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Not So MMO: Getting to Know Moonrise

Columns By Beau Hindman on March 26, 2015

Getting to Know Moonrise

Moonrise first caught my eye with its distinctive art style. Really, it reminded me of Free Realms, one of my favorite casual MMOs that featured some of my favorite graphics. I’m a bit of a fan of stylized graphics. I also noticed that Moonrise offered monster collecting and combat, not something I am normally a huge fan of, but it looked so nice I continued to get excited.

On top of that, the game was being created by Undead Labs, makers of the incredible State of Decay, and Kabam which is a very successful free-to-play MMO company that publishes games like Dragons of Atlantis. A strange pairing, sure, but both companies have made some quality products.

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Then I found out that the game would come out on both mobile and PC! I was sold. Later on I wanted to try the game out on mobile even though it has only been released in beta on the PC through Steam. The video below will show you how I played it on my tablet.

The general goal of Moonrise is to hunt after tainted Solari (that have been transformed into the Lunari,) adorable creatures that populate the world. Once you find them, you battle them using a wonderful real-time turn-based battle system that is on one hand very simple and on the other very challenging. I sort of rushed through many of my first fights until I realized I needed to slow down to figure out what I was doing.

As you battle, you will trigger effects from your adorable and deadly Solari in real time, and will also trigger abilities from your Warden, the avatar that represents you. These effects can buff, defend or attack the other creatures and Wardens, but timing can be critical. If you fire off one ability it might take a while for it to recharge, giving your enemy a chance to hit you with a debuff or damage attack. The goal is to knock out the other Warden or Lunari, gather experience to level with and pick up bits of gear and shinies. Eventually you will want to train and grow your collection of Solari.

I found the combat to be a lot of fun and easy to get lost in, but I also found the easy entry into combat a bit mesmerizing. This meant that I sort of stumbled my way through many fights without worrying about anything and, in the process, didn’t learn much. I think it would be wiser to offer less fights that meant more. I hope the game doesn’t become a grind that consists of dozens of these easier fights; that would simply suck all of the magic out of the game.

The game is obviously leaning towards younger players, but that’s never been an issue for me. I have found that games made for younger folk often run at a slower pace that I enjoy, and often feature more social systems, exploration and customization. Really, the only difference between an MMO made for kids and one made for us oldies is in the challenge; even then it’s easy to find “kid’s” games (like Wizard101, for example) that offer enough challenge for adults.

I am not sure Moonrise will provide a hardcore player enough to do unless we consider player-versus-player combat. I can see strategies forming over time, and the 150+ creatures list will only grow larger, offering even more ways to combine strats.

The game skirts the meaning of MMORPG, however. You’ll spend most of your time running in instanced adventure areas, fighting and capturing creatures. Later on you can hang out in town and see other players, but from what I have seen there isn’t much interaction between players other than dueling. It’s a curious thing: it appears that the developers are creating a solid foundation for the game with room to grow, but doing it in a way that leaves the core game intact and fun to play. That seems like a bright idea and it leaves room for growth (or, not so much growth) later on.

The cash-shop is mild and offers run-of-the-mill buffs and tweaks, but nothing too powerful. The appearance tab only offers a change of sex right now, but I can see the developers adding awesome looking customizations later on. As I mentioned, I love the graphics and would be first in line to customize my character.

All of this is good, but the game is obviously designed mostly with mobile in mind. Again, the developers seem to be thinking of the future because I can guarantee you that most younger gamers do not have a gaming PC sitting in their rooms; they have a tablet or phone.

On the larger PC screen the UI seems too large and a bit overwhelming. It works, of course, but I wanted to see it on an actual tablet and do not yet have access to the game on that platform.

I did this by using Splashtop Streamer. If you want to know how to do it for yourself, check out the embedded video.

Playing on the tablet definitely felt more natural. The UI buttons are huge and easy to push, and the combat is perfectly made for touch. It was nice to see that the mobile version (or at least the version that I was playing with) worked so well without taking anything away from the PC version.  While Moonrise is definitely fun on the PC, it's certainly most at home on the tablet.

Travelling in each of the instanced non-combat zones is fun. In order to move your character you swipe at the screen and, as the scene moves, so does your character. It’s a really smart way to move a character without actually pressing keys or on-screen controllers. I have to say, it’s one of the smartest design choices I have seen in a long time, and will make the difference when navigating social areas.

I was so hyped up to play Moonrise that I forget the possibility that it could be a dud. It’s not a dud, thankfully, but it’s not exactly my type of game unless it adds more social features. I am not a grinder and definitely not a Pokemon fan, but I think it’s safe to say that the developers have more ideas to bring into the game. They have left a few blanks; they just need to fill them.

If you want to find out some more about the game, go sign up for the newsletter at the official site.

Beau Hindman / Beau is a writer, artist, PR/CM, game designer and pro moderator, and he's been blogging since 2002. He lives it up in Austin, Texas with his community manager wife. He's also the author of Anna the Powerful, a sci-fi book about the world's only superhero. Buy it here: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/anna-the-powerful