This is our Moonscars review, which is a brand new action-adventure game set in a dark fantasy world, where each revelation opens new doors of mystery, and each secret leads to many more.
When I booted up this game, I was greeted by an oil painting wherein a character looked at their reflection in what seemed to be a mirror. As I pressed “Space”, a piece of ominous music started playing and the game menu appeared. This moment was enough to convince me that I was about to enter a dark and twisted world infested with all manner of monstrosities. It also made me wonder if the character on the main screen really was staring at their own reflection, or was it something far more sinister? As I progressed through the game, I found out that the case was indeed the latter.
This game was giving Dark Souls and Bloodborne vibes right off the bat. And so with a sip from my energy drink, I hooked up an Xbox One controller to my PC and hoped that my sanity could survive this playthrough, along with my screen. It was going to be a long road ahead, filled with desperation and hope, frustration and satisfaction (and hopefully a lot of fun!) But enough rambling, let’s get right into our Review.
Story and Setting
Moonscars was developed by Black Mermaid and published by Humble Games. It is a 2D action-adventure game set in a dark post-apocalyptic world. When you press “Play”, the game greets you with a cutscene wherein a God is bringing up his sorrows while petting a cat, and talking about how his creation has turned against him. The cat also appears to be conversing with him.
This God, also known as the Sculptor, has created both Clayborns and Humans, but holds a special place in his heart for the former. But alas, his beloved creation has turned against him. He assigns Pristines, who are brave warriors to combat the rebellion, but unfortunately, most of them have died fighting.
You play as Gray Irma, one of the last surviving Pristines. At the start of the game, Gray Irma appears to be dead too. She had lost most of her memories of the past and is looking for the Sculptor to obtain answers. All the while, the Moon Mistress is making her move against the Sculptor. The plot of this title is mysterious, deep, and engrossing. Light is shed on these mysteries as you progress, but at the same time, new secrets are discovered.
The game spans a number of areas, where you meet new characters and enemies. You can also encounter the Cat in a few nooks and crannies in each area. The Cat will reveal certain plot points, but instead of clearing up the riddles, these hints leave you scratching your head and wondering what even is happening anymore.
A recurring area in this game is the Mould Workshop. It is safe haven for Grey Irma, where you can interact with some of the characters you meet in the world. You can access the Mould Workshop using Dark Mirrors which are scattered throughout the game.
These Dark Mirrors also serve as your respawn points and save your progress when interacted with, but like everything in this game, there is a catch. But we want to keep this Moonscars Review as spoiler-free as possible, so I’ll leave it up to you to discover it on your own.
This section of our Moonscars review will go over the major gameplay mechanics. The gameplay here is quite simple. You can inflict damage on enemies by either using simple attacks, heavy attacks, special attacks, or witchery.
Gray Irma can execute simple attacks with the press of a button. These are fast but the tradeoff is that they inflict meager amounts of damage. They do get the job done, but barely. You can also hold the simple attack button to perform a heavy attack. These knock enemies a few paces away from you and also deal damage. These come in handy when you want to throw your foes into spikes that line up a number of walls in the game, inflicting heavy damage on them and sometimes even killing them instantly.
The other form of physical attack are the special attacks in the game. You can perform them using special weapons which come in different variations with contrasting animations and buffs. At a time, only a single slot is available for a special weapon.
Last, but not least, players have access to Witchery in this game which is a sort of combat magic. There are a number of witcheries to choose from but only 2 can be equipped at a time. Each witchery has its own perks, for example, Irma can knock down enemies and walls using the Burst witchery.
Although there are various ways to hit your target, the game is seriously lacking in weapon variety. Your only weapon is a sword. Although there are special weapons, they only last for the duration of the special attacks. Moreover, there aren’t any attachments available to enhance your weapon or modify its functionality.
The level design here is quite good, but it’s not too complex. There are certain areas where the paths branch from the main one, and others might lead to a mini-boss or a collectible. There are also a number of locked doors scattered throughout the map, the key to which can be obtained later in the game. While working on this review, I tried my best to explore most of them.
One handy feature in this game is that after clearing an area, you can run across a lever that can unlock a shortcut. These shortcuts reduce the traveling time if you die and spawn a considerable distance away.
Ichor is the life essence of this game, through which you can heal your wounds and perform witchery. Ichor can be regenerated by defeating enemies or constantly hitting a weak wall (tested it). The white bar on the bottom-left corner of the screen above the health bar represents your reserves. Ichor can become corrupted by using witchery and turns blue, hindering you from fully healing your wounds and performing further witchery. Slaying more opponents can restore it.
As you progress and slay your enemies, you gain Spite which is akin to XP in other games. The bar at the top-left corner of your screen beside the Moon is your Spite meter. When the bar fills up, you can open up the Spite Menu and choose one of three Spite Bonuses that remain active till the next time you die.
There are some scattered collectibles in the game such as gemstones that can fortify certain character attributes, items that offer permanent buffs to your health and Ichor, and bone powder. Like the souls in the SoulsBorne series, the bone powder is the main currency of this game. If you die, you drop all your bone powder at the place of your demise. It remains there until you pick it up or die again. You can use the bone powder to trade for items at the Mould Workshop and unlock new witchery.
Another currency in this game is Ichor Glands. They can be used at a Dark Mirror to perform a Weapon Rite, Clay Write, or a Moon Rite. Weapon Write changes your special weapon, while Clay Rite can offer certain gameplay enhancements which remain active until you interact with the next Dark Mirror, such as increasing Bone Powder drop rates or enhancing Ichor Gain.
Now, the game is actually really difficult. But this difficulty can be further increased after you die which inflicts Moonhunger. Moonhunger turns the Moon icon on the top-left of your screen blood red and increases the toughness of the enemies. Subsequently, the enemies drop more bone powder on their defeat. You can return the Moon back to its original state after performing the Moon Rite at a Dark Mirror.
The game also boasts a healthy enemy variety, with each area bringing a new set of foes. The enemy designs are distinct which can allow you to easily distinguish one from the other, enabling you to devise a strategy before taking them on.
Because each enemy has different forms of attacks and movement speed, strategy is absolutely necessary. Some enemies even emit a red aura and are tougher than their normal counterparts.
Besides these run-of-the-mill enemies, there are mini-bosses and area bosses in the game as well. I did not find the mini-bosses to be that much of a challenge, but the area bosses are a whole different story. The first area boss took me more than 10 tries to get past. The fight was nerve-wrenching; it required quick thinking and light-speed reflexes.
As the fight progressed, the music got louder and louder, my adrenaline soared higher and higher. I still remember, after defeating the first area boss, I was sweating from top to bottom profusely. And this was only the first major fight of the game!
For most of my playthrough, I was cursing loudly at the screen, my hands shaking the entire time, but this is where this game shines the most. The moment-to-moment gameplay is simpler than Dark Souls but as nail-bitingly fast as Bloodborne.
Visuals and Performance
This section of our review will go over the key details of the art style of this title. The visuals are the most distinguishing part of this game. Sure there are many 2D games out there, but how many look like medieval oil paintings? The color palettes are a shade of gray, black, green, and red which blend wonderfully into each other and give this world a dystopian post-apocalyptic feel: a world that has long passed its glory and receded into darkness.
The art style never gets tiresome as it features a multitude of areas, such as the Castle Outskirts and the Mould Workshop, each of which has different scenery and a different story to tell. Each area brings with it a new piece of musical score, which never fails to deliver that depressing feel rampant throughout the game.
The combat animations of the main character, Irma, are extremely smooth, making each hit satisfying. The animations of simple fast attacks, coupled with the dodging animations make for a streamlined and fast gameplay experience. Each special attack also has its own animations; the hammer requires the character to exert some force, while for a long-range attack, the character has to pull her weapon quite a bit back to gain some momentum.
The system requirements for this game are not that high. I achieved flawless performance on my GTX 1060 6GB with an i7 6700 throughout the duration of the game.
One game-breaking bug I faced while working on my playthrough occurred after being slain by a boss. I was lying there on the ground with my health bar depleted, but the boss kept hurling attacks at my dead body. And the game just refused to progress past this point. I pressed multiple buttons to get my character to respawn back at the Black Mirror somehow, but to no avail. I had to Alt + F4 out of the game and restart it. Thankfully, I lost no progress. This bug only happened to me once in the game while fighting the Royal Infant.
It’s time to wrap up our Moonscars Review.
The world of this game is dark, twisted, and harsh. I died a lot, more than in any recent game I can remember. But it was also really fun, but it was clear that the game had taken inspiration from the Soulsborne games and even the developers themselves have even stated it.
The visuals are eye-candy, and the level and enemy designs are excellent, especially the Area Boss designs. The game does lack weapon variety, but the smooth and fast action makes up for it. Overall this is an excellent package and easily pays back for itself. You might get frustrated but you will never stop loving this game.
We hope you found our Moonscar Review Informative. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Moonscars is an excellent package and easily pays back for itself. You might get frustrated but you will never stop loving this game.
- Beautiful Art Style.
- Fast Gameplay.
- Smooth Animations.
- Good Level Design.
- Excellent Enemy And Boss Designs.
- Distinct Areas To Explore
- Lack Of Weapon Variety.
- The Story Is Confusing.