Coming from Fishcow Studios is Moonfall Ultimate, another entry in to the side scrolling adventure genre. Billed as a “2D side-scrolling, action-RPG, set in an industrial gothic universe”, and with a choice of three distinct character classes to choose from, on paper this sounds like a great game. Backed up by an exciting trailer, I was excited to dive into the universe and see what Moonfall Ultimate was all about. So please, come with me to a world of hacking, slashing and spell casting!
First impressions of Moonfall Ultimate are quite good, with a story told via the medium of static cutscenes. When you have been sufficiently educated in the story of the world – magicians make something called Lunarium, which brings about an era of peace and prosperity until the bad guys come to take it – you have to choose the class of fighter you’re going to be. Will you run as a melee based Vanguard, a magic wielding Elementalis or a sneaky ranged Shadow? I’m all about the ranged characters, being a firm believer that if peril is going to occur, it should occur as far away from me as possible, so I initially chose the Shadow class and dived straight on in.
It’s at this point that the comparisons begin to classic side scrolling games of yesteryear, like Golden Axe. Sadly, it’s also at this point that the wheels start to fall off. The graphics have an appealing hand painted style, and when they are still, look quite good. When the characters and enemies begin to move though, it looks a bit like an old Ray Harryhausen film; all stilted animation and jerky movements. It almost appears like there are missing frames of animation, because the game looks – and I don’t want to be too tough on an indie title – absolutely dreadful when in motion. The attack animation in particular is laughable, with just the arm of your character holding the weapon moving. If you look at a good example of the genre, the animation involves the whole body, as swinging a sword isn’t an action that is performed using only the muscles in a single arm.
While we are talking about things that aren’t terribly good, the combat system needs a good hard looking at. In theory, having a ranged character should mean that getting up close and personal isn’t required. But the basic ranged shot from my Shadow did so little damage, and was so hard to hit anything with, that every fight devolved into standing still and mashing the attack button while the pitiful AI enemies just walked into my blade time and time again. But should any damage be taken, a quick stroll around the screen is all that is needed as the health regeneration is so strong you’ll soon be back to fighting fitness in no time, and the routine can begin again. Unfortunately, this is the entirety of my experience with Moonfall Ultimate; mash a button, move about a bit, mash a button again. The combat is not a highlight of the experience, and in a game that is all about the fighting, this is a major issue. In fact, being kind, the best description I could give to the combat system is “clunky”
So far so bad then. Bad graphics, terrible combat and, if I’m honest, the sound and music isn’t up to much either. There is a progression system however, is this the saviour? Well, no is the short answer. The interface for equipping new gear is counter intuitive, there doesn’t seem to be any palpable difference to upgrading and unlocking skills, and the only glimmer of light on the horizon is the game’s lore. This can be interesting, allowing you to see what Moonfall Ultimate could have been if the gods had been kinder.
The problem is though, I’m really struggling to find anything kind to say about it, as it just seems like quality control consisted of “Does it run? Yes. Send it out!”. The worst crime that it commits is that it takes an interesting premise and makes it boring, with the dullest gameplay I’ve seen in a long time.
All in all Moonfall Ultimate is a prime example of how not to make a game. The nice looking graphics are drowned in a tide of clunky combat, poor animation and a generally unpolished feel. I cannot recommend this game to anyone, unless you were to buy it for your worst enemy. Even then, that may still come under the heading of cruel and unusual punishment.