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First-Look at Co-Op Action-RPG Moon Hunters

Posted on March 8, 2015

The variety of games at PAX East’s Indie Megabooth supporting local multiplayer or cooperative gameplay always impresses. Not only is Kitfox Games’ action-RPG Moon Hunters a cooperative title for up to four players, but it also offers a unique setting far from generic fantasy or generic sci-fi.

I teamed up with three PAX goers to experience Moon Hunters’ procedurally-generated environments through the lens of two playable character classes. Walking me through the game was Lead Artist and studio cofounder Xin Ran Liu.

What is Moon Hunters?

Moon Hunters is a top-down action-RPG that moves players through a world populated by a series of procedurally-generated zones. Players explore non-combat zones and interact with NPCs to make character-altering decisions and fight their way through deserts, forests, and other terrain, leveling up by stat-boosting – or camping – along the way.

What catches my eye upon starting up the game is the presentation. Moon Hunters is inspired by ancient Mesopotamian society – what’s thought to be the oldest in the world – and references Assyrian culture and beliefs. The enemy player’s face has been summoned by a sun god who wants the world to convert from worshiping the moon god to following him. The overall storytelling and resulting outcomes do not create a polarized good-vs-evil paradigm, but rather a series of outcomes open to the player’s interpretations. In doing so, players may be interested in seeing the reasoning behind the sun god’s actions, so they may end up siding with him at the end.

The art style lends itself to a hybrid of what Liu considered modernized pixel art – in terms of the character and environmental object design – and the watercolor backdrops and character design in dialogue screens. There are no hard outlines to the characters or garish hues in the color palettes; the game takes on an earthy feel, representative of its focus on an early society and morality-based progression.

Moon Hunters emphasizes player decisions that affect interactions with NPCs, player stats, and access to various parts of the procedurally-generated world. Different decisions trigger different traits (compassion, selfishness), so that when a player interacts with NPCs, they may have various outcomes; for example, continuing to exhibit compassion toward NPCs may open up more favorable dialogue options.

Decision-Driven Progression

The decision-driven progression works similarly even with four players. Each player votes on the decision he or she wants to make. If a decision is split two votes to two, the game will select the decision that’s supported by the player with the highest Charm rating. This can make for an enjoyable couch co-op experience, with friends competing for what happens to their characters.

There are 6 playable classes, two of which I played. Class abilities are diverse enough that a casual action-RPG gamer can enjoy and easily succeed with each of the classes. For example, the Druid’s core attack is slinging shuriken-like leaves in a fan-like pattern to potentially reach enemies long distance, but do more concentrated damage up-close. One of his specials is transforming into a green lion, triggering an overpowering berserker creature that can take on several enemies at once. His defensive ability is spawning patches of grass that slow the enemies’ movement, allowing players to rush in or regroup & position themselves favorably.

Liu noted that Moon Hunters playthroughs will vary between one and three hours, depending on the number of players and the amount of the procedural world that’s accessible to them. Exploring newly opened zones and their enemies, taking control of different character classes, and finding out the different story outcomes will provide replayability. Kitfox’s demo did not show off any bosses, but

Liu noted that his team is currently collaborating with the project’s Kickstarter Backers on them; Moon Hunters was successfully backed on Kickstarter in September 2014.

Kitfox expects to release Moon Hunters in Q4 on PC and possibly Mac. Afterwards, they will look into publishing the game on Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. The project is being supported by Square Enix Collective, a promotional, funding, and distribution platform for independent developers.