There’s a new miniature game on the way, and it’s played on PC rather than on a table. Indie video game Moonbreaker aims to capture the feel of miniature games like Warhammer in all aspects: battling, collecting, and painting — and it does. The team at Unknown Worlds Entertainment did a great job of adapting that feeling into a video game. However, like any new tabletop game, there is a lot to learn. Moonbreaker takes practice to master, and its evident plans for microtransactions and seasonal rewards may turn all but the most dedicated away.
Moonbreaker is still in its beta phase though, so there is plenty of time for changes and there will be more to the final version than what was available in last weekend’s playtest. The main parts of the game were present — battling, building, and painting. This was enough to see what the game is all about, and it even provided some hints as to what to expect with the full version. CBR was able to take part in this playtest to get a feel for what gamers can expect.
This version of the title offered three modes: VS Player, VS AI, and Painting. The player and AI modes are straightforward, offering miniature battle against other players online or against the AI. There was no campaign mode, but since Moonbreaker‘s world was created in part by a sci-fi writer and the units have their own lore, there is a chance the finished version may have a story to play through. Still, the miniature battles are the meat of the game, and they were very polished in the playtest.
Players can build and then mix and match teams. There is a good selection from which to choose and what was included in the playtest was only part of what will be available in Early Access later this month. There appear to be three different factions so far, but players aren’t limited to sticking with one. Captains and units from all teams can be combined, which makes for some interesting compositions and synergies. For example, Dead Eye, a ranged Smuggler unit with the ability to give +40% accuracy to an ally for two turns, can be combined with the Novian Bulwark, a heavy but immobile Methedori ranged unit, to give it a better shot, enabling it to decimate enemies behind limited cover. By removing typical faction barriers, Moonbreaker creates near limitless team combinations, but also adds to its difficulty.
Unlike a game like Warhammer, wherein groups of units are mainly composed of the same type, Moonbreaker gives players nine different units and one captain, each with its own unique abilities, stats, and uses. Most are also made to operate together with passive and active abilities, as on their own they tend to go down easy. This is what makes the learning curve steep because it means understanding the various units in order to use them properly and competitively.
The aim of battle is to defeat the opposing captain, which means other units can be ignored unless they become a nuisance or there are too many on the field. Matches start with only the captains on the field, and units are deployed by spending Cinder, the equivalent of Action Points. New units can be randomly added to the deployment roster by spending Cinder as well. This means players have to be strategic, as they don’t get to choose who to use right away or have the Cinder to spend.
Cinder is gained each round in increasing amounts, so as the battle progresses things get more chaotic. Like AP, it can also be stored, a good strategy in the beginning when there isn’t much to go around. Besides deployment, Cinder is also used for activating units and player assists. These help the team, and some are quite devastating. They may give players the option to heal units, damage enemies, and affect the battlefield, which can turn the tide. There are a lot of moving parts to Moonbreaker‘s battles, and it all works together seamlessly to create compelling, but difficult gameplay.
There was also evidence of a level system, although it wasn’t active in the playtest. Both player profiles and units have experience bars. Battling will likely contribute to these as well as progressing in Seasons. The addition of Seasons means this game will mainly operate online and encourage gamers to play consistently. The tier present in the playtest included customization items like banners, stickers, icons, and more to use for a profile or when creating a team. However, there were also big ticket items like new paint schemes, alternate unit models, loot boxes, and new units to unlock. While game Seasons are becoming somewhat controversial, as they take a relaxing thing and make it feel like a necessary chore, but loot boxes have gotten a terrible reputation and are under scrutiny as a form of gambling.
It looks like Moonbreaker is poised to include not just loot boxes, but possibly microtransactions as well. There’s an in-game currency that can be earned through tasks like painting or battling, as well as progressing through the seasonal tiers. There was no shop to peruse in the playtest, but one will likely be used to purchase customizables and new or alternate units. If there is an in-game currency in the final product, there may be ways to purchase it. This is a bit disappointing, but something that makes sense in the world of miniatures.
Regarding painting, it allows players to customize their team or just enjoy the art of painting models. It’s different from painting miniatures in real life, but it does a great job of simulating painting techniques and has all the features one could want in a tool like this. There are different brush types, including wet and stippling brushes, and colors can be mixed, layered, and saved into new palettes. The painting cursor can be resized, and the opacity changed. There is even a way to ensure the wrong area doesn’t get painted. Multiple schemes can also be saved, so a team can always take on a new theme. The mechanic offers lots of room for creativity, especially with alternate character models.
Moonbreaker does exactly what it set out to do: bring tabletop miniature games to the video game world. The gameplay is solid and seamless. The aspect of customizing an army and coloring them to one’s liking is well implemented, and the overall style of the game and creativity put into the characters is unique and interesting. Like any miniatures game, there is a learning curve that can only be overcome by playing and learning the game, which may put off some but present the perfect challenge for others. The only real detriment to Moonbreaker may be its microtransactions and seasonal FOMO (Fear of missing out). Still, there is much more to be seen when the game hits Early Access on September 29th.