NYCC 14: There’s a Good Moon on the Rise
Undead Labs, best known for the zombie survival simulator State of Decay, is exploring a new, more light-hearted genre with its next excursion. Rather than returning to consoles, Undead has teamed with Kabam to go mobile for this new adventure, Moonrise. Set in a world not unlike our own, Moonrise tasks players with defending the land from darkness with a team of animal and plant companions by battling other such pairings across the world. If it sounds a little familiar, that's okay. Moonrise might be influenced by the likes of Pokemon and Persona, but it's what Undead does with that inspiration that makes this new title stand out.
When we started up the playable demo at New York Comic Con, we first created our Warden avatars. Players will be able to customize their character just a bit at first, but more clothing options can be uncovered and earned when playing. It's a simple system, but one that allows you to impart a bit of personality onto the game. Then we had the choice between three different Solari, Moonrise's companions, to join us on our quest. There was a fire type, an electric type and a plant type. We went with fire and plant, and before embarking into the world, started off with a quick tutorial fight against another Warden.
Here's where things get a little bit like that other game where young children fight each other with captured creatures. Since we're just starting out, we only have two Solari to throw into battle. However, once you start progressing in the game proper, you can host a handful of different Solari at any given time. We placed our fire and plant Solari out on the battlefield together with a simple swipe, and they were ready and raring to take down the other Warden. Later, you'll be able to place the creatures back onto the bench (so to speak), and summon others with only a small time penalty keeping you from just moving Solari in and out too rapidly.
This early in the game, each Solari only has two different powers available. While the fire creature had two attacks, the plant creature only had one offensive move, as the other was a slight heal spell. Combat works on the rock-scissors-paper model, with fire besting plants, water besting fire, and so on and so forth. Wardens also have limited offensive capabilities, and for the short time we played, we mostly let the Solari do all the damage dealing. Attacks are cast in real-time, but some take a moment to charge. It didn't really come into play early on, but knowing when to call for attacks that take longer to cast could be a part of strategy later in the game.
After a quick bit of back and forth with the other Warden, we were able to take his Solari down with relative ease. It was a tutorial fight after all. Characters will level and earn rewards after battle, thus allowing you to improve not only your Solari and their capabilities, but also improve your own Warden with new gear (different from the purely cosmetic clothing options) that offers bonuses and buffs. We got to try a handful of other battles out in the game world once we bested the tutorial, and there's a nice-looking atmosphere to Moonrise's world. Everything feels very "young-adult," and that's not a knock in any sense. The Wardens appear to be mostly teens, with older characters you interact with being mentors of a sort. There wasn't much story to delve into during our playtime, but there's definitely more to Moonrise than just the battle system.
During these other battles though, we encountered some inspiration from another cult RPG series. Instead of trying to capture the Solari out in the world, those you defeat will randomly ask to join up with your cause. It's up to you entirely if said creature becomes a part of your team, and early on, there's no reason to really deny any Solari. It's good to have a robust roster of these creatures to keep ahead of potential threats. Nobody wants to get stuck matching up against enemies that put your creatures on the wrong end of the RSP spectrum. Plus, some of the creatures look really cool, and you may just want them around for the sweet aesthetics they bring to the table.
Moonrise is a very promising prospect for Undead Labs in the mobile space. At first glance, it might not appear there's much new or different about Moonrise that we haven't seen before, but there's an ease of entry for newcomers to this style of game, as well as seemingly a lot of depth for those devoted to becoming the best, like no one ever was. There's still some time until Moonrise will be available for the masses, but Undead's penchant for quality, and our brief time with the game, have us eager to play the final version once it arrives.
Moonrise will be available on iOS and Android devices in early 2015.