Thursday, October 26

Review: Moon Hunters [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

Moon Hunters is just something very different than I’ve played as a whole and that is both a great thing (yay, diversity!) and a concern then it comes to making recommendations. Moreso than any action RPG I’ve played there’s simply a massive amount of narrative content hiding everywhere in the game. The characters you choose, the places you visit, the people you’ll meet, and the attributes that define your personality will all be different each time you play and that will lead to different interactions and outcomes. That’s all very interesting but what it means is that the challenge and enjoyment in the game isn’t derived from “beating it” on a single run, it is about unlocking new characters and starting points, getting greater insights into what’s going on in this world, and experimenting to find your way to the best conclusion over the course of several runs… and if you can play with up to 3 friends it can be even more fun.

Starting with the characters you have to choose from to play with I have to give credit for their play styles being pretty radically different from one another. Each character will have a standard attack, and secondary attack, and some sort of mobility skill. Over the course of the game as you collect gemstones you’ll have options on how to upgrade each of these in different ways to become more potent. You’ll begin with a choice between 4 classes, with 2 roughly playing out as melee style (I’ve found it tougher, overall, to stay alive using these) and 2 that are generally more ranged. In order to be effective you’ll really need to figure out how best to work with their combination of skills since the monsters you’ll face can require some tactics to take out, especially if there are several attacking you at once. As you complete playthroughs you’ll be able to unlock 3 additional classes and these are generally even more unusual in their style and that makes for refreshing options as you contemplate further runs after completing your quest which usually takes a little more than an hour.

What sets Moon Hunters apart is the number of ways you’ll be tested as you have random encounters with people, animals, and even spirit beings of various kinds. It is how you choose to interact in these situations that will affect your stats, your personality, and then ultimately how your character will be remembered once you’ve completed your quest and take your place among the stars. What keeps it interesting is that not all choices result in outcomes you may anticipate and in your travels you can’t ever be sure which personality traits may come to help you if you have random encounters where being either brave or even foolish may give you a new opportunity. This, as well as your ability to start in different regions and visit entirely new parts of the world, is what is helping to drive the need and desire to play through the game multiple times and get your arms around everything that’s going on and how to get things to their best outcome.

In terms of issues the first and foremost is that people have the right expectations when they’re deciding if Moon Hunters is a good fit. It absolutely delivers some challenging action RPG gameplay with diverse characters, and as you go to different regions the monsters you’ll face will vary. If you can play with some friends the experience will be enhanced as combining some of the class abilities can make your party quite formidable. However, there’s no escaping the element of repetition you’ll end up having as you work through your encounters and interactions differently in the hopes of figuring out how to unlock all of the game’s secrets. In that way the general brevity of a single playthrough is both a blessing (it minimizes your time investment per run) and a curse (the number of things you may be able to unlock in one run is inherently limited). Aside from that there aren’t many complaints though I will note that the load times can feel pretty substantial in places and I did get occasional stutters in play that didn’t seem to correspond to anything in particular.

All said Moon Hunters is an ambitious and well-executed exercise in storytelling as much as it is in implementing the game’s action. I found the change of pace to be refreshing, and the presentation and imagery helped establish lore without it just being a bunch of gibberish written to the screen as some games have done. There’s a care and attention to detail to it all that I hope people will give a chance and discover, but I can see where people may give it a rough playthrough or two and decide to move on as well. If you’ve been looking for something that sets itself apart from most of the games of its kind out there, even if it may not meet all of its goals, Moon Hunters is a worthy attempt worth giving a try.

Score: 8

  • A rich narrative for an interconnected world full of choices to be made
  • A total of 7 character types (including the 3 unlocks) that each play very distinctively to help minimize the feeling of repetition
  • Local multiplayer is great and the length of a typical playthrough makes it easy to have a satisfying complete session together

  • If you’re not down for playing through the game multiple times and exploring the full world (that can’t be done in a single run) and what the game has to offer it won’t be for you
  • While I found the somewhat unpredictable nature of outcomes from your decisions to be fun I suppose it could be aggravating
  • The load times can be pretty bad at times, be warned