Going out of your comfort zone isn’t too bad sometimes.
It’s nice to venture beyond what you know you like in favour of a total gamble, and finding out that gamble was a successful move. Oxenfree, Claire, de Blob 2, Westerado, are all titles that come from genres / people I wouldn’t expect a hit from, and some of these titles have entered my lists for favourite games of their respective year. And it looks like we have another game to add to the list with Moon Hunters, a procedurally generated personality test.
The genre I’ve given it might confuse you at first, but it’ll make sense in time. This particular game comes to us from Kitfox Games, a small team who’ve only made two titles in their history with Moon Hunters being their most mainstream lately, seeing a wide release on PS4 and Steam, before just now releasing on Xbox One. And that’s the version we’re reviewing because why not, I’m a Microsoft Man, man.
Moon Hunters is a story of nihilism at first. You are one of four starting heroes, from there you can pick your starting town in preparation for the Moon Feast, where you watch the moonrise in celebration of one of the game’s religious deity. But the moonrise does not come for the Sun Cult has prepared itself for a basic reset of the world, with a new god and a new set of threads, which are probably a pain to get through doorways. Your team of ragtag warriors must now attempt to stop the Sun Cults frenzied attempts to destroy the worlds culture in 5 days. So, it’s Majoras Mask meets The Binding Of Issac, I can dig that, lets go!
Right away, Moon Hunters gets a lot of ticks in my Imaginary Notebook Of Extremely Specific Approvals From Me™. Jumping into it is a treat as the extremely lush and vibrant music brings what could’ve been a boring beat ’em up to life, and it pays off well. The world tells the story for us, with the actual narrative being the topping on this cake. Although I believe the art style holds higher ground, as the music is a bit too bombastic in areas where it doesn’t deserve.
The world building here is superb. Every character has an identity and is memorable. Every setting has a unique tone and every song set to the environment is different, catchy, mournful, soothing. Moon Hunters is probably the most aesthetically pleasing game of the year, beating my previous nomination of Tokyo 42, and it’s nice to see a game filled with chutzpah like this.
While it’s harsh to continue comparing Tokyo 42 to a completely different game, Moon Hunters is a fantastic example of an isometric/top-down title having weight to its gameplay, an extremely difficult task. Every class and character reacts differently and is diametrically opposed to its brethren. For example, The Witch and Spellsword classes are melee-focused, but The Witch has a longer range and large knockback, whereas the Spellsword gets in your face, kissing your body to death with a silver sword.
Really, the gameplay is almost as engaging as the atmosphere itself. It’s pretty strategic in its structure, but it’s partly hampered by it’s enemy variety, including an incredibly annoying shield monster that can go lick a car battery for the sheer rage it gave me. There is not a single way I could approach this monster without losing at least half of my health and I thank God by name that it doesn’t exist in real life because I’d personally make it extinct.
Your first playthrough will probably last for less than an hour, more than likely with defeat added onto it, as you attempt to grasp a play style. But the end is not the end as “there are new things we remember with each telling”. New opportunities, storylines and characters come into play and more chances for redemption unfold and it relies heavily on you just replaying it.
But is the replay value high? That’s the most important question here. You can be as vibrant and as peppy as you want, all of that isn’t going to matter if you can be completed in the length of a Eric Andre Show skit. And personally, I believe that Moon Hunters passes its biggest hurdle exponentially. I wouldn’t say that every single playthrough you might end up doing is unique, but it’s enough to keep you invested for at least 20-30 hours.
Oh yeah, there’s a personality test aspect to this! Except not really. And this is Moon Hunters biggest failing, in that the whole psychological evaluation part of this game is fluff text that really does nothing, and when it implies to do something, it’s mostly ambiguous in it’s intentions. Every once in a while, you’ll come across an NPC with a scenario, and you have one of two choices to pick from. What you choose MIGHT give you a personality trait, but it more than often does not do anything.
The game does remember your playthroughs and NPC’s honour your heroes in future runs through the world, however, the only hero of mine that ever got referenced was Aqira, my Spellsword character and first save file. And I ran through the game 4 or 5 times, customizing them and naming them with different titles. My current playthough with the Occultist Persephone, Witch Kyrium, Druid Erykh, and Traitor Salirum. All of these were characters and names that I attached myself to, and none of them were picked up on in dialogue which was disappointing, as Aqira was a character I failed miserably with.
Since this game wants to base itself as a personality test, of sorts, I don’t know how much of a negative that aspect is when it fails. However, I have got to give it to Kitfox Games, they have bought a thoroughly engaging experience and an aesthetically amazing game to the table and it’ll be high up on my game of the year list, for sure.
So, if you’re looking to explore a world tread on in other titles but not the way it’s been done before, then by all means, pick up Moon Hunters and immerse yourself in this bath of comfortable moon rocks. Mmm.