Review: Moon Hunters
Moon Hunters was a tricky game for me to get through with the purposes of reviewing it. I first came across it at PAX East 2015, when I met the Kit Fox team and chatted about their aspirations for the game. I played it with a friend at an after party and thought, ‘this is neat, but probably not suited for this venue. It would be cool to play in quiet.’ I wasn’t wrong, but I also wasn’t completely right. After several playthroughs both solo and with friends, I still feel conflicted about Moon Hunters. While the overall concept and aim of the game is laudable, its execution comes up a bit short.
Moon Hunters‘s main draw is that you play through a few days of procedurally generated content, making decisions and interacting with NPCs along the way. At the very end, your story is written among the stars as a permanent constellation. The next time you boot the game up, whether it’s tomorrow or a week from now, you can look to the skies to read about your previous playthroughs. In addition, you can check out the constellations that represent unlocks like new playable characters, outfits, etc. The very best feelings I had while playing this game were when I stumbled upon a shrine in a town built for the mighty Gurm, a character I had played a month earlier with a buddy of mine. Gameplay-wise, this is where the game strikes truest. Unfortunately, there’s a seemingly paradoxical twist to this type of design. By nature, you’ll only come across those moments every once in a while. It’ll feel great when you do, but too much of it and it’ll start to lose its enchantment. So then there’s the rest of the gameplay…
This is a multiplayer isometric hack and slash game. Up to four players choose from a decent cast of classes that have more interesting names than your typical fare. With this break from the norm comes a bit of confusion, though. Each class also has a Type, which sometimes dubious in its description. The Spellblade class, for example, is primarily a melee fighter. Its Type is Quick. The Ritualist casts spells from afar, and her type is Ranged. The Druid is Type: Wild, and the Sun Cultist is Type: Traitor. There are a handful of stats shared by all classes that can be upgraded at night when camping. The informational text along with the classes and types only help to confuse the player about what stats are helpful to their class. I’m not sure a game has to be overly descriptive in its offering, but there were more than a few occasions where my buddy and I were questioning what stats actually got buffed vs. what the game was telling us got buffed. Each class is unique in its abilities, which are mapped to the face buttons, and I had an enjoyable time discovering how to differently play them. I hesitate to define Moon Hunters as being a twin-stick shooter even though the right analogue stick can be used to aim your attacks. Since your right thumb is being used to press your attack buttons, it’s cumbersome to try aiming and shooting at the same time. This makes typical twin-stick actions like kiting monsters a near-impossibility. And if you’re playing a ranged character, you’re going to want to be kiting monsters. I guess the issue is alleviated if there’s a melee character in the party to absorb blows, but I strongly discourage playing this game solo as a ranged character. I can’t shake the feeling that this game may control better with a mouse and keyboard.
In theory, I love what Moon Hunters is going for. The art, the music, and the overall style of the game are all superb. As a narrative experiment, it works decently. My friends and I used to gather around the lunch table and talk about our epic Everquest adventures or even the crazy Starcraft matches we had the nights before. Real stories do arise from playing games. Moon Hunters writes those stories down for the player. The problem is, they seem a bit blown out of proportion relative to the actual experiences I had with the game. Running around sections of nothing is fine in theory – a barren wasteland peppered with scared, lost souls – but dull in practice. The arena style boss sections were similarly boring, hinging on simple repeated actions against questionable AI opponents. I had an issue throughout my tenure with the game where the entire thing would skip a second every few minutes. Neither the devs nor Curtis reported on experiencing similar issues, but it can be seen in my video captures of gameplay and definitely affected my play. For what it does well, Moon Hunters should be commended. It feels like they designed themselves into a corner, though, one that isn’t terribly engaging to be in.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher/developer for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Permanent narrative over multiple playthroughs.
- Variety of classes.
- Music, art, style.
What I Dislike:
- Monotonous gameplay.
- Stuttering performance.
- Questionable control scheme.