A dark and moody 2D side-scrolling action title, Moonscars wears is Souls-like inspiration on its sleeve. This is a title that takes is visuals just as seriously as its challenging gameplay, telling a mysterious tale about one’s purpose in a broken world.
The story is specifically presented in a way that refrains from giving away too many details or plot. A God known as the sculptor created life from clay and ichor. Playing as special warrior made by this failed God, you search for answers and your memories while following the advice of a talking cat. Oh yeah, and you’ll be fighting mirrored doppelgangers too. Yeah, it is dark and heavy stuff laced in mystery.
The only aspect darker than the story are the hand painted visuals. The entire game plays as if you are looking at an oil painting in motion and is easily the standout feature of this digital download. These visuals capture the moody essence of the overall experience, the brutal combat, and the mysterious plot. Even the ominous, ambient soundtrack fills each area with purposely designed dread and solitude.
As far as the gameplay goes, it mixes the challenging combat of the Souls series, with die-and-lose-it-all of any rogue game, with the map and overall environmental level structure of a Metroid game. Only having access to a sword, the standard slash attack is fast but weak. In time, the player will gain access to much more powerful secondary attacks but at the cost of a long striking animation that leaves you much too vulnerable.
The gimmick with combat comes from the ichor system. Killing enemies earns ichor which can be used to heal or launch powerful attack spells. This gives the player a constant risk/reward choice. Do you muscle through that next fight, trying to extinguish your foes quickly with special attacks? Or do you play more conservatively, converting your power to regenerate your health meter? With each encounter being a challenge, the player must often face split second decisions. Although, it does feel a little odd there isn’t a focus on ranged attacks or weapon choice.
Upon death, the player loses all bone powder, a currency used in which to purchase enhancements. It can be retrieved at the point of death unless you die again trying to reach it. Killing enough enemies can also reward the player with a passive buff, think experience points, but this also is lost with each death. Sure, players can grind to slowly enhance the player stats, but since death is usually just minutes away, success is mostly defined by player skill. Combat is well done but make no mistake, it is challenging. There are numerous enemy types, and the player will often face many of them at once. To cope, there is a dodge roll and parry mechanic although it is difficult to execute since it only applies to certain attacks. Mini bosses aren’t that bad, but bosses can be downright unfair and annoying as they can spawn little enemies to do the fighting for them. At the same time, it makes the player manage solo attacks versus crowd control, essentially forcing the player to get better.
While there are many me-too Souls-like titles, Moonscars manages to separate itself by offering cohesive gameplay from popular genres, mixing it with a wonderous art style that is unique and mood-setting. The challenge and presentation might not be for everyone, but for those looking to test their skill against a dark backdrop, this $19.99 digital download is a worthy asking price for any Souls fan.
Moonscars is available on pretty much all current consoles and is also releasing Day 1 on Xbox GamePass. The developers also have patches on the way to fix potential late game issues.
Not As Dark As: Cosmos Bit
For Another Moody Experience Play: Voyage
Don’t Forget About: HunterX
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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