When Moonbreaker first came out last month, it certainly made the right impression. Despite still being in its early stages of development, it already had enough depth in its lore and variety in its characters to give people plenty of reasons to see more of it in action. Fast forward to today, and they’re more than capable of doing so through the game’s Early Access period, which provides a surprising amount of content considering how much work the game still needs to do. Is.
After seeing the game through a hands-off reveal presentation for the first time, I was dying to get my hands on the title and see how diverse the gameplay could be with different team makeups. Having said that, I can safely say that Moonbreaker is everything that appears to me to be one of the most entertaining turn-based strategy games I’ve played in a long time.
Granted, this might be hard to believe based on the screenshots and footage of the game currently available. The developers at Unknown Worlds Entertainment have decidedly adopted a less bombastic animation style, with the game’s miniatures running and acting as if playing on a real-world tabletop equivalent. Are.
Although in action, this is part of the appeal of the game. The gameplay isn’t stopped by the bells and whistles that are meant to make the attacks and movements more believable. Instead, it’s all about making the moves that will lead the player to a perfectly executed strategy and closer to victory, without any fluff getting in the way.
It didn’t take me long to completely forget that miniatures didn’t have secrets to attack animations or movements that spoke to their designs. I was busy delving deeply into every skirmish, calculating my next move and trying to figure out what approach my opponents might take based on the units available to them.
Speaking of which, there are a surprising number of meta and strategies available through Moonbreaker’s Early Access content alone. Each unit’s abilities, and special aids that can be triggered after enough turns have passed, give the game an extraordinary amount of depth. This is further reinforced by the fact that there is no one way to use an entity properly, there are many ways to use them properly in different strategies.
One match can be focused solely on my captain unit and his high attacking ability. Every support unit I bring will be put to work to increase his offensive abilities, and I’ll steam up my opponent once enough time has passed. In another match, I would hang him back and strengthen the defense of the other units, allowing them to reduce my opponents’ captain to nothing, while remaining in full defense of my own.
On top of that, there are also a lot of environmental factors to consider. Any given map will have obstacles units with their limited movement allowance will need to use as cover or maneuver. There are also things like leaky air vents that obscure accuracy, and which can throw off enemy attacks unless a unit is behind the mist and covers the airflow of the vents.
All of this made the game a lot of fun, even if it wasn’t as full of bursts with little touches as other titles. If anything, it was made even better by focusing less on appearances and keeping the game entertaining at its core.
Even so, there’s still a lot that plays into making Moonbreaker visually stimulating. While they’re not moving around and acting like they’re living, breath-taking parts of the world, the miniatures have plenty of details for players to admire and notice. Every piece of armor, protruding mandible or finished weapon has enough detail to make a Warhammer enthusiast swoon with admiration, and the matching aesthetic of characters tied to the same faction is the cherry on top.
The maps and the effort put into them are equally impressive. While the numbers available are limited at the moment, each one feels like both a part of the wider world the game is being created for and a separate space with its own variables to consider. Fighting your way through a foggy city center won’t be the same experience as they would make it to a snow-swept shipping yard.
And then, there’s audio. While Moonbreaker’s visuals lean more towards the minimalist, the sound design definitely goes in the opposite direction. The units deliver plenty of dialogue bits, and the attacks are matched by sounds that spark one’s imagination and fill in the blanks of what’s not happening on the screen.
In the past, there’s been the miniaturized adaptation portion of the title, which honestly feels like the most underrated part of Moonbreaker. On the one hand, it’s certainly an important part of the experience, allowing players to power up their units and ensure that their favorite miniature continues to be useful, no matter how many matches they engage in.
On the other hand, though, is the miniature painting part of this mechanic. While it doesn’t detract from the actual gameplay other than the aesthetic of your units, it is one of my favorite parts of the game. I spent hours figuring out how to make my favorite units just right, applying whatever color scheme I found most enjoyable at the moment.
It may not have led to the kind of wacky monstrosities that come with more in-depth character creation tools, but it still helped make my units feel like they were my own.
Even though it’s still far from perfect, Moonbreaker succeeds in areas where other games tend to forget. It remembers that making the experience fun for the players should be a priority, and everything else can be either at its service or minimized so as not to use up resources unnecessarily. I’ll be keeping an eye on this title as it takes shape in its final form, and fans of turn-based strategy games should definitely do the same.