The village of Rynoka has seen better days. North of the five gates to labyrinths known as the "Dungeons", it was once a hotspot for people of all kinds, but none shone brighter than two groups; heroes, and merchants. However, a long series of incidents has caused the Dungeons to be closed for the safety of the townspeople, and Rynoka has died with them. People have packed up and left, and almost all the stores are gone, with the exception of what was once the most successful, the Moonlight.
Moonlight's shopkeeper, a young man named Will, dreams of becoming a hero like the ones who used to flock to Rynoka, and, with the guidance of his mentor Zenon, ventures into the Dungeons by night, and by day sells the treasure he finds in Moonlight. It's up to Will to resurrect his dying town, venture the dungeons, and find the key to unlock the fifth gate, which has never been entered.
Moonlighter is an RPG in which gameplay alternates between selling items to NPCs and a top-down dungeon crawler, both possessing an intermission time where you can upgrade the town, your store, and your equipment. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter, earning a whopping $134,276 out of its $40,000 goal. The game was released on May 29th, 2018, for PC, Xbox One, and PS4, with a Nintendo Switch port released in November 5th of the same year.
Tropes associated with Moonlighter include:
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The player themselves is free to invoke this for once, but it is actually advised against. Will can inflate his prices to extraordinary amounts, but it'll turn people off from visiting Moonlight in the future.
- An Economy Is You: It's up to Will to get Rynoka's economy in motion by gauging his prices correctly and investing in the town to get other merchants to come.
- An Entrepreneur Is You: From managing the shelved stock and setting prices and gauging customer reactions a fair amount of work can be put in to make your shop successful.
- Big Ball of Violence: Whenever you catch a thief trying to steal from your shop one of these ensues, ending with you regaining your item and the thief booking it out.
- Childhood Friends: Will is childhood friends with Momo, and they often played heroes as kids.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: "Crazy Ol' Pete" insisted that there was more to the dungeons than it seemed. Though eventually he would never come back from exploring the dungeons a final time, he encountered a monster planning to open the "5th Gate" before his death, therefore proving it existed after all.
- Dare to Be Badass: Will dreams of being an adventurer instead of being cooped up in the store all day. So, he decides to go spelunking in the dungeons.
- Double-Meaning Title: "Moonlighter" refers to Will being the owner of the Moonlight, but "moonlighter" is also slang for someone doing criminal activities at night, which Will is technically also doing (seeing as the Dungeons are off limits).
- Dungeon Crawling: A core part of the gameplay, as its where Will gets his supplies.
- Equipment-Based Progression: You don't gain experience or levels from killing enemies or selling items in your shop. The only way to get more powerful is by having Andrei The Blacksmith craft weapons and armor for you and (ideally) having Eris the Enchanter upgrade them for you with Empowering Crystals.
- Fission Mailed: The tutorial ends with you being overwhelmed by an impossible number of enemies equipped only with a broom. This sets up the mechanic of losing your loot upon death.
- Genius Loci: It's speculated that the Dungeons created themselves to provide resources to adventurers.
- Healing Checkpoint: There will always be a healing spring just before encountering the floor's boss. This is observed in-universe as a pattern every dungeon follows.
- It Can Think: The results of genetically modifying the harvest in the Forest Dungeon were genetically sentient (and aggressively territorial) plant life that would see the end of the community that lived there.
- Roguelike: Presented as Gameplay and Story Integration. The dungeons change their layout for everyone who enters them, and groups of people who enter at the same time all are sent to seemingly differently dungeons, and when people leave and reenter, the layout changes yet again.
- Shout-Out: When Zenon gives Will a sword, he paraphrases the "It's dangerous to go alone!" line said by the old man who gives Link his sword in The Legend of Zelda.
- Shipper on Deck: Zenon teases Will with a wink when you ask him about information about Tomo.
- Spiritual Successor: To Recettear, as dungeon crawling, business simulating RPGs.
- Stalked by the Bell: When you spend too long in a dungeon floor, you're stalked by a massive, cyclops slime monster that will follow you until you exit the floor. The time frame instantly vanishes the moment you steal a pedastal treasure from a secret area.