While many may know me primarily as a blogger, I do this little thing on the side where I stream games on Twitch. Although since blogging is my hobby and not my job, streaming is more like the side of the side…anyway, recently I had been having some trouble figuring out what I wanted to stream on my channel. I decided to hunt through the charity bundles I had purchased on itch.io for anything that looked promising – but not so promising that I wanted to play it on my own time. It’s a hard balance to strike but eventually a game caught my eye. Pitched as a “personality test RPG,” what really stood out to me about the game was not the elevator pitch but rather the developer. Moon Hunters was created by KitFox Games, the same devs behind the game Boyfriend Dungeon which I had tried a year or so ago and really enjoyed. Having recently had a positive experience dipping into the prior titles of another developer, this felt like a strong choice and I decided to give Moon Hunters a try.
So what is Moon Hunters? The basic premise is this: the moon has been stolen from the sky. The suspects in this terrible crime are the sun cult, and in five days their plan will culminate in a total regime change for the world. The moon must be returned, and so you play a hero who will hunt down the moon and defeat the sun cult in order to restore the sky to its natural order. Moon Hunters can be played by one person but also supports multiplayer up to four players. While I played the game on PC courtesy of the bundles for Palestinian aid and Ukrainian aid, it’s also available on other platforms including the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and XBox One.
When you start up Moon Hunters, you choose a class for your character as well as the location from which they will be starting. There are seven classes total with four unlocked to start, as well as five starting towns with three unlocked to start. So right from the jump you can see that there is going to be more to the game than what is available to you for a first playthrough. Moon Hunters is a procedurally-generated game with a short run time; I streamed for two hours and finished a run in that time, but could have taken a bit longer at certain parts, so I could see a run lasting around three hours in some circumstances. As you experience more of Moon Hunters you gain access to new tools that expand the possibilities of what you can do in the game, which is a nice feature in terms of replayability.
Out of the four starting classes, I chose to play as the ritualist. This class is pitched as a ranged specialist as opposed to the sword-wielding duelist, the powerful witch, or the shapeshifting druid. Moon Hunters immediately reminded me of my time playing Gauntlet with my stepdad when I was a kid because of the similarities in the combat. Battles take place in real time and consist of a few simple actions. As a ritualist, I was able to fire off magical orbs in a single direction at a steady pace. By using my special, I could create a gravity well that sucked in and trapped opponents for a few seconds. For mobility, I could teleport a short distance. Using gravity wells to trap enemies, warping to establish distance, and then blasting foes with my orbs seemed to be the core strategy for the class I chose. The game might feel differently for other classes so I’m definitely curious to experiment with more builds.
While your core abilities don’t change within a single run, they can be upgraded by purchasing new perks from merchants. Some perks are straightforward like increasing the size of a gravity well or increasing the distance of a teleport. Others create new possibilities within your existing abilities, such as leaving a gravity well behind when you teleport or firing orbs that pierce through foes to hit targets behind them. What upgrades are available to you depend on the merchants you find and once you’ve explored a location in Moon Hunters, you can’t return there within the same run. This means that if you see a cool ability you like and are able to afford, you may as well take it because you may very well never see it again. That can also be a bit frustrating when you see an intriguing power that you can’t afford and it never pops up at another store. It’s less about building your ideal character and more about building the best character you can with the tools available to you in a given run.
We’ve talked about what differentiates a ritualist from, say, a witch, but what differentiates two ritualists? This is where the personality test part of Moon Hunters comes into play. As you explore the world you’ll encounter a number of NPCs or maybe other opportunities like an interesting location in the environment. These opportunities lead to choices. One example from my run was discovering a sun cultist’s shrine – would I destroy the profane shrine or study it to learn more about their beliefs? By choosing study, I increased my character’s intellect and pushed their reputation towards “wise.” Your reputation changes over the course of a run based on your most recent choices and can lock you out of events – in my case, I had things I could not do because I wasn’t prideful or vengeful enough at the time. But being wise, patient, and compassionate gave me different opportunities that I might not have had otherwise. The personality you define for your character influences what opportunities are available to them throughout a run.
These choices also affect your stats, and Moon Hunters has a relatively simple stat system with multiple ways to influence your build. Your character has stats for maximum health, maximum energy, energy regen, physical damage, magical damage, and leadership. Depending on your class different stats will be important – as a ritualist, good energy and magic damage were my bread and butter. Stats increase based on your choices during events but can also be buffed by activities you perform while camping. Some activities increase specific stats; my ritualist benefited most from stargazing, which increased the damage she dealt and the energy she had to create gravity wells and teleport. Cooking is its own special activity that gives stat boosts to your whole party, not just a single character, and the boost depends on the meal you prepare. The more ingredients you have the more recipes you can discover, and your ingredients and recipes carry over from run to run so you are always expanding your culinary knowledge.
Most of what I have shared to this point are things that take place within individual locations on the map. The overworld in Moon Hunters consists of a map filled with nodes that have different opportunities. Your goal is to explore these nodes in search of clues for how to find the moon. Each node you explore passes time in the game, and time is something you have in limited quantities – after five days, the final attack by the sun cult will commence. You lose time when you get defeated by enemies, so maximizing your time by performing well in combat is key to having a successful journey. Of course, areas that are dangerous may also be tied to important information, so strategically choosing when to tackle them is key.
A neat aspect of Moon Hunters is that a record of your actions is recorded in the constellations. Each hero’s story is immortalized in the stars, and you can even see references to specific choices that you made in the story residing there. My ritualist, for example, had once served as the arbiter of a contest of beauty between two men, and the man who won the competition was referenced in her stars. From a practical standpoint, these records of old heroes also allow you to play as those heroes again, so you can set out on a new journey without having to completely reboot your character from the ground up.
Overall, Moon Hunters is a neat little game that I plan to try at least one more time to see how much difference playing as a different class makes. Much like Boyfriend Dungeon, the game isn’t doing anything I haven’t seen done better in another title, but it brings the elements together in a way that’s satisfying enough to be worth playing. If you like me have one of the apparently multiple charity bundles that KitFox Games chose to include the game in, it’s definitely worth a try!