A veteran game designer has gone and released a full-on top-down dungeon crawling, open world, old school Ultima-style RPG with a boatload of modern conveniences for the low, low price of absolutely free. Moonring is a really simple to get into retro-RPG with some neat systems and a fun world to explore where five moons represent the five gods, each of whom chooses and guides humans—except for those like you, the dreamless, who must choose their own destiny.
It’s a pretty real-deal thing. Open world, tons of items to collect, open-ended character building with neat skills, and even some wild and strangely obtuse systems to learn. It even uses somewhat-divisive keyword conversations, like a lot of old games did. For all that it also has merciful features like automatic note-taking of keywords and a great system that autosaves as you start each dungeon—if you die, you just pop back to the start, making each one like a mini roguelike expedition.
It also has naval exploration and boarding actions between ships, which automatically earns it my approval.
There’s other really interesting game design in here, too. Your character has health, but also a regenerating poise system that acts as a buffer of hit points before you take health damage. Thus stealth, and retreat, are very valuable. There’s a dynamic fire and light system, and I think there are other elemental interactions that can appear on the map as well—getting wet makes you fire resistant, for example, but weak to Rot effects. There’s also a system of magic around the five moons and their phases, with each god’s powers changing depending on which moon is in what phase.
Dene Carter, the creator of Moonring, is a long-time game dev whose credits include co-creation on the Fable series, the first Dungeon Keeper through to its Gold Edition, and back earlier in the 90s games like Warlock: The Avenger, Cloud Kingdoms, and Druid for the ZX Spectrum, way back in 1986.
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Carter included a note from himself on the Steam page:
“Hi folks. I’ve loved RPGs since the early 1980s, and grew up playing games like Lord British’s ‘Ultima’ series and early Roguelikes. This is my love-letter to a style of gaming that has largely fallen out of fashion: with its vivid, bright sprites overlaid on stark black backgrounds, true open-world gameplay, and lack of handholding. The days I spent playing these games were spent in joyful exploration and discovery, venturing into the dark unknown, a co-author of the experience, filling in the gaps left by the primitive art with my imagination. For those of you who did the same, I hope Moonring recaptures some of the spirit of those days for you. For those who did not, I hope that the more modern conveniences you find in this game allow you to catch a glimpse of what we did 40 years ago. My heartfelt thanks to all who spared even a moment to play this. Please be kind to my mistakes. I will fix them. :-),” he said, signing the note Dene.
Carter’s perhaps being a bit too humble there. It’s a free game with a lot of features and affordances in a relatively niche genre. But, for that honesty alone, I recommend that those even mildly interested check Moonring out for themselves.
You can find Moonring for free on Steam.