Anyone familiar with tabletop wargaming such as, say, Warhammer 40k, will know the singular excitement of assembling and customising a unique fighting force and using it to obliterate your friends and enemies alike. Collecting multiple varied units, building them, painting them, and deploying them in the field is an enticing and addictive process, even if learning the actual rules is a seriously tall order for newcomers. All this is present in new strategy game, Moonbreaker, from Unknown Worlds Entertainment – the big difference is that it’s a video game, and not a tabletop.
Set in a universe created by sci-fi author Brandon Sanderson, Moonbreaker sees you battling space pirate crews across various colourful arenas. You build a crew of 9 characters, led by a Captain, against a similar enemy force in player versus player or player versus AI modes.
Moonbreaker has only just entered Early Access and as such is still coming together. For example there’s a season pass in place, but frankly it takes a laughable amount of XP to gain levels on it. Also, the amount of currencies on display is disheartening. The nature of the game is to collect new characters, along with alternate models, bases for your miniatures, banner decorations for each of your assembled crews, and new paint schemes and decal options. This manifests in both a store front for premium currency and a loot box system. While loot boxes are largely a thing of the past now, Moonbreaker is bringing them back with randomised rewards purchased either with premium currency or in-game tokens.
See, Moonbreaker wants you to want everything it has to give you. There are already dozens of characters to collect and battle with, including three Captains and multiple others across a large variety of archetypes. Melee brawlers, ranged snipers, bombers, healers, support classes, Moonbreaker has them all and the key to success is assembling the right team for any challenge. But this is also where it gets super hardcore.
There’s a tutorial but it’s pretty fast-paced, and Moonbreaker has so many different factions, classes, and damage types that can all be mixed and matched. Classes and factions can be swapped around and teamed-up, with a ton of different synergies you won’t find without a lot of experimentation. My issue is that, even at this early stage, there’s just so much to understand. A campaign mode would go a long way to helping, allowing us to build a team gradually and learn how different units synergise. Instead, you’re just thrown into versus matches against either unforgiving AI or real players.
Moonbreaker does have personality though. While lacking a cohesive story to bring it altogether – at least for now – every available character has lore to sift through, and multiple levels to climb to improve their stats and abilities. There’s so much colour and individuality to each miniature, with voiced lines such as taunts and affirmations to make the combat feel alive.
Add to this randomised perks at the start of each match and there’s a lot of variety to be had. Some perks heal units or apply buffs, some damage the enemy with orbital strikes. Some, like the Disruptor Beam, scatter pieces in the blast area.
You begin each match with only a Captain and need to build up a battle currency called Cinder to summon new units to the map. The order of deployment is somewhat random and a summoned unit can’t move until the next turn, so placement is utterly key. Also, summoned units have way less health than the Captain, and can be wiped out in a single turn if you’re careless.
Of course, the real draw of miniature wargaming is painting your army, creating a one-of-a-kind force to dominate the battlefield. And Moonbreaker even allows this, with a comprehensive painting suite that allows unprecedented control over the composition of your squad. Techniques like shading and stippling add authenticity, and you can even mask areas to avoid over-spraying. It takes time and patience, but feels super relaxing once you understand how it works, and you can save schemes or return to default whenever you’re ready.
As Moonbreaker evolves and adds new stuff, I hope it gains a little more substance. Having a writer like Sanderson attached is kind of wasted if there’s no campaign or narrative to dig into. It risks ending up like a tabletop version of Battleborn. Obviously new miniatures, new colour schemes and new cosmetics will be added in spades, but that won’t deepen the experience. Right now Moonbreaker feels unique, fresh, and entertaining, but is definitely aimed at the hardcore audience. The casual gamer disinterested in the painting element or learning intricate battle systems will be turned off pretty quickly. If you’re in the former camp, though, Moonbreaker could easily become your next addiction.
Moonbreaker is in Steam Early Access now.