A death of a king brings nothing but misfortune. Mourn the death of the king the people willm but tis not them who know the horror that will ensue the kingdom from the clutches of these harrowing opportunists. Peace of the kingdom situates within our hands and it is up to us to fortify it. Old king or new king, we shall not be deterred by these wretched beasts… FOR THE EMPIRE!!!
It’s easy for you, yes you the reader/gamer to sit staring into your pixel haven of a mobile phone or laptop or touchy screen device, moaning about puddles with no empathy to whomever in view of those thumbs up or hearts counters go up and up, playing the social media game of life. When reviewing, sometimes you can see the developers really try , especially when it comes to the independent game space and make a good game. Everything is there and it’s serviceable but that’s just it, it’s serviceable. Yet the feeling of genuine time, effort and most importantly heart has gone into these games, it’s almost melancholic.
This is how I felt about Moonfall Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam, Xbox and PlayStation). Developed by Fishcow Studio and Published by Wales Interactive, Moonfall Ultimate is a 2D side-scrolling, hack and slash game with RPG elements. The game features a Campaign mode and an Endless mode for you people who never want the game to end.
Comic style artwork discloses the prologue, though well illustrated this modus operandi to storytelling is habitual within videogames. An issue with font crops up as the white lettering gets lost within the brighter colours making some words illegible.
The story goes that The Empire was deprived country until Lorand III was crowned king. He founded a magic called Lunarium that brought great advancement and an unlimited power. With this new power and technology he made the country bloom through trade and resources making the other surrounding countries unite together. The righteous King died leaving his son Thelonius to become the new ruler, with the King passed away, a group called the savages saw the opportunity to attack the empire. Thelonius orders his men to region of Margo; this is where you start off.
Past this point, not much can be said in the way of narrative, you get given missions in the Hub area and you do the mission and kick some bottoms. On missions, you can find scattered notes that do lend to a little world building but nothing that will invest you. Same can be said for the NPC’s in the world, there is no substance to their existence, even the recurring Lady, who only tells you how amazing you are… I know that already because I’m told that every day when I feed my cats.
The tools are there to really flush out a story and build a world through the NPCs and especially through the notes, but here it’s done with no significance making the narrative experience lack any quintessence.
At the start of the game you have thee different classes to choose from, Vanguard-Strength, Elementalist- Magic and Shadow-Agility; with them all having their own playstyles, play stats and attributes. Upon leveling up you can put points in either, strength, magic or agility as well as points in attributes. Attributes acts as a skill tree allowing you to unlock four spells, or moves, with varying effects on enemies. Further upon leveling the attributes they will combine effects and with the later attributes acting as bonuses to your character, for example ‘50% damage reduction’. Not only do attributes give you bonuses but so do weapons and armor, with the latter allowing you to wear assorted pieces of armor on numerous parts of the body, permitting you to maximize the bonus effects of each armor piece. This is the RPG element of the game, where the attributes system doesn’t do too much in the way of customization, the bonus stats on armor and weaponry certainly make up for it; it’s not got too much depth but enough to make you contemplate armor and weaponry.
Moonfall has you take on missions, either locate a person, wipe a camp, activate ‘X’ or kill ‘Y’. After completing a mission, you go to the Hub where you can buy armor and weaponry; this formula is a rinse and repeat affair, with the missions having no real or meaningful objective to make you feel like you are accomplishing something and with hub world being unoccupied with anything of interest, but that’s more an exposition problem than the extra. A saving grace is the open-ended level design that allows some exploration and hidden paths to be found, again nothing too deep but enough to make you go off the beaten track. Take heed while exploring as you may stumble on many traps that may damage you, slow you down temporally or confine you in certain spot for a limited time. Unfortunately traps only work on you, reducing them to nothing but a hindrance, when they could have been used tactically by luring or knocking opponents into them; though in truth they do little of anything significant to you, they merely mirror the same simulate if you were to in real life, accidentally stand in dog poo… Curse, wipe on a grass patch (maybe get a twig to remove the bits within the groove of your footwear), check and go about your business.
The controls are relatively simply; with R trigger being attack, L trigger being block, R bumper use mana, L bumper use health, D-pad select weapon on the fly, Y select attribute and A use attribute. One button was oddly bizarre, use the + button, usually the pause button, as pick up item.
You have multiple enemies to battle, archers, grunts, heavy hitters, speedy hitters and a few beasts thrown in for good measure. There are boss battles, very few bosses in the game but what bosses do feature are a sight for saw bones as they take most of the screen. It’s a shame that the combat system is to be desired as combat mainly consists of you spamming trigger, using attributes or if you are the elementalist, running around using spells. What doesn’t aid the matter is some of the weaker enemies move here and there with no logical thought, it’s not too bad but it’s noticeable. Furthermore, when you are attacking, once you have pressed the button you have to fully commit to that action with no way to cancel the action with other buttons prompts. This isn’t too much of a problem but there were a few times I wanted to move forward, but it wouldn’t register due to my character still swinging.
Once thing is for sure, the artwork is great, given the budget. With the developers choosing a hand drawn approach, it really bestows the game with its own stamp; think of a grounded Vanillaware aesthetic. To my surprise, when selecting armor, the character sprite changes to that armor; a small but nice touch. The animations do suffer with that paper puppeteer manoeuver, but that’s forgivable given they chose to hand draw everything.
One small thing I need to mention, the voice acting or be it very little, its present. And its awful, but in a good way; one simple line “Hello, Sir” delighted me profusely as it is uttered in a western accent… Once I got that one clip five times in a row; magical.
I found the game to crash on many occasions that was bothersome, especially when you are at the end of a level. Secondly, I came across a glitch that didn’t allow me to leave an area as there was unreachable monster, therefore the exit route on that screen was blocked. This was only in one area but never the less I had to restart the level.
Despite all these faults the game isn’t all that bad, in its own crude way it’s enjoyable. Be it mindless, it is a welcomed mindless as I just switched off and hacked away at monsters. Everything is stark, but you can feel the developers really tried to make something good. They forged something that’s ok; you won’t hate it, but you won’t say its good, it’s just ok and sometimes ok is alright. With a bigger budget this game could be good, great even; the foundations are there it just lacks the execution.
Moonfall Ultimate reminds me of Icarus flying to close to the sun. As Icarus’s waxy wings melted sending Icarus plunging to earth, Moonfall keeps its distance not to melt their wings, however they are brittle.
REVIEW CODE: A FREE Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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