By my reckoning, a game should ultimately deliver one thing. Whether it be a shooter’s thrill, a petrol-head’s delight or a tactical genius’ dream, above everything else, a game should be fun. It’s the main draw that keeps us gamers going back time and time again to partake in all that each individual title brings.
So when I heard that Kitfox Games were selling their latest title, Moon Hunters, on the back of it being a co-operative personality test, I wasn’t overly enthused. I mean, personality tests? How the hell would that deliver the fun ingredient that we need?
And after spending a bit of time with the game, I’m still not exactly sure where the real fun comes in. Granted, they nail the personality test side of things hands down. But if we remove that complexity from the equation, we are instead left with a title that is just trying to do something a little different, seemingly just for the sake of it.
Moon Hunters gives you five short days in which to shape your destiny. Multiple playthroughs are the star of the show as each tells the tale of how the King Mardokh and the Sun Cultists have declared war on Issaria’s tribes – leaving it up to you to decide the outcome of the battle. This is done by placing you in the shoes of multiple characters, all of whom come with their own unique skill-sets and backstories. You’ll be left to run from pillar to post, fighting off evil forces and partaking in numerous conversations with the people you meet, but no one playthrough will take you long to complete – quite easily less than an hour at a time – with each leaving an indent on future episodes and allowing you the chance to build a whole ton of mythology. Every action and choice you make will contribute to your legend, with previous escapades appearing as a constellation in the night sky. It is this simple mechanic that powers Moon Hunters throughout, but it is the repetition and similarity that comes with it which draws out all the fun.
As a game that plays on the fact you can shape your destiny any which way, it’s good to see seven pre-determined characters in place for you to run through things with. With each bringing completely different attack options, it really won’t take you long to discover how each and every playthrough is entirely different to the last. Moon Hunters plays on the question of ‘How will you be remembered?’ and from the very get-go, the opportunity is there for you to shape your own story.
The gameplay is however pretty simple, seeing you run from scenario to scenario with the greatest of ease. Whether you manage to make it through to the end of each day/stage, or just die trying, it is the finalisation which really starts to see your game take shape. Options are in place at the conclusion of each day to learn new cooking skills, to sit and gaze at the stars, to keep watch or to head off out on the hunt, with every option you choose changing your skills and stats to suit. And it is the choices you make here – as well as out in the field – that will ultimately decide the overall outcome.
One place where Moon Hunters does really shine is in the audio; more specifically in the narration. The story that you help shape may be delivered via a huge number of text boxes, but the opening and closing gambits that are found within are brilliantly told. It would be nice to have heard more of this narration throughout each playthrough, but I guess with such a variety of options on offer, this could well be beyond what is expected of an indie title. As far as the gameplay effects go, they do the job intended, but fail to reach the standard set by the opening sequence, with sword swiping, barrel breaking and projectile throwing sounds in place.
I also really like the visuals, and have been pretty captivated by the sharp and crisp detail of the storyboards as they play out my adventures. But again, when it comes to the in-game action, the whole pixelated retro vibe fails to ignite much enthusiasm. I can’t for one minute say that the look and feel of the game is a bad one, but in the same breath, I’ve never been wowed by a single thing found within the randomly generated days that Moon Hunters brings.
Unfortunately, very long loading times – which I guess come about as a consequence of the randomness – a complete and utter lack of online play ,and a whole ton of text box based adventure, never allows Moon Hunters to raise its game above and beyond that of average. The fighting mechanics are fun at first, especially as you try out all the different attack options with the various characters, but it won’t be long before you are left to run your way through each stage as fast as you can, instead of sitting back, taking on the wild foes that come your way and allowing your destiny to be shaped accordingly.
For those negatives though, I feel I must praise Kitfox Games for creating a unique and visually appealing game that is much more enjoyable should you wish to embark on your quests with a few friends at your side. Local cooperation doesn’t make or break Moon Hunters, but it does add another string to its bow.
At the end of the day, Moon Hunters will be something which will appeal to those with a mind full of intrigue, at least for a short while, because the randomly generated levels and multiple paths of reputation and personality building fail to overcome the slightly tedious gameplay. In fact, if my time with the game is anything to go by, you’ll quite possibly enjoy it a fair bit initially, but then as you settle down into future playthroughs, will start to wonder why you are left trawling through such a huge array of text. First impressions may point to there being enough variety to ensure you’re still playing it weeks down the line, but when you decide to start running from your foes, instead of tackling them head on, and have skipped your way through a thousand lines of storytelling, you’ll probably have had enough of everything on offer.
How will Moon Hunters be remembered? As a game that tries new tricks, but fails to ever really pull them off.