Review: Moonfall Ultimate (Switch)

Ultimately disappointing.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 09/20/2018 12:45 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Passable plot, serviceable single player
Poison Mushroom for...
Annoying controls, no way to grind, broken co-op

In an era where sprawling, single-player RPGs or manic online shooters are all the rage, there is something endearing about good old-fashioned couch co-op. Whether it’s a brawler like Final Fight or a role-playing hack-and-slash like Gauntlet, being able to team up with a friend and whittle the hours away fighting through evil hordes makes for great memories. Unless you’re talking about Moonfall Ultimate. In which case, it doesn’t make for a lot you’d like to remember.

Moonfall Ultimate, a multiplatform title, is an action RPG with single player and (on paper) co-op capabilities. Like most games of this type, plot isn’t the most important part of the game, although the opening montage makes a good show of it with hand-drawn artwork that references a big empire and its magical-technical advancements and such. It almost makes you think there are some grand designs at work. And then the game starts. To be fair, the graphics are passable, with adequate sprites and decent hand-drawn environments, although the color scheme is a bit on the bland side. The sound, likewise, works.

But, the controls. Take the special attacks. In most games, special attacks would be mapped to a hotkey, or some other intuitive format. In this game, using special attacks involves using one button to scroll through the attacks, and another to select them. In practice, this is a pain, because, where a hotkey could simply be memorized, in this game players have to keep glancing up at the attack bar at the top to see which special move is highlighted. What makes it worse is that there ought to be enough buttons to use a hotkey system… but it isn’t deployed. At least, not on Switch. The online trailers for the game, presumably taken from the PC version, do have hotkeys. This would seem to be very doable on Nintendo’s console, but right now it isn’t.

The rest of the combat is scarcely better. Hit detection is squishy, player movement is twitchy, and the field is littered with random weird thingies that cause damage for no obvious reason. Oh, and because of the side-scrolling perspective, trying to chop through brush directly below invites getting hit, because players can’t slash down.

Even the in-menu controls are frustrating, requiring weird combinations of the control stick and the various trigger buttons just to do simple things. And because the control stick calibration is so twitchy, it’s far too easy to scroll past the thing you’re trying to access. At one point, this reviewer tried to access the “how to play” button… and accidentally went past it and to the “exit to menu” button, which, without any prompting to confirm, took the game back (unsaved) to the main menu, at a loss of several minutes of gameplay.

One other note on the controls: they can’t be customized. Any of it. That includes the rumble feature, which cannot be turned off. That means that if you don’t like your Switch making random vibrating noises while you’re sitting on the couch with other people, the only way to stop them is to turn off the game.

This is a good point to discuss the game’s character classes, because the game’s liabilities do a lot to constrain player choice. The three class types are a tank-type, a mage-type, and a damage-dealing rogue-type. For single players, the rogue type is more or less a no-go, as the advantages of damage-dealing are mitigated by the damage taken, since evasion is not really on the table (this reviewer actually died during the tutorial playing as the rogue-type). The mage is somewhat better, but there are also enough ranged attackers that solo players will probably end up defaulting to the tank.

That would seem to allow for more variety for players who use co-op… if co-op actually worked. Instead, in the version this reviewer tested, co-op was flat broken. Interacting with environmental objects triggers strange glitches, including some that don’t resolve until players walk away. The most heinous example, though, is in the game’s hub world, where players can buy and sell equipment and get quests. In single player mode, this hub works mostly fine, but in co-op mode a weird glitch causes the merchant screen to stay open, leaving players no choice but to exit to the menu. It almost feels like no one bothered to test the two-player mode.

On top of everything, the game is strictly linear, with no obvious way to revisit past levels. That means there’s no way to grind to improve stats or gear… or adequately correct a mistake in stat allocation. Since the game gets more difficult with time, it makes it more and more likely that players will find themselves on the game over end of things with no way to put in extra training and surmount the obstacles.

It’s quite possible these issues might get resolved in a future patch, but for now, they’re part of the package, and it’s not clear how easily a patch could fix all of them. Solving the co-op problem and fixing some of the glitches are certainly feasible, but some of the more fundamental problems— the graphics, the gameplay, the hit detection— may be more elusive. In the end, Moonfall Ultimate is a game that is, regardless of the title, anything but ultimate, at least right now.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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