Moonrise at PAX Prime 2014

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At PAX Prime 2014, we had a moment to sit down and demo Moonrise, a new free-to-play, creature collection game from Undead Labs, with Richard Foge, the studio’s Design Director. Moonrise, coming globally to iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices in Early 2015, has been under development since Spring 2013, and offers a few twists on the familiar genre.

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With a corrupting force afflicting the Solari of your world, your task as a Warden, is to cleanse the besieged creatures with the aid of your allies.

Moonrise will feature over 40 hours of intended gameplay, taking the player’s avatar, or Warden, and their allied creatures, or Solari, through a variety of dungeons, secrets areas, and side quests in addition to the primary storyline. The main story will follow the Warden as they navigate the aftermath of a Moonrise, a cyclical event that infects the Solari of the world. Foge indicated that the mobile platform allows for easy expansion of multiple features of gameplay, including Story, Side Quests, and various Meta-related rollouts. He also indicated that while the current level cap is 100, it is not necessary to reach in order to complete the main story. However, some content like side quests and secret areas are expected to have higher level requirements.

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You will be able to fully customize the skills on your Solari for a currency cost.

Moonrise offers numerous customization options for their avatar, or Warden, as well as the creatures, or Solari. Players will be able to adjust their appearance, acquire Solari enhancing gear through story and dungeons, mix and match skills, and equip various cosmetics earned over the course of the game. Players can also customize their individual Solari through progression, skill choice, and evolution. Solari level up through an XP-based progression system, which allows you to upgrade a variety of statistics relating to offense, defense, etc. In Moonrise, Solari skills are interchangeable for a small currency cost, allowing you to mix and match abilities to best fit your playstyle. Finally, Moonrise features Solari ‘Evolution’, which occurs at predetermined levels, allowing the player to morph their Solari into new forms, acquire new types of abilities, or increase their stat levels.

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Moonrise features Day/Night cycles, which vary the Solari you’ll encounter.

Throughout their travels, Moonrise players will acquire a number of important items to help them along the way. Essences, found throughout gameplay, will boost select stats on your Solari permanently. It should be noted that during our playtest, stat increases happened before level modifiers were applied. We boosted our DEF stat from 108 to 110, which was then modified to 130 DEF by our level. Players will also acquire ‘Keys’, which are used after combat when attempting to recruit Solari who stick around after being cleansed. There are two types of Keys, Standard and Ancient, with the latter being used for Legendary Solari typically found at the end of a dungeon. A set number of keys will be provided through main story progression, with additional opportunities to acquire more in game, as well as in the store. While we experienced a 100% success rate during the playtest, Foge indicated that this was an artificial boost, and that the rate will differ at Launch.

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Players will swipe their way around 3D environments to navigate.

The world map, shaped like a large crescent moon, will lead you to new dungeons, towns, and other locations with a point-and-click interaction. Navigation inside the towns uses a swipe mechanic, allowing for a 3D environment as the Warden walks to whichever building the player swiped towards until it was highlighted. This swipe mechanic is also found at the Dungeon Staging Area. Commenting on the decision to use the Swipe mechanic, Richard Foge explained, “…we tried the tap-to-move stuff, and it was kind of frustrating to get to where you wanted to go.” It is also important to note that during our demo, other players from PAX were visible in town and around the exterior of the dungeon. Additional information as to what level of interaction you can have with them is unknown to OddMass at this time.

“When the training wheels come off, it gets very quick. It’s a very fast, real-time game.”

One of the ways that Moonrise differentiates itself from the pack is with ‘real time’ combat, a queued combat system with real time mechanics. As you progress through the game’s tutorial mode, you will be exposed to the combat system in a turn-based environment, so you will have a chance to understand the mechanics before being tossed from the nest. It will teach you the mechanics that you will eventually use to pick your Solari from a stable of six allies, before a final selection of two for your active team. That active team, by the way, can be altered on the fly in the middle of combat by simple dragging ‘stabled’ Solari into the field of battle, opening up the possibility for a variety of moves and countermoves. Team selection is meant to be a strategic decision in the world of Moonrise, with individual Solari being paired with various Elements that do increased and decreased damage to opposing Elements. The damage increase is designed to be valuable against Solari with defensive abilities, as it will continue to provide damage after a blocked attack.

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The combat tutorial will also teach you casting mechanics, or ability usage. Each skill in Moonrise has an independent cooldown, a ‘boot’ time – the time it takes for the skill to become active once the Solari enters the battle, and a cast time. When an ability and target are selected, the animation for the cast becomes queued. However, prior to the cast animation, everything operates in real time, creating a designed emphasis on cooldown awareness and time management for tactical supremacy. Combat abilities have a variety of targeting parameters, including ‘friendly’ for heals, ‘front row’ for Solari attacks and ‘back row’ for direct Warden Attacks, additionally, some abilities can target multiple enemies. There is also another of combat complexity which was currently being worked on and therefore subject to change, elemental status effect interaction. Foge commented that one of the interactions they were looking into was a Nature-based Solari beginning to regenerate health if rooted with an opposing Solari’s Nature skill. Finally, the current victory conditions are Win by defeating all present Solari or Win by defeating the Warden.

A player prepares to enter a dungeon.

With combat covered, our playtest took us into the world and down into a Dungeon. After travelling to the dungeon location on the world map, you are deposited into a staging area that has the same 3D environment as the main towns, allowing you to see other players in the vicinity and select multiple locations with the swipe mechanic. Upon selecting a dungeon, you select a difficulty for the dungeon. It is important to note that it takes Dungeon Tickets to access higher level dungeons. Dungeon tickets are a resource that you gain naturally over the course of a day, through rewards, and other unannounced methods. After selecting your Dungeon difficulty, you are provided with a screen to purchase Health potions, which recovery a varying amount of health dependent on the amount of gold you are willing to spend. You do have, however, a limited number of spots in your bag to carry health potions, and you only get to fill up once per dungeon run. When your inventory is fully stocked, you enter the dungeon, which is a linear progression of battles against various Solari. After each fight, you are rewarded your XP for defeating the infected Solari, and you get a chance to heal up using your previously purchased health potions. The culminating stage of the Dungeon is a battle against the Legendary Solari, who as mentioned previously, has a chance upon victory to become available for a recruitment attempt with an Ancient Key.

In addition to the 40-hour singleplayer experience mentioned earlier, Moonrise offers a number of multiplayer options as is expect of the genre. At launch, Moonrise is expected to have the typical Ranked and Unranked battles, as well as a Draft Mode – which was heavily featured during Daily PvP Competitions at PAX. Players will be given a randomly generated collection of 10 Solari with loose archetype parameters to prevent the ‘unwinnable’ scenario and a batch of skills to mix into their provided Solari. The goal of Draft Mode is to accrue the highest level of wins within a three-loss period. The total number of wins you can manage determines a prize awarded at the end of your third loss. If you are pressed for time, you can end the Draft Mode early, collecting a prize befitting of your current win total. Currently planned rewards are gear, skills, currency, and other unannounced items. At PAX Prime 2014, the winners of the Daily Competition on Days #1 and #2 ranged from 12 wins to 18 wins, with an average battle time of 3 minutes, the longest was roughly 15 minutes. Matchmaking at launch will follow a loose win-based matching system, attempting to connect like-level players against each other. Post launch, Moonrise will feature two modes that were visible but not fully implemented at the time of the demo, Tournaments and Special Events.

“We’re very, very serious about avoiding anything that is remotely pay-to-win. Anything you can get by paying money you can get by playing the game.”

One element that was stressed throughout our conversation with Richard Foge and subsequent interactions with Undead Labs is that the cash shop is planned to be pay-for-convenience, not pay-to-win. With continual emphasis, he repeated, “We’re very, very serious about avoiding anything that is remotely pay-to-win. Anything you can get by paying money you can get by playing the game.” Players who do not spend money will have the same campaign experience as those who do, and access to the same items. Players will be able to purchase RNG boxes, cosmetic items, and numerous convenience or timesaving items.

Moonrise, developed by Undead Labs and published by Kabam, will be arriving globally Early 2015.