Moon Hunters is unlike anything I’ve played in recent times, if not ever. First and foremost, each playthrough is unique thanks to the randomly generated world of Issaria. The world, or at least the assets that each world houses will remain the same, but the fact that the environments shift and alter on each run, helps to keep the game from feeling stale. This is further bolstered by the implementation of the clever functionalities that collectively push Moon Hunters forward as such a stand out experience. That however is not to say that the game is fantastic, far from it, but I wanted to start out by highlighting the decent mechanics that this game will be remembered for.
As you start the game, you’re able to pick one of four characters. This will extend to a total of six characters once you locate the additional NPC’s within the adventure. Once you have selected from a witch, a spellblade, a ritualist, or a druid, you’re off on your way to the Moon Feast. It’s here where you’ll learn that the moon, which just so happens to be the source of all magic and spiritual power, doesn’t rise. Going into the journey either alone or with up to three other players, it’s up to you to brave the dangerous world and solve the mystery at hand. Without the power of the moon, monsters are on the rise and chaos spreads across the land, and if one thing is certain, it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
As alluded to above, Moon Hunters has quite the ace card up its sleeve. you see, aside from the random generation of the world, there’s even more random generation at work elsewhere. Almost everything you do has a consequence, from the way that you engage with NPC’s, right up to the way that you clear out a monster infested area. It all goes towards how the world sees your character, and as such, will open or close story opportunities depending on how you play. This alone gives Moon Hunters a tremendous amount of replay value, and when each run lasts roughly an hour in length, you can easily squeeze north of ten hours worth from the game and still have new things to uncover.
Furthermore, there’s four different endings to uncover, but the parameters to unlock each ending are never really clear enough to guide you in a specific direction. It takes some perseverance and patience, but if there’s one thing I thoroughly enjoyed about this game, it’s the reward of playing exactly how you want to, often experimenting and executing new ideas. It also helps that each of the character types vary magnificently, giving you the tools to enjoy the experience using interesting features that are distinct in comparison to the rest of the cast.
As you make your way through the game, you’ll encounter various foes that are surprisingly tough to take down. Combat is fairly straight forward, being that you have a special ability, a light attack, and a heavy attack, but when the game is constantly throwing progressively difficult enemies at you, it rapidly becomes a case of balancing your abilities, attacks, and evasion techniques. You can of course upgrade some combat skills with opals that you obtain from fallen opponents or side objectives, and the added notion of upgrading your stats when you camp or die helps to some degree. When you do this, you’ll be able to focus on traits that are based on specific stats, depending on what character type you have taken to the fields of play.
There’s no denying that Moon Hunters is one ambitious game, but it doesn’t come without a handful of problems or questionable design choices. First and foremost is the difficulty scaling for co-operative play, or lack thereof. You would expect the game to get harder with the more players that you add, but it doesn’t. In fact I dare say that it only gets easier, which makes the point of the co-op feature somewhat redundant. Taking to the game in solo mode is a challenge, and when you add another player it becomes bearable, but still quite tough. Adding any more players than that just dials down the difficulty almost entirely, to a point where the excitement is chased away by how collectively overpowered your team is. It’s a shame really, because this side of Moon Hunters has a lot of potential. It’s just unfortunately wasted. It certainly makes the choice-intervals more interesting, but that alone isn’t enough to justify co-op play, or forgive it for its shortcomings.
Another issue I have with the game is aimed at the personality archetype. Now I’ve already highlighted the choices you can make, which will steer your story and character onto specific paths, but how does this carry over in future runs? The developer has openly stated that your character will make “their mark forever on the memories of the world”, but I’ve yet to see this in action. I’ve ran the game multiple times, in multiple different ways, and not once have I seen a single character of mine referenced by an NPC. If I’m building a legend, I want it to go down in history in-game, or else what’s the point in boasting the feature? Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Who knows! The game sure as hell doesn’t.
The aim of the game is to work at unlocking the real ending / true ending, which is much easier said than done. It doesn’t help that certain enemies are just too damn tough to kill, not because they’re powerful and buff, but because some of them constantly camp behind the comfort of their impenetrable shields. Dying in the game will cost you both money and a day / night cycle, both equally as valuable as the other due to only having a total of five days before the journey comes to an end. It adds a neat sense of tension to the mix, but it’s still massively frustrating when coming up against the aforementioned foe.
Visually the game offers up some wonderful pixel art, in fact I’ll say it’s the best I’ve seen in recent times. The diverse environments are also well detailed, meaning regardless as to how random generation plays out for you, you’re in for some gorgeous surroundings. Moon Hunters arrives with a fairly decent price tag, and when you weigh up the impressive mechanics to the longevity, there’s little you can groan about, but still much you’ll need to forgive if you plan to pick this up.
Moon Hunters is a decent game if you can overlook the issues noted above. Some of these problems may not bother you as much as they did me, but when a developer boasts a feature, I fully expect to witness it more dominantly than I have done here. The price of the game is well set, so even if you do find that you cant gel with the experience, you’re unlikely to feel robbed of anything but your time. The gorgeous visuals and randomly generated functionalities helps to keep each run feeling both fresh and inviting. In any case, Moon Hunters does come with some impressive mechanics and a massive amount of replay value that will keep you going for tens of hours, and then some.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.