Moonbreaker Prioritizes Fun Over Flash (Hands-On Preview)

When the Moonbreaker was first revealed last month, it certainly made the right impression. Despite still being in the early stages of development, it already had enough depth to its lore and variety of characters to give people plenty of reasons to want to see more of it in action. Fast forward to today, and they’re more than capable of doing so during the game’s Early Access period, which offers a surprising amount of content considering how much of the game still needs work.

Having first seen the game through a reveal presentation, I was dying to get my hands on the title and see how varied the game could be with different team makeups. After doing just that, I can confidently say that Moonbreaker is what it seems and is one of the most fun turn-based strategy games I’ve played in a long time.

Admittedly, that might be hard to believe based on the screenshots and gameplay footage currently available. Developers Unknown Worlds Entertainment have definitely adopted a less bombastic style of animation, with the miniatures in this game moving and acting exactly as they would if one were playing a real-world tabletop counterpart.

In action though, that’s part of the game’s appeal. The game isn’t held back by bells and whistles meant to make attacks and moves look more believable. Instead, it’s all about the moves that will lead the player to a perfectly executed strategy and closer to victory, without any fluff that might get in the way.

It didn’t take long for me to completely forget that miniatures couldn’t attack animations or moves that spoke to their designs. I was too busy being fully engrossed in every skirmish that was taking place, calculating my next move and trying to figure out what approach my opponent might take based on the units they had available.

Speaking of which, there are a surprising number of metas and strategies available only through Moonbreaker’s Early Access content. Each unit’s abilities and special assists that can be activated after several turns have passed give the game great depth. This is further enhanced by the fact that there is no one way to use a unit correctly, as there are many methods of using them correctly in different strategies.

A fight could be entirely centered around my Captain’s unit and its higher offensive capabilities. Every support unit I brought in I would put to work to neutralize his offensive abilities and I would take my opponent out after enough time had passed. In another matchup, I’d have him hang back and shore up the other units’ defenses, letting them whittle my opponents Leader down to nothing while mine remained completely safe.

In addition, there are many environmental factors that must also be considered. Any given map will have obstacles that units will need to use as cover or maneuver with their limited movement rights. There are also things like air leaks that hide accuracy and can throw off an enemy’s attacks as long as a unit is behind the fog and not covering the air flow of the air ducts.

All of this made the game a lot of fun, even if it wasn’t as full of little touches as other titles. If anything, it’s made even better by focusing less on looks and more on what makes the game fun at its core.

Moonbreaker Prioritizes Fun Over Flash (Hands-On Preview)

Even then, there’s still a lot at play to make Moonbreaker visually stimulating. While they may not move and act like living, breathing parts of the world, the miniatures have plenty of detail for players to admire and notice. Every piece of armour, stretched mandible or weapon held at the ready has enough detail to make a Warhammer fan swoon with admiration, and the matching aesthetic of characters affiliated with the same faction is the cherry on top.

The maps and the effort put into them are equally impressive. While those currently available are limited in number, each one feels both part of the larger world being built for the game and a distinct location with its own variables to consider. One won’t have the same experience fighting through a cloudy city center as they will diving into a snowy shipyard.

And then there’s the sound. While Moonbreaker’s graphics lean more towards minimal, the sound design definitely goes in the opposite direction. Units spit out lots of dialogue and attacks are matched with sounds that spark one’s imagination and fill in the gaps of what isn’t happening on screen.

Beyond that, there’s the tiny customization part of the title, which honestly feels like the most underrated part of Moonbreaker. On the one hand, it’s certainly a key part of the experience, allowing players to power up their units and ensure their favorite miniature can continue to prove useful no matter how many matches they enter.

Moonbreaker Prioritizes Fun Over Flash (Hands-On Preview)

On the other hand, however, there is the miniature painting of this mechanic. Although it has nothing to do with the actual game other than the aesthetics of your units, this ended up being one of my favorite parts of the game. I spent hours figuring out how to make my favorite units look right, applying whatever color scheme felt funnest at the time.

It may not have led to the kind of wacky monsters that come with more in-depth character creation tools, but it still helped make my units feel like they belonged to me.

Even if it’s far from complete, Moonbreaker succeeds in areas that other games tend to forget. It remembers that a fun experience for players should be the priority, and everything else can either serve it or be minimized so that resources are not used unnecessarily. I’ll be keeping an eye on this title as it takes shape into its final form, and fans of turn-based strategy games should definitely do the same.

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