Moon Hunters (PC) Review

Moon Hunters (PC) Review

Moon Hunters is described by its developers Kitfox Games as “a co-op personality-test RPG about exploring an ancient, occult world that’s different every time.” In actuality, it is closer to a top-down Zelda or Diablo-style game that can be played with up to four players locally or online.

The player’s time is split between exploring randomly generated levels and having conversations with NPCs. Combat is similar to most top-down hack-and-slash games, with each of the six playable characters having their own unique basic, special and dodge attacks. Conversations with NPCs grant labels as well as upgraded stats, and can also change the outcome of the game, with multiple endings on offer.

Characters are customizable with different colour schemes, as well as unlockable alternate costumes. You can rename your characters as well. The cast on offer is refreshingly diverse, and nearly every character has a different colour scheme to make them appear as a different race—an option I wish more games offered.

Moon Hunters (PC) Review 4Playing with multiple people is simple enough while playing locally, just connect four controllers and you’re good to go. Playing online is a different story, as you’ll have to forward ports, configure IPs, and pray to the internet gods that you’ve done everything correctly. While it works well enough, Steam invites and a server browser would be much better. It should be noted that playing online is still considered in beta, even though the game is about to release.

A full playthrough of Moon Hunters can be completed in around an hour, but this is the kind of game you’ll want to play through multiple times as it has unlocks that make it feel similar to a rogue-lite. For example, your first playthrough you might unlock the ability to be part of a different town for subsequent playthroughs, the capacity to talk to the dead, or even a new character.

At first, I thought this was a clever way to keep players interested in the game, but it eventually became clear this is just to stretch out the small amount of content on offer here. While I’ve only been able to achieve a couple of the game’s endings, I get the feeling I’ll have to replay it over and over in hopes of coming across the correct levels and NPCs I need to get the other endings. Not a great way to add play time to your game and if anything, you’re just disrespecting your audience’s time. The same can be said about the game’s levels.

Calling the levels “randomly generated” stretches the definition of the phrase, as levels are made up of premade bits and pieces pasted together. They feel as randomly generated as shuffling a small deck of cards, in that you’re going to see the same few cards over and over, and most of them look similar. What makes it even worse is that different environments also have to be unlocked, so on the first playthrough, there are only a couple of environments to encounter. By my third or fourth playthrough, I was already recognizing areas that I’d came across before; by my seventh I was annoyed at how similar levels ended up being.

Moon Hunters (PC) Review 5The similarity is, unfortunately, a running theme for Moon Hunters. The pitch for the game was building your own mythology, but it never really feels that way. Instead, you’re given different dialogue options to choose from based on whichever NPCs are experienced. Which, while they may influence which ending you receive, mostly feel empty.

It never feels like your choices have any impact. Instead, each choice just has an outcome that is typically minor, such an NPC being happy or sad, which then results in buffing your characters stats based on the outcome. Dialogue decisions almost exclusively buff your characters stats; only one time in my playthrough were stats negatively impacted which was remedied one level later by an NPC removing a curse that had been placed on me, and, of course, buffing my stats some more.

What little narrative is found in each hour-long playthrough isn’t fleshed out enough to be that engaging. On the night of the Moon Feast the moon fails to rise in the sky, so as a worshipper of the moon you set out to find out why and try to set things right. Sure, there are dueling religions that worship the sun and the moon, but they aren’t proper time or development to really appreciate what could have been a really interesting story.

Each character plays differently enough to be interesting, and you’ll certainly find a character that fits your preferred playstyle. There are brawlers, mages, healers, and ranged characters to choose from, most of which have good synergy with each other.

Moon Hunters (PC) Review 13

While combat is somewhat fun, the AI is terrible. Enemies will typically target the first player they come into contact with and chase them with no real pattern, just a straight line behind them. Most combat ends up boiling down to dodging away from characters, attacking from afar, rinse, repeat. When enemies do manage to catch up with you, their attack animations take long enough that most all attacks are easy to dodge, a problem that even affects bosses. Bosses’ AI is especially terrible, as they can easily be put down by one player with no challenge whatsoever.

Visually, Moon Hunters is gorgeous with a nice mixing of pixel art, dynamic lighting, and watercolour art. The pixel art on offer here is a real testament to what can be achieved with the style, and when combined with the lighting offer something that feels fresh instead of trying to feel nostalgic like many titles do.

The soundtrack is probably my favorite part of the whole experience, as it feels like a mix of chill spiritual kind of music and Enya. So basically it feels like Enya, and I’m okay with that. I found myself humming along to the sounds in my head, even if some of them are only a few repeating bars. One particular track that stands out has lyrics that are warped, and seemingly playing backward.

In my time with the game, I experienced at least five crashes, with the final one causing my game to no longer start, even upon reinstalling it unless I run it in Windows 8 compatibility mode. Upon launching the game you’re met with a loading screen that takes nearly 30 seconds just to load the title screen, and that is loading the game from a SSD with an Nvidia GTX 980. The developers at Kitfox Games have pushed out numerous updates leading up to launch this week, which shouldn’t be a thing that is needed on a self-published game. If you don’t have a publisher breathing down your neck, take your time and release the game when it is properly finished and ready to go; you only get one release and one set of reviews, so don’t blow it. Though a couple more weeks in the oven wouldn’t have fixed the lack of content.

Moon Hunters (PC) Review 7In the interest of fairness, the review build we received was still marked as a beta build, but it’s our job to report on our experiences, not to make excuses. I do hope that many of these issues see a resolution in the live build.

So is Moon Hunters worth the $15 asking price? Honestly, it is hard to recommend; there just isn’t enough substantial content, and what is here is stretched extremely thin. If you have friends that like Zelda or Diablo and want to play a casual cooperative game together for around an hour, it might be worth picking up, but playing solo, I’d say skip it.

Pixels and Pixelles: An Interview with Tanya Short

Pixels and Pixelles: An Interview with Tanya Short

According to the International Game Developers Association, 22% of game developers are female. While it’s a small number, it has gone up from 11.5% in 2009. The number of women in the videogame industry is rising, and Tanya Short of Kitfox Games is helping women make their own games with Pixelles.

Pixelles is a non-profit organization that provides women with tools to make their own games. Located in Montreal, they offer social gathers, networking events, mentorships, and other opportunities. Co-founder Short took the time to talk about the organization and what it has to offer women who want to make games.

Pixelles

CGM: What’s the story behind the creation of Pixelles?

Tanya Short: Well, Feminists in Games (FiG) of Toronto ran two six-week prototype incubator series in 2011, and called it the Difference Engine Initiative. Their philosophy was to not just to help women make their first game, but to give them the tools to continue making games, to help others make games, and thereby have a viral cultural effect. In 2012 they reached out to Montreal, hoping to fund a similar project in Montreal, and they found Rebecca and I. We decided to call it Pixelles, and after the ridiculously positive reception the first incubator had with over 60 applicants, we just kept growing the program. We’ve now held 3 six-week incubator series, we have free monthly workshops, and a mentorship program to help aspiring professional developers connect with role models in the industry… plus a bunch of socials and meet-ups. So far, we can see Pixelles has been responsible for at least 100 new game prototypes

CGM: Tell me a bit about the mentorship program.

TS: Well, we had so many people in the games industry asking how they could help us, and eventually I realized that having a personal connection to an industry can be a powerful thing. So the core of the program is when I try to pair up someone who’s thinking of pursuing a job in the industry with someone in their dream position – someone who can inspire them, give a second opinion on their portfolio, or even just answer random questions about the day-to-day of working in a game studio. One of our most successful events so far was a “speed mentoring” night, in which we took 20 professionals and 20 aspirants and threw them into round-robin interviews, basically. Some personal connections were made, some knowledge was shared, and we’ll be holding another one towards the end of the summer!

Pixelles

CGM: Your mentors are pretty diverse. There are men and women who come from big name companies like Ubisoft. How does that affect the program?

TS: All of our mentors are professional and develop games full-time. Hobbyists are an important part of the Montreal (and global) game-making community, and they’re welcome to (and often do) teach workshops on individual skills or engines, such as 3d modeling, Unity, or game writing. Generally, we find that making our programs as accessible as possible helps ensure the attendance is more diverse – by holding our activities on evenings and weekends, keeping admission free, and mostly downtown near public transportation, almost anyone can attend.

CGM: What’s the best way to bring more women into the industry and making more games?

TS: Many people think that the “problem” occurs in youth, that girls are “driven out” of STEM careers, and that any changes will be incremental over 20 years. Although childhood and adolescent pressures are undoubtedly a factor, I’ve met a crazy number of grown women who love games, who have always loved games, and if given the right tools, can start making games this instant… or even start applying for jobs in the industry. No need to wait! Many of our participants don’t think of themselves as people who could make games, at first! They’re from film, or science, or tech, and just never considered making games, even though they have the passion and the dedication. Making the game industry more welcoming to different kinds of work schedules will also help it retain diverse talent. So, while I think changing our culture’s way of gendering children’s play and intellectual pursuits is a really great goal, there are also concrete improvements we can make today. We don’t need to wait.

Pixelles

CGM: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to make their own game for the first time?

TS: DO IT! Do it do it do it! Make the tiniest game – even just a 10-second game – and it will be hard at first, but honestly, it’s not going to be anywhere near as hard as most people think. If you are the kind of person, like me, that needs deadlines to get things done, then maybe keep an eye out for the Pixelles Follow Along program, which runs from January to March every year, and gives you weekly tasks towards making a game – and all genders are welcome! There are also lots of great resources at Games are for Everyone and Sortingh.at you can use to get started.

From a psychological perspective though, my primary advice is not to tell anyone what you’re going to do – only tell them what you’ve done so far. Maybe keep a journal or blog about your experience, just talking about what you’ve managed each day/week/month. Many of us have been conditioned against bragging or boasting, but as a habit, it’s been proven to be much more motivating than public goal-setting, for various reasons.

CGM: What can we expect from Pixelles in the future?

TS: Hopefully more of the same! We held a successful IndieGoGo in the spring, so now we have the funds for another couple of years of incubators, plus a few extra neat things we’ve always wanted to hold, like a camp for young girls called Pixelles Petites, and a tea-party-slash-arcade-showcase!

For updates and events, follow Pixelles on Twitter or Facebook.