A Scaled-Down RPG
Moonlight Sculptor is a free-to-play MMORPG by XL Games, and it feels like one. An RPG, that is. The game has a variety of modes and side quests to choose from, so many that you may feel overwhelmed at first. But you’ll soon realize that it will take a decent chunk of time to unlock the different features and modes that are offered, as they’re locked behind player levels. Leveling up doesn’t happen very quickly, so that begs the question: Is the game worth the time investment?
Based on the Korean light novel series, The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, this MMORPG brings the story’s virtual reality MMO, Royal Road, to your phone. No prior knowledge of the series is needed to play the game, but there are a few easter eggs for fans of the series.
Moonlight Sculptor is an impressive feat. It manages to feel like a large RPG scaled down to phone size while retaining the mechanics that fans of MMORPGs would expect to find. But having all the bells and whistles does not necessarily mean you have a good game.
Fun for a Familiar Some
The more you play Moonlight Sculptor, the more apparent its strengths and weaknesses become. The art style keeps the game interesting. The rendering of the character models, the animals and the environment all come together to create an adorable chibi world that has a wide net of appeal. The music plays at seemingly random times, but when it does it’s a beautiful, relaxing tune that works for all aspects of your adventure. The game also pays homage to the original series, with characters from the novels making cameos throughout the story. Between the stylized recreation of Royal Road and the game including characters from the series, fans of the light novel will have good reasons for wanting to stay invested in the world.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case for newcomers. Most of the other aspects of Moonlight Sculptor are mediocre. The story is skippable, the additional modes are boring and the combat is uninspired, leaving new players with little to keep them interested. The game feels specifically designed to require the least amount of attention or effort to play. Every mode can be dumbed down to two objectives: “go here and kill that” or “go here and touch that.” And it is an MMO in name only. You can play with others, but it is unlikely you will need or want to.
The game does have a few mundane activities that players can partake in such as crafting and modifying armor, cooking and fishing. Dismantling armor can give you specific crafting resources for new armor. Fish are used as ingredients for food, which gives you a stats boost. But these activities ultimately feel unappealing and inconsequential because they support the main issue with Moonlight Sculptor: its combat.
An Uninteresting Core
The combat of Moonlight Sculptor drags the rest of the game down. It is dull. You tap the enemy you want to target, and your character locks onto it and hits it until it dies. You can pepper in a couple skills, turning your one-hit combo into a two-hit combo, but that is it. And that’s how it is across every mode of the game.
The dungeons, the raid bosses, the PVP arenas all rely on the game’s combat system. And none of them use the combat in any interesting way. No breaking of weak walls, no burning of giant spiderwebs, no locking of certain abilities. The entire game is just “go here and kill this.” Everything in Moonlight Sculptor plays into the combat in some form. And with the combat being so lackluster, it makes doing everything else feel pointless.
The game does itself no favors, though. It heavily promotes automation. It guides you right to your mission objectives and has an idle mode that efficiently kills any enemy for you. These factors combined resulted in me losing all interest in Moonlight Sculptor once I had tried out the various modes.
So, to answer my own question, Moonlight Sculptor may be worth the time of fans of the series and people looking for a mindless RPG. But, with a dull story and repetitive combat, this MMORPG will not satisfy the itch of an RPG fan looking for their next adventure.
Is It Hardcore?
Moonlight Sculptor’s charming world is not enough to save it from repetitive combat and an inconsequential story. It may be fun for fans, but hardcore RPG players should pass on this one.