Roguelikes are mysterious enigmas, usually warranting a high playtime in stressful situations. It’s for this reason that I don’t have a full review ready for Moonlighter on the day of its Nintendo Switch release. Every night, my silver-haired adventurer braves into the ever-changing never-ending dungeons near his home. Every night, the unseen, bespectacled player-god controlling him (aka myself) battles with sluggish sword swings, light control issues, and the stress of trying to marathon a dungeon crawler. It’s safe to say that Moonlighter doesn’t come as easily to me as other roguelikes, and I’ve yet to fully assess whether that’s the game’s fault or mine. But the most intriguing moments of the experience lie somewhere other than these worrisome nights.
No, it’s the daytime where my Moonlighter journey is thriving. By night, you’re a noble adventurer, scouring mystic dungeons in search of wondrous treasure. But by day, you’re a simple shopkeep, selling your overnight findings as exotic wares. This profit in turn fuels more nightly excursions, hopefully giving you the tools to venture further into madness and find cooler, dope-r trinkets to peddle.
Selling something in a video game isn’t a new concept. It’s the core money-maker in many RPGs and action-adventure titles, and even breaks the economy of certain ones. But those aren’t very involved; you typically pick which item you want to sell, the vendor offers you a set price, and you either pay it or just keep the item.
Moonlighter doesn’t do this. You’re the shop owner, so the transaction is flipped. You set the price of every item in your shop, based entirely on supply and demand. This means you’re also setting the inventory yourself, so you’ve got leeway as to which items you can part with. Perhaps you want to stash a cool sword you found to repair it later. Replace that lost cash by jacking up the price on that super rare golem core you found last night. On the opposite end, if your stacks of grass aren’t selling at the measly 100,000 gold you set them…maybe it’s time to lower that cost.
Though there isn’t a perfect supply-and-demand chart to accompany your sales stats, the game encourages you to adjust pricing with the philosophy in mind. Rarer items may be more popular and sold for a higher bid, while some rare items could be as wanted as a dog turd. There’s an interesting ebb and flow here, as you continually fidget your pricing to maximize profit, keep customers happy, and still have enough materials to trek into the darkness at night.
These overflowing coffers and items go into item and town upgrades, meaning that successful daytime bartering will directly benefit your nightly escapades. After a few solid days of sales, you’ll be easily be able to subsidize a potion shop and armor forge in town. Your treasures and dosh go to these folk, acting as a sort of business investment. After all, a heavier sword, steel armor, and 60 health potions could let you find some fancy magic book to showcase tomorrow!
Such systems lace together in a way that let you feel like you’re progressing even if you’ve had multiple bad runs with the dungeon-crawls. It’s an interesting meta-layer to mess with in-between those stressful monster dives—a Harvest Moon-esque respite, with a surprisingly intricate economy. I’m not great at Moonlighter, and may not get a chance to finish it for an actual review. But that doesn’t mean I can’t revel in the best parts of its adventure.