Created of clay and ichor, Moonscars drops you into a dark world that’s as gloomy as it is unforgiving.
You are Grey Irma who, lost and alone, must seek out her sculptor. But your journey is going to prove to be arduous, with forces seemingly working against you. Even past allies will stand in your path, and so to overcome them you’re going to have to be better. Needless to say, Moonscars is very much a Soulslike. Your every death has a lesson to be learned.
The muted colour palette of Moonscars is perhaps the most striking thing about it. Essentially presented in black and white, the only other colour that stands out here is crimson red. It’s the blood of your enemies, the flash of their eyes when they’re about to launch an attack, and the colour of your flowing robes. The contrast is stark, and it leads to a game that feels moody, grim and violent.
The music, too, also adds to the haunting atmosphere. Moonscars almost feels like a horror game at times, unsettling you to your core as you explore new environments, unsure as to what you encounter next. Though you needn’t be scared. Not really. As while the foes you are up against are numerous and often grotesque, Grey Irma is more than capable of dealing with them, as long as you have a good grasp of her abilities.
A sizeable sword is Grey Irma’s primary weapon, which can also be used to parry enemy attacks and deliver a powerful counterblow. Simply evading attacks is also a valid strategy, however, often allowing you to get behind an enemy to slash at their exposed behinds. Grey Irma’s sword isn’t the only weapon at her disposal, though. As a skilled magic user, numerous spells are available to unlock with a currency called Bone Powder, and a range of special weapons are also available.
The special weapon system employed here is a bit out of the ordinary, though. Black, inky mirrors are this game’s equivalents of resting points, capable of whisking you away to a safe area complete with some friendly NPCs. But to activate some of them you need to leave your body behind – with special weapon – and be born anew. Unless you can then beat your doppelganger on your return, you’ll have to go without a special weapon for a while. Emerge victorious, however, and you get to choose a new one from a selection of three.
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Moonscars has some other unique features that make it stand out too. Despite being inspired by the likes of Dark Souls, there’s no levelling up, for example. The currency you collect and can lose upon death is used for unlocking new spells and buying items only. Grey Irma is instead strengthened by finding upgrades. There’s also a Moon system, where enemies are strengthened under certain conditions and grant you more Bone Powder when defeated. You can forfeit objects called Glands to appease the moon, but if you die, chances are it’ll grow hungry again.
Everything comes together to create a game that’s initially a little overwhelming. Once you’ve got used to its unusual systems and intricacies, however, it becomes thoroughly engrossing. But it isn’t without its issues. The in-game map isn’t particularly useful, for example, and occasional difficulty spikes can be frustrating. And then there’s the story, which is largely impenetrable. There’s just enough intrigue to keep you invested though.
Whether you’re into challenging Soulslikes or sprawling Metroidvanias, there’s a lot to like about Moonscars. Its atmosphere is thick thanks to its moody visuals and soundtrack, while its moment-to-moment gameplay is utterly engrossing once it has its hooks in you. If you’re up to the task and can accept that the experience won’t always feel fair, this is a game well worth sinking some time into.