Every once in a while, I see commenters muse on what would happen if Nintendo moved Pokémon in the direction of free-to-play. If Undead Labs' Moonrise is any indication, I think it would be just fine.
I had the chance to play the upcoming PC and mobile title at PAX East this weekend and, despite my ingrained aversion to free-to-play titles, came away impressed. On the surface, Moonrise seems like it’s aping Pokémon closely.
Players take on the role of a Warden, a group of people tasked with purging infection from wild “solari,” adding them to their fighting force, and training them to fight. Both titles have collectible creatures of different elemental affinities, but that’s about where the similarities stop.
Moonrise’s combat system is fast-paced and more active than Pokémon’s turn-based set-up. Wardens summon in solari from their active roster, queue up attacks and abilities, and wait for the cooldown timer to expire to set up the next one. The battle ends when all a Warden’s solari are defeated or the player character itself takes too much damage.
This results in something more akin to a collectible card game, since the Warden isn’t just on the sidelines, but an active member of battle. He or she has skills too, and can directly damage opponents.
Combat moves quickly, and keeping an eye on cooldown, health bars, and relative strengths and weaknesses as an opponent swaps solari all make for an exciting experience. The title is in beta right now on PC, with mobile releases planned for this year, too. Thanks to a unified account system, you’ll be able to play on the go and pick up where you left off on PC.
As for the free-to-play element, players are awarded a number of keys each day. These serve the same purpose as PokeBalls, but without the risk of failure. More of these can be earned through play, but they can also be purchased.
At first glance, the monetization doesn’t seem onerous or off-putting. However, as the game is beta and we only had a short amount of time, we’ll have a better sense after longer exposure. Moonrise is past the first hurdle, though. It made a stellar first impression, and I want to play more.