Review – Moonscars

Overview

Developer Black Mermaid
Publisher Humble Games
Genre Indie
Platforms PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Nintendo Switch
Release Date September 27, 2022

MoonScars is a Soulslike Metroidvania game created by Black Mermaid and published by Humble Games. Notably, the game has a stunning visual identity that merges the pixel graphics of the original Castlevania games with a modern artistic flair with a limited color palette. The game also possesses a fair but challenging combat system reminiscent of the Dark Souls series and other Metroidvania’s such as Hollow Knight.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Moonscars’s whole identity is steeped in mysticism, hexes, and some characters with god complexes. The game follows a soldier searching for a man who desires to become a god in his own words. He used alchemy and dark magic to try to create his own life that would rival humanity though as the game illustrates he was only capable of creating soulless monstrosities.  Additionally, there is a religious organization that sees the moon as a god and they worship it by offering the bone dust of fallen humans. The church of the moon mimics Catholic symbolism such as a nunnery dedicated to the worship of the moon. The player can also make offerings to the god to decrease the ferocity of monsters. The player also can cast hexes on enemies and use the life force of their enemies to strengthen themselves.

Violence: Despite its T rating Moonscars is incredibly violent with copious amounts of blood and gore in the environment along with being produced by slaying enemies. Some finishers can be performed on enemies akin to those present in the Dark Souls series, which can be incredibly brutal and leave splatters of blood on the environment. Additionally, one boss appears to be made out of rotting muscle and flesh which is quite gory in appearance.

Language: The game has instances of the words d**n and h*ll.

Sexual Content: One female boss is completely naked however they lack any discernable features looking more like a mannequin or statue. Some female characters wear semi-revealing clothing.

Moonscars has an ESRB rating of T for Teens and a PEGI rating of 12.

Review

Moonscars starts with a cryptic monologue of a self-proclaimed god who laments the imperfection of his creations, and the havoc they wrought on the world. Next, the player is greeted by the main protagonist who wakes up in a puddle of her own blood. Irma, the knight, holds her principles closely and tries to live with chivalry. Her character is not explored due to the familiar trope of amnesia.  Most of the game follows the journey she takes to discover herself and her purpose along with what left her in the state she was in at the beginning.

Narratively, the game lacks soul in its writing much like the beasts you fight, it has substance but just falls flat. The writing feels like every other Metroidvania game and it felt like an afterthought to the gameplay which was rather solid. The world itself suffers due to the lack of narrative since it feels very empty when exploring it.

Visually, Moonscars is stunning with a monochromatic color palette with splashes of red to add some visual diversity. The way light and shadows are utilized was masterful and added to the overall atmosphere of the game. Additionally, the pixel graphics give the game a nostalgic feel reminiscent of the original Metroid and Castlevania games. The presentation of the characters was well done as well as they all stand out with unique and creative designs.

The audio effects and music of the game both are stunning and well-composed. The orchestral scores of the game help add to the gothic environment. The variety of styles presented in the tracks was well measured, with more fast-paced tracks for boss fights and slower pensive pieces for the main exploration of the areas. The audio effects of the game helped develop the haunting atmosphere of the game with eerie sounds emitted from monsters to the sound effects of combat.

Moonscars’s gameplay is one of the most defining features it possesses with a breadth of combat features from parrying to perfect dodging, timing your movements is incredibly satisfying. The game does suffer from the obtuse base keyboard and mouse controls however it can be corrected through a custom key binding scheme. The game would be best enjoyed with a controller. The platforming in the game is challenging but overall fair. Moonscars is at its best when combat is involved as it illustrates the level of time and effort Black Mermaid put into making a compelling system, unfortunately, the combat is not perfect in every implementation. Combating with multiple enemies can become tedious as many times it’s impossible to leave the skirmish unscathed. The other flaw of combat is ariel combat, mostly due to the lack of quality air combat moves which can become especially stifling when the player gets into the later game where there are multiple flying enemies.

Moonscars is a solid yet imperfect game. The developers worked hard on making the game however its shortcomings just cause much of it to fall flat, especially considering the wide variety of similar games available. The comparison between it and others just left it feeling like an inferior version of other games such as Hollow Knight or Bloodstained Ritual of the Night. The main draw of the game is the gorgeous art however the lack of soul in the game makes it not feel worth playing unless you love Soulslike games or Metroidvanias.

The Bottom Line

 

Moonscars is not a bad game, but it struggles from its mediocracy and overall uninspired nature to find its footing in a genre with many more interesting and noteworthy games to choose from.

 

6

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Logan Smiley

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