A game about a old shop, young boy, monsters and UX
On Friday one of my preorders arrived to the office. The game was one I had been excited about for a little while, Moonlighter. A simply beautiful game about running a store and diving into dungeons.
There was a couple of reasons to be exited about this game in particular. Obviously the setting, it’s a fantastic world, beautifully created with a simple colour pallet. Each of the dungeons are different, golem, forest, desert and technology; each with its own style and creatures to fight.
You play as Will, the young shopkeeper of Moonlighter and the last of a dying breed of merchant adventurers. Randomly generated dungeons that change every time you enter. Dangerous creatures lurk in every room, waiting to strike. Your job is to dive in to the dungeons, find loot, make it back to your shop, then make some money and then do it all over again.
The big ol’ bag
But it’s the less obvious parts that have an incredible power in this game. At the end of the day it’s an inventory management game, you have to balance what little space you have to maximise your profits. Cursed items can limit where you can put items in the bag or could remove a curse or even send items back to the shop.
Being limited to only 20 slots really mean you have to think about things. And different items only stack to certain a number. It’s rather limiting when you want to try and push through a dungeon to the higher level loot.
There is some saving grace to this though. First is the magnifying glass, a magical device that will turn any unwanted loot into a small amount of gold. From a UX point of view this is perhaps the one of the best features in a game, this device is so very useful when you find your self stuck deep down a dungeon dive and need some more room in your bag.
Next up is the pendent. Feed this magical item an amount of gold and a portal will open up and poof! You’re back at your shop, just like magic. This is item is one of the only 4 ways out of a dungeon, along with dying, the portal cube and beating the boss at the end. It’s a great tool to ensure you can escape with your bag stocked full of loot, at the cost of some of your pocket money.
Last on the current list is the cube. Much like the pendent you can escape at the cost of gold but unlike the pendent, the portal door stays open right back to where you left it. Giving you a chance to return to the same spot you left, extremely useful when the dungeons are randomly generated and diving in to one is never the same. It’s especially useful for when you getting close to the dungeons boss and don’t want to lose all you earned to get there.
So this is something I wish more game had, a wish list. As simple as it sounds, it’s such a useful addition to the game. You are able to add items to the wish list, meaning you can track the items you need for upgrades.
Tracking items means you can plan ahead for the upgrades you want next. This makes diving into dungeons so much more productive. Instead of filling your pockets with everything you might need, you can be selective, sort and choose to ensure you are carrying exactly what you were looking for.
In terms of UX, this is a game changer. I know other games have done similar such as Fallout 4 and any fetch quest which are far too many to list! More games could do with some kind of wish list, a way of tracking things that you may have been looking to find for as long as you have been playing.
I’ll admit, I absolutely love the shop. It’s so simple, you feel that it’s something really important to Will, to you. You stock it with items, protect it from thieves and improve it with your hard earned gold.
As you upgrade it and add more to it, the more money you can make in a single day. More space to add items and somewhere safe to put the more valuable ones. The shop is designed to be quickly assessable and can be navigated with surprising ease. No part of the shop takes longer than 2 seconds to get to, meaning you can keep the shelves stocked up and full of items for the never ending trail of customers.
On the back is your home, you can sleep in the bed, store item and check your keys. It’s really just a room. Simple as. But there is something very satisfying about the animation when you get out of bed. Yes they have taken the time to animate Will moving the covers off himself and climbing out of bed. It may be a small passive design but it helps make the experience much more real. Well as real as it could be for pixel art game. But thats the point of UX, the little hints and designs that make move you.
References to other its inspiration
Yep… They have made some clear and obvious references to gaming history. In this case as you may have guessed, good old Legend of Zelda. Zelda is very clearly the main inspiration for this game. It’s as if you shifted the perspective of the game from Link to a shop keeper and answers some of the age old questions; how do they always have stock? Where does all that money come from?
In a recent play i noticed something, well someone. Link, well an older bearded Link. He just strolled into the shop, looked through the pots and left. He didn’t even buy a single item! How absolutely rude! Although no point arguing as he was carrying the Master Sword and I like my pots not smashed…
It’s a game that acknowledges where it’s come from, who helped influence it and why. But at the same time it knows to push the boat out and cast off for its own direction.
Well it’s an amazing game. Thats all i need to say. Ok so as with every game there are some bugs and issues. Like you can get stuck on wall or the odd pop up notification stuck on the screen. But these are minor things, little bugs that can be fixed easily.
The UX is what this all about really though isn’t? And well, it nails it. The additions of a wish list, limited bag space and calendar make it very easy to keep track of what you need and how much. The bulk of the menu UI is tucked away in the notebook, a fitting style that doesn’t break the immersion. The added animations make things even better, getting out of bed or the way pixel bubbles move all again add to the experience.
I’m only just in the second dungeon, so I can’t comment too much of the story and wouldn’t want to anyway.
Long story short, I love this game. It can be frustrating and challenging but then at the same moment exciting and fun.
Thanks for reading!