a dark and brutal action game

Arduous, at times frustrating but also extremely satisfying: there are perhaps no better adjectives to define the intense love story we lived with Moonscars, the surprising new title with which the small independent studio made its debut on the market. Black Mermaidalso thanks to the support of the publisher Humble Games.

Moonscars is available from September 27 on all gaming platforms and on day one for Xbox Game Pass subscribers (if you missed them, here are all the indie titles coming to day one on Xbox Game Pass in the coming months), one more reason to try this new 2D action that expertly mixes soulslike and metroidvania and then adds a sprinkle to everything of roguelite.

Gray Irma, the clay heroine

Once upon a time a Sculptor endowed with immense powers who wanted to build a world in his likeness. To do this, he decides to create his own personal army, the Claybornethose born from clay, through which to take control of a dark land, full of dangers and bloodthirsty beasts.

Among these there is also Gray Irma, the heroine we are called to take on immediately after a clash with various enemies in which she is defeated, losing consciousness. We will wake up, without memory, thanks to a voice that whispers to find the Sculptor. She begins a long journey into the dark universe that forms the backdrop of Moonscars, under the supervision of a starving entity who watches over the world: a Moon that feeds on death and blooda very important narrative element that is then reflected directly on the gameplay.

The story of Moonscars is cryptic, mysterious and full of intriguing characters to interact with during the necessary eight hours to get to the end credits. Fascinates the player just enough to encourage him to want to know more and reveal all the secrets and lore of the story – not localized in Italian – created by Black Mermaid. The narrative strength of the production is not a factor to be underestimated as it is also essential to better “digest” the numerous departures along our path. Moonscars is in fact as difficult as it is addictive thanks to its gameplay which works from the very first moments of the game.

Death is never the end

As explained above, Moonscars combines the soulslike and metroidvania genres to give life to an opera who beat the careless and hasty player instead to reward the patient and eager to venture into every corner of the map. Exploration is the fulcrum around which the gameplay of the title revolves: thinking you can go straight to the goal is a choice that will not pay in any way because of the Moon that looms threateningly on the horizon.

At each of our deaths the entity will become hungrier and the enemies to face even stronger. The only way to restore the initial balance is to offer one of the Moon as a sacrifice rare acorns which can be found on the map. The dried fruit therefore becomes the most precious object that we can carry and its use must be done with the dropper. The more times we perish, the more our offers will reduce stocks, establishing that anxiety to die that goes far beyond that typical of losing the souls accumulated in any From Software masterpiece. But collecting acorns isn’t the only reason Moonscars invites us to explore. Scattered in the levels, we will also find several permanent upgrades which will increase the damage inflicted by our sword but also the health bar and that of theIchor, the essence that allows you to cast spells and reload the life of Gray Irma at any moment. Each macro-zone is made up of some areas that are immediately accessible and others that are temporarily blocked, in which we can set foot only with special powers that we will get after killing the boss on duty.

Before starting the battles with the latter – extraordinarily evocative and different from each other – we suggest you sift through all the open areas to try to get to the clashes as armored as possible. Bosses, like normal mobs, are tough, tough, with a very wide attack range and shots with trackingwho chase the protagonist and sometimes force her to change the direction of the dodge at the last moment.

In this regard, the absence of stamina helps in fights, however we advise you not to use the dash until you are exhausted: between one dodge and another there is a period of waiting time, just enough to be reached by an attack by the enemy, so it is necessary perform them carefully.

Therefore, finding that extra power up that increases even just one of Gray’s characteristics can make the difference between victory and defeat and, consequently, between losing a precious fruit or not. It is also important to underline that these “end of the world” fights are trial & error and therefore require some attempts before they can learn the attack patterns of each boss.

Once again, it is clear the importance of collecting everything that Moonscars has to offer us during our wanderings (and in the meantime try to die as few times as possible) and thus have all the time and acorns necessary to learn the moveset. of the opponent.

A simple and fast-paced combat system

The Moonscars combat system is basic: a quick attack and a charged one, the parry that adds to the dodge and a special shot that, in addition to inflicting damage, allows you to temporarily stun a creature. The feeling of the combat system seemed to us optimal and able to perceive, pad in hand, the impacts of the blows on the bodies of the enemies, to the advantage of the pleasure of the playful experience.

To ensure further depth to the Moonscars formula there are then the spells that we can unlock in the deep tree of Gray Irna’s skills and which allow us, for example, to summon explosive dolls or a swarm of parasites which deals passive damage to opponents.

To build our favorite build we will have to spend near the mirrors (the game’s save and teleport points) the so-called “bone dust“, the equivalent of the souls of Dark Souls, also useful for buying the talismans to equip in order to obtain different passive bonuses.

Finally, every time we kill a mob, we will fill a special bar that will allow us to activate very important and very useful upgrades – to name a couple, increase the probability of critical damage or the speed of recharging health – which add up to each other and that we will only lose in case of death. Overall, it will take some time to study and absorb Moonscars mechanics but when they start flowing through your veins, you will enter a gameplay loop. from which it will be very difficult to break away. On the level design front, the work done by Black Mermaid was commendable. The maps are not particularly complex but the risk of getting lost and not knowing where to go is always around the corner. All the microzones of each main area are interconnected with each other thanks to shortcuts and secret passages that reward the player especially in the event of death, allowing him to reach the point more easily. recover lost bone dust.

Then we find some short platform phases, not particularly articulated but which in any case require a fair amount of attention, especially because the jump button, when you look at the edge of a platform, it’s not always perfectly responsiveforcing us to repeat the same maneuver several times in case of failure.

On the aesthetic side, finally, the pixel art at the base of the visual profile is successful and further enhanced by the effects of gore linked to the amputation of the limbs of the unfortunate. The scenarios are dark, macabre, and capable of transmitting to users that sense of loneliness and fear typical of such a punitive work, although in the long term they risk becoming rather repetitive. We tried Moonscars on the Xbox Series X and the game was smooth, with no slowdown even in the most hectic phases and with several enemies on the screen.

#dark #brutal #action #game

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