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Video Game / Moonlighter

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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. An expansion pack, Between Dimensions, was released on July 23rd, 2019.

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.
  • After the End: Each Dungeon is strongly implied to be the remnant of a long-dead civilization. As it turns out, this is not the case.
  • All That Glitters: Inverted. Most of the items you recover are random knick-knacks, basic tools or old bits of paper, but they have tremendous novelty value and are hence called "Cultural Artifacts".
  • All There in the Manual: In-Universe version. While there are a few tricky elements to dungeon diving, they are all very simple, and most of them receive explanations in Pete's logs in later dungeons.
    • Sparkling indicates that the Bottomless Pit in a room is actually safe to fall into, and will lead to a hidden area. One of Pete's logs explains this, but not until players reach the Forest Dungeon - the only other way to figure this out is to take a Leap of Faith.
    • The open stone chests located in some hidden areas are always empty. This is because they are designed to teleport anything placed in them directly back to the player's storage chests back in town. Unless players experiment, they will not figure this out until they read one of Pete's logs in the Desert Dungeon.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: When you defeat an enemy or boss, any attacks they generated are rendered harmless the moment they're defeated - before their death animation starts - even if the attack is still visible and currently hitting you. As such, it is usually impossible to be defeated after a victory unless one is in a really awkward position.
  • 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.
  • Cast from Money: The Pendant and Catalyst will both get you home, but at a cost.
  • Cherry Tapping: The "Janitor" achievement/trophy involves killing every boss with the last hit coming from the Broom Spear.
  • Chest Monster: Mimics are chest-shaped enemies that attack when you approach or damage them.
  • Childhood Friends: Will is childhood friends with Tomo, and they often played heroes as kids.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Crazy Pete is unique among Dungeon delvers in that he didn't explore the dungeons for money or glory, but for knowledge of the Dungeons themselves. His deepening obsession earned him a poor reputation among the other townsfolk.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: An adventurer named Pete is always referred to as "Crazy Ol' Pete" for insisting 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.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Certain "curses" on items found in chests have beneficial affects, like sending other items directly to your shop or even outright curing them of their own curses.
  • 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.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Will can only attack in the four cardinal directions, making for some difficult tactical situations when facing enemies that do the same.
    • Some weapons are able to circumvent this to an extent; the Greatsword's primary and secondary attacks have a 180- and 360-degree area of effect, respectively, and the Bow's secondary attack homes in on distant enemies.
  • 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).
    • Made much more direct at the end of the game, when the Watchers reveal the "dungeons" were tools made by thieves and that they ought to arrest the entire planet for interdimensional looting; though their leader turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure and just lets them off by barring entry while they work up an interdimensional trade treaty as a replacement.
  • 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.
  • Escape Rope: Two variants: One will simply teleport you home, whereas the other will leave a portal behind that you can use to return to where you left off the next day. Both require gold to work.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: The Watcher Captain says Will is smaller than he imagined in "Between Dimensions."
  • The Famine: The people of the Forest Dungeon used to suffer from this. The good news is that thanks to Genetic Engineering, this is no longer the case. The bad news is that this is no longer the case.
  • 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.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Some of the people browsing your wares aren't interested in paying for them. Fortunately for you, they usually have speech bubbles over their heads declaring their purpose when you enter your shop.
  • Foreshadowing: Quite a bit, if you pay attention to Pete's notes and the notes by the healing springs. In his journals Pete points out that the dungeons seem built for adventurers to explore and collect loot in, but that the hostile Guards don't match up with that purpose. Meanwhile, each of the seemingly dead cultures in their notes are shown becoming more and more agitated at what seems to be disappearances of property once their back is turned, resulting in them creating Guards. The game sets this up as implying that's what led to them no longer being around, but the truth is that the cultures are still alive and well, that the reason the dungeons seemed made for looting is because they are, and the Guards exist because pirates were using the technology you've been using to explore to steal whole areas that they then pilfer but cannot detect artificial life.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Although the Watchers state that the dungeons will be permanently closed off, Will can still visit the original dungeons in Between Dimensions without consequence.
  • Genius Loci: It's speculated that the Dungeons created themselves to provide resources to adventurers. Turns out to be a Bait-and-Switch. They were created by pirates to aid in looting.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The backstory behind most of the cultures in the dungeons, and the Guards within - which all appear to have been created as means to protect the cultures from danger, only to go haywire and dominate everything leaving only ruins behind. This is especially true of the Forest Dungeon, where a civilization cultivated a means of enhancing plant growth to avoid a famine, only to create an unstoppable growth that took over the world. In fact, the ending twist reveals that the Forest culture is the only true example of this - as the others, which appear to be ruins, only seem that way because the pirates' technology only takes empty locations to steal from.
  • The Goomba: Each Dungeon has its own variant of a little ball on legs that slowly walks toward the player and deals Collision Damage.
  • Guide Dang It!: It is possible to rob the stone pedestal in one of the hidden areas without summoning the Wanderer. Simply place an alternative item in place of the book that is resting there, and the trap will not trigger. Unfortunately, nothing in the game explains this - the only way to figure it out is to experiment. Also serves as a Shout-Out to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Dimensional Pirates hid themselves behind the 5th Door to lay low from the Watchers, only to be trapped inside and turned on each other as they started starving.
  • 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.
  • Magitek: The guards of the Golem Dungeon are powered by this, and most of the artifacts you loot from it are materials, tools, and instructions for making more of them.
  • Merchant City: Thanks to its proximity to the Dungeons, Rynoka is renowned for being full of people selling their artifacts.
  • Mook Maker: The Recharger in the Tech Dungeon will spawn a new enemy for every enemy you kill in that room unless you kill it first.
  • Parental Substitute: Zenon, an old friend of Will's deceased grandfather, tries his best to provide Will with guidance after the loss of his family. He spends most of his time worrying about Will's constant forays into the Dungeons.
  • Power Up Letdown: The shop assistant that comes with the third shop upgrade may sound useful, but she fails in almost every area - while she can run the store so that you can explore the dungeons and still make sales, she does not restock the shelves and does not gain tip bonuses (which, in the late game, can almost double your profits). When working the store yourself, she attempts to stop thieves herself, but moves at about half the speed you can move, which can sometimes lead to a thief escaping.
  • Ray Gun: Used liberally by guards in the Tech Dungeon.
  • 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.
      • The shout-out continues in the Switch version, as Will can craft the Hero's Sword (which looks similar to the Master Sword and Hylian Shield) and the Hero's Bow, and a grey-haired Link randomly appears as one of the store customers.
    • The achievement for beating the game in under 10 hours is "Gotta Go Fast."
    • Two of the customers that come into the store are Lulu and Auron.
    • One of the final tiers of Gloves is called the Star Platinum Gloves.
  • Shipper on Deck: Zenon teases Will with a wink when you ask him about information about Tomo.
  • Shop Fodder: Most of the items you find don't have any purpose other than to be sold. Of course, the twist is that you're the vendor.
  • Space Pirates: The Dimensional Pirates created the "dungeons" to aid themselves in interdimensional looting.
  • 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 pedestal treasure from a secret area.
  • Stationary Boss: The Golem King and stage two of the Last Interdimensional Pirate both stay in the middle of the arena.
  • Teleport Spam: The Corrupted Golem Warrior and Corrupted Hexa bosses often teleport in the middle of their attacks.
  • This Cannot Be!: Masa says this after Will kills the Forest King, since he felt he was supposed to kill it and avenge his mother, who was a Hero.
  • This Is a Drill: The Golem Drill Spear is this, shaped like a drill.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Zenon worries that Will is going to end up dying in the Dungeons like his father did.
  • Time Skip: The "Between Dimensions" DLC takes place three months after the events of the Fifth Door.
  • Weight and Switch: Some secret rooms contain a rare History Text on a lone pedestal. If you grab it without leaving something in its place, you'll summon the Wanderer.