If you are playing only one metroidvania this year, let it be Moonscars. This two-dimensional hack-n-slash from developer Black Mermaid promises everything you want from a soul—style side-scroller – bloody thrills, gloomy goths and mountains of trials.
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Oh, and a confusing plot. Moonscars follows Grey Irma, a knight who must fight his way through clay constructions — unstable parodies of human life — in search of a God-like Sculptor. This sculptor is Irma’s boss, but he also created the same clay monsters that Irma hunts. All of this is admittedly a bit confusing—and intentionally remains vague—but the premise is compelling enough to hold your interest as you step into Irma’s boots.
Moon scars won’t let you realize its ambiguity for a long time. A few seconds after you take control of Irma, you shoot a sword into a side-scrolling bloody feast. Irma’s first opponents are clumsy soldiers ready for a bloody death, but it’s stupid to underestimate anything in Moonscars — thanks to Irma’s limited health, almost any enemy in the game can be deadly. However, Irma has several powerful tools of her own—striking your own punches restores her ichor strip, which can be used either to cast spells or to heal. This is not the only case when you have to balance attack and defense — piles of spikes adorn most of the architecture of the world, and if you can avoid being pierced in the heat of battle, you can knock enemies off them to get a bloody sacrifice. the blow kills.
Although Moonscars fights are brutal, you will fight every fight (mostly) on a fair basis. Each enemy is elegantly wired — they can strike like trains, but you will see every incoming attack and you will have time to react. This fuels a fantastic parry system that clearly shows with a red flicker when an opponent is preparing for an attack that can be parried. Despite the fact that the Moon Scars make it clear when to parry a blow, you still have to land — success is rewarded with a powerful counterattack, but the wrong timing means getting a blow that you can rarely afford. All of Moonscars’ fine—tuned combat mechanics give every fight a sense of toughness and texture -no matter how often you use them, last-second evasion, bloody evisceration, or a daring riposte will never cease to cause excitement.
Moonscars touches the spirit of the soul not only in difficult battles — in fact, Black Mermaid understands the spirit of the Souls series from FromSoftware better than most others. Anyone who played Elden Ring earlier this year knows what to expect — death in Moonscars will take you back to the last save point you rested at (with significantly emptier pockets) and you’ll need to go back to the grave. to get your currency back — bone powder.
But Moonscars takes a step forward and is one of the few games in which the question arises whether Dark Souls can be… more complicated. Activating the Mirror — your save points to spend Bone Powder and receive upgrades— is not the respite you expect, because to make it work, you first need to fight your own doppelganger. Oh, and this doppelganger stole your special weapons and sorcery — good luck! After overcoming the nightmarish complexity of a new field, fighting to the death with yourself is the last thing you want to see— it’s like letting a marathon runner cross the finish line only to throw him into a cage — but it makes resting shelter feel deserved.
Even worse — if you find yourself dying too often, you will be hit by Moonhunger, and the enemies in the game will increase in difficulty — yes, up — until you make an offering to the moon goddess. You will be rewarded with extra bone powder for killing someone with active lunar hunger, but if it all becomes too much, you can sacrifice an item called “Glands” to restore normality. I still can’t figure out if donating a fairly rare item that is also used to equip various special weapons is a fair request to stop the growth of mobs in the game, especially because if you die in the first place, then you will probably already be fighting.
On the other hand, it can be very useful to ease your moonlit thirst and suddenly break through the enemies you have smashed their heads. After bouncing off the first real boss of the game— which, without spoilers, is phenomenal—in a few too many attempts, sacrificing the hardware ensured that the next attempt would be a resounding success and was incredible.
Even in the agony of battle, Moonscars pleases the eye. The artistic style resembles an oil painting and gives everything, from the claustrophobic corridors of the castle to picturesque views, a blurred Gothic shimmer. Even in the heat of battle, every animation looks great — whether it’s using a powerful spell.