one was “OH MY GOD! LOOK AT THESE ADORABLE SPRITES!” I am a complete pushover for adorable 8-bit sprites. You start off in a blue shaded overworld map as a small flame sprite. You can’t do much here in the beginning aside from select “New Game.” You are then taken to a beautifully hand drawn character select screen. There are 4 diverse characters you can select right off the bat and the other 3 are unlockable at a later time.
“Even in a single-player game, the most important element of a character’s design is that the player can recognize the character in the game. Whether you’re playing as a dragon, a robot, or a ball of sludge, the player should look at a screenshot and not only see where the character is on the screen, but also think it is cool (or if your desired aesthetic isn’t cool, then cute or sad or whatever else). Why does anyone want to play this character? Why does it exist?”
The Spellblade is a close ranged character that uses a sword, the Ritualist is a long ranged character that manipulates shadows, the Druid is a shapeshifter who is both a close and long ranged character, and the Witch is a user of blood magic. Each character has 2 attack moves and one evasive move which you figure out by playing with the controls a bit. There’s a minimap in the corner that uncovers as you explore more of the area which means for a completionist like me, I must see it all. Your main mission for this first area is to find and set up camp so that you may make it back to your village for the Moon festival. You learn that in 5 days the Sun Warriors will revolt against the other tribes and pretty much send the world into chaos. This hit me with some major Avatar: the Last Airbender vibes. After the Moon festival is over, you are asked to find the Moon Goddess, and once you leave the village you are given choices of which areas you’d like to explore. It’s very tough to decide where to go first because you can only explore one place per day save for a few areas that open up secret locations. When you have completed the story, you’ll figure out if you got the good, the middle, or the bad ending. (Yes, there are multiple endings). Your character also gets a sweet obituary describing your adventures throughout the game.
Obviously, no game is perfect, even though we all wish for one, and Moon Hunters is no exception. There were quite a few glitches with gathering health pieces, for example. They would sometimes get stuck in unobtainable areas such as on top of rocks or in water. It’s quite the nuisance especially if you’re not sure you’re going to make it back to the campfire for the night because of the waves of difficult enemies. The cutscenes also end abruptly which made it feel as if some of them had more to add to the story and something just got cut out. There was no inventory or journal to keep track of the sidequests you had been tasked with either. I constantly forgot who I had talked to or the next person I was supposed to interact with. There are many paths to choose and something to help you stay on track would make the game more manageable.
Overall, this was a wonderful purchase. I usually go with my gut when I’m deciding on a book to read and I hope I can apply this more often to the games I want to purchase. This may have also changed my mind on subscription boxes as well. If you have any Indie game suggestions please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. You can also let me know if there was a game you purchased on a whim and fell in love with. In the meantime, have a look at the Moon Hunters Hero Design page. Until next time!