Moonscars PC Review

Despite the genre existing for 35 years already, it can be quite a bother to find a good Metroidvania to enjoy lately. While the games might be featuring different stories, all of them are quite the same when it comes to the genre-defining gameplay mechanics. When you first enter Moonscars, it might seem like a Metroidvania that might be lost among the dozen of other games with Ender Lilies, Hollow Knight and a few others immediately springing in memory.

However, once you actually start playing and spend even a few minutes in the game, you will immediately understand that you are in for an unforgettable adventure in an interesting title that offers a unique story as well as an unusual take on those age-old mechanics.

The game first draws you in with its plot, and the developers know how to stir up players’ interest in the world. The story is being told in pieces, as if you are moving backwards. The stories you find and the conversations you encounter have missing pieces and forgotten fragments that appear much later.

In this atypical, beautiful fashion the game explores the story of Grey Irma – the one that begins from the end, with death.

Are you ready to test the limits of your skills? This is our Moonscars PC review.

While Moonscars is a Metroidvania, it has some Souls-like elements. Prepare to die, constantly, losing your resources and abilities – only to get back up and continue pressing onward. With every step, with every death, you will learn more about the fate of our protagonist and the overall world of the game. As you unlock the little bits and pieces of the lore, the game will be drawing you deeper into its web.

Grey Irma is a Clayborne created by the Sculptor. A fusion of a golem-like clay body and a soul that is slowly but surely absorbed by Hunger. And that Hunger can only be satisfied by the deaths of other creatures and the extraction of their Ichor. Ichor is the blood of the Clayborne, you also spend it on spells and abilities as well as the treatment of Irma’s clay body.

The story follows the group of Clayborne created by the Sculptor. The tale shows a plague, betrayals and disaster, an unsuccessful generation of creations by the Sculptor and… Her. The one whose Hunger will devour everything and everyone. Your very first comrade accuses the Sculptor of lying, and you personally of something even worse. The premise pulls you into a fascinating, dark story filled with despair and mystery. But getting to the bottom of things will be an exciting and interesting challenge.

At the moment of writing this review, I have not beaten the game completely yet, and so I haven’t learned everything about its story either. Still, the game has proven to be much more than an empty Metroidvania with tacked-on Souls-like mechanics. Moonscars is a dynamic, beautiful, captivating and complex masterpiece. The game provides you with a challenge that is fun to accept, from simple enemies to bosses to your very own “Shadow” that will try to murder you sometimes.

There will be some backtracking – many locations have their own secrets and puzzles that cannot be solved right away. Only by acquiring the necessary items or abilities can you return back and look at the zone from a new point of view.

The protagonist – Grey Irma – is capable of much but… not right away. She has her faithful sword at her disposal that she uses to destroy her enemies. Additionally, she has access to certain magical abilities – from simple rock throw to resurrecting a few enemy soldiers to fight on her side.

The skill tree is quite large and it will take you a lot of time to get to the bottom of it and research everything. Additionally, Irma gets further empowered by a variety of accessories such as jewelry. For example, getting less damage from thorns or receiving some extra healing or additional defense. Or getting overall less damage by exchanging it for a slower attack speed overall.

There is also something that might particularly interest those prone to dying: the posthumous forgiveness that will allow you to keep some of the accumulated Bone Powder in the event of Grey Irma’s unfortunate demise. You can pick and equip up to three accessories to match your playstyle.

Finally, weapons. There are a lot of types, each of them giving you a reason to pick that particular type. A spear can pierce enemies right through, while the hammer will provide you with a way to literally pound enemies into the floor. Every weapon has its owl gameplay style, such as speed and damage. And animations are something else completely.

Enemies drop the aforementioned Bone Powder which is the currency you need for trading and learning new skills. You lose it on death but you can pick it up if you reach the place of your demise.

After Irma’s death, the moon turns bloodied and enemies become ravaged by Hunger. While in this state, the enemies drop more Powder but they also deal more damage. Would you take the risk to return to your body while taking on the hungering enemies or would you prefer to hold a ritual in front of the Mirror to pacify the Hunger? The decision is yours.

Personally, I found the Hunger phase an interesting challenge to my abilities, and taking on the bosses while they are affected by Hunger is beyond good and evil. One or two unlucky hits, and you are back before the Mirror.

Every boss in the game will tell you something, teach you a lesson and take their due. Each one is a challenge that will test whether or not you managed to learn the mechanics and techniques of the game. And, on top of it all, bosses are simply beautiful aesthetically (both in terms of visuals and music) characters. Sometimes they are a former friend and ally, and sometimes they are simply enemies standing in your way.

The Mirrors are the realm of the Sculptor that will shape the Clay and silently assist you. The Mirrors allow you to access a certain hub where you can buy new accessories and power-ups from Zoran the Sculptor as well as from the Saint. You can also spend your time talking with other interesting characters that you will run into during your playthrough.

The Mirror hub will allow you to save your progress, learn new abilities and overall serve as a portal for you to use. Although there will be a price to open every new Mirror in your way. It would be way too easy if such a task used the Bone Powder, so instead you will have to face off against your shadow, a copy that considers itself the original.

Or could it be that you are the actual shadow? Who knows… After unlocking a Mirror, the Shadow will be waiting for you on its other side, prepared and equipped with your weapon and all your abilities. It will not be an easy battle, both you and the Shadow can heal, use your abilities and attack the opponent in sharp and cunning ways.

The game features a pleasant unusual style. Blurry heroes, dark locations with muted borders and small specs of light. The visual style evokes very controversial feelings, from great admiration about how such marvelous beauty can be created from purposefully un-detailed pieces to loneliness, loss, despair and mystery.

Enemies, bosses, comrades, small details of the map and even the simplest decorations are drawn with skill, mastery and a great deal of love. Compared to the recent releases of the genre, you can say that Moonscars doesn’t add as much details to the surroundings as others. But the way it is executed is beautiful.

In part, the game reminded me of Blasphemous. However, where the other title features highly detailed surroundings, Moonscars went the other way and echoed its plot of mystery with the missing pieces in the art style.

The visual style evokes the feeling of decadence, breaking away from standards and norms. And this approach made me fall in love with the game. I am not even entirely sure how to describe this riot of dark colors and mid-tones, mixed with wild feelings of despair.

The visual part is echoed by the music of the game where every note and sound is kept purposefully simple – as simple as the blurry strokes of the world’s colors. But the mix of sounds and colors gives life to a new, very depressing feeling. Overall the music is very calm and quiet, but as soon as you enter the room that belongs to a boss or a mini-boss, it changes to something incredibly pleasant if a bit oppressive.

To sum it up, the developers of Moonscars have taken the old hackneyed Metroidvania techniques and Souls-like game mechanics and managed to mix them in a unique way, creating a wild fusion of visual style, emotions and gameplay.

The game is saturated with mystery and despair and fascinates with its beauty. I can’t wait to finish it and see the entirety of the story behind the Sculptor and Grey Irma. If you’d like to spend some time fighting through a satisfactory Metroidvania/Souls-like project, you should check out Moonscars.

Summary
The developers of Moonscars have taken the old Metroidvania techniques and Souls-like game mechanics and managed to mix them in a unique way, creating a wild fusion of visual style, emotional storytelling and gameplay.
Good
  • Aesthetics
  • A variety of weapons & abilities
  • A mix of Metroidvania/Souls-like features
  • Mysterious yet captivating story
Bad
  • Mechanics can feel vague
  • Can be punishing and unforgiving - not for the frail of heart!
8.5
Great

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.