Kitfox Games has created something quite unique with Moon Hunters. At first it appears to be quite a standard action role-playing game with the option to play with up to four players. However, playing the game for just a couple minutes shows you that there are plenty of unique and fresh ideas on display.
The most obvious idea on display is that the game's world, Issaria, is randomly generated for every playthrough. Every world is unique, and while the general feel of the areas in each world are the same – with forest, mountain, and desert environments always appearing – no two areas being identical helps keep the game feeling fresh, although exploration can start to become a little stale after multiple runs.
In addition to Issaria being randomly generated, you'll also find yourself encountering vastly different situations thanks to the personality and trait system. The way that you interact with non-playable characters, the decisions that you make, and how you fight through areas all contribute to how your character is perceived and may open up new story options, while simultaneously locking you out of others. This mechanic gives a real sense of uniqueness to every run, and it's always interesting to read the short bio on your character once you reach the end of the game. Similarly, you get to choose the location that you originate from, which gives further life to your character.
All of these things help give the release a needed boost in replayability, as Moon Hunters is incredibly short. The story centres on the Moon Goddess going missing and it's up to you – and as many as three friends – to find out what's happened and bring her back over the next few days. This time limit combined with the relatively small areas that you fight through results in most playthroughs lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, with some being even shorter than that if you die a couple of times.
Another draw to keep you coming back to Moon Hunters is that it has four different endings to experience. The "true" ending will take multiple runs and trial and error before you figure out what you need to do to trigger it, while some unique experimenting with your character's stats and traits can bring about a very unexpected ending.
There's also a solid cast of character types for you to choose from, with a spellblade, ritualist, druid, and witch available initially, each offering a vastly different way to play the game. Throughout your travels you will eventually unlock two more playable characters, which again adds another dimension to how you can tackle the title.
When it comes to character progression, most areas you visit in Issaria will have a merchant present, allowing you to purchase a handful of combat upgrades, with opals collected from completing side quests and defeating enemies. What's more, you'll raise your character's stats when you set up camp for the night after completing each level or dying. Here you can choose to cook, hunt, stargaze, or stakeout your campsite, and focusing on specific tasks allows you to bolster the most important stats of whichever character type you've chosen.
Combat is relatively simple, with each hero having a light attack and a strong attack as well as a special ability, such as being able to teleport or quickly dash across the screen. Despite this simplicity, however, the combat is generally enjoyable and can offer a decent challenge at times, as the game is constantly throwing in new enemy types to keep you on your toes.
Cooperative play can make the whole experience even better, though: a group dynamic makes for interesting situations where the party will need to decide where you'll head to next and how you'll respond to NPCs. However, the more players that you include, the easier the game gets. Things aren't too hard in solo play to begin with, so the difficulty continues to shrink as you add more players to the mix. It's also a little unfortunate that it only offers local co-op, a confusing decision since the PC version features the ability to play online with friends.
And Moon Hunters stumbles in other places, too. The randomised nature of the release can make finding specific NPCs who are needed to reach the true ending a matter of luck, and despite not being a graphically intense game, the title suffers from intermittent framerate stuttering during combat, which becomes particularly frustrating during boss battles or trickier scenarios.
Moon Hunters is certainly an ambitious idea from Kitfox Games, and for the most part it hits the right notes. There's an interesting world and story on show that complements the unique, randomly generated areas, enjoyable combat, and personality trait mechanics, so it's unfortunate that its constant attempts to promote replayability cause things to fall a little flat. And, with only four different endings to discover, it's quite possible that you'll only be spending four or five hours with the release, which is disappointing, as the title's universe feels ripe for immersing yourself in.