I was instantly drawn into the art style of Hunt the Night. It’s 16-bit aesthetic is inspired by the gothic horror of games like Bloodborne and Castlevania, with a fantastic soundtrack accompanying you across the mysterious world of Medhram. One thing I wasn’t prepared for, however, was just how deceiving its beauty was. Despite there being a harsh learning curve, Moonlight Games has managed to incorporate responsive controls and nuanced mechanics that make the tough boss fights a challenge and a lesson, helping you to progress both through the game and as an efficient warrior of the night.
In Hunt the Night, you play as Vesper, a member of the Stalkers who wants to rid Medhram of the evil that lurks in the shadows. Once upon a time, humanity was plagued by darkness. When night fell, hellish creatures wreaked havoc on the land, gradually wiping out the humans and unleashing their plague of violence and bloodlust. The Stalkers were able to repel them for a time thanks to an artefact known as the Seal of Light, but it wasn’t enough. Night has returned, as have the beasts, and the nightmares are intent of destroying everyone in their path.
Now we’ve set the scene, Hunt the Night is punishing if you’re not respectful of its combat system. Like the FromSoft games it takes inspiration from, being too greedy with attacks can result in an early grave. Vesper has a range of attacks to use, and while the variety is ever present, attempting too many attacks at once can lead to one too many devastating strikes from an enemy. She’ll collect different weapons throughout, each with their own benefits. Smaller weapons are swifter yet do less damage, while larger weapons like greatswords can do more damage but are slower. Ranged weapons like guns and crossbows can attack from a distance, but have limited ammo that need well-placed shots to make a difference.
Your bullets can be replenished in a variety of ways, such as by landing three successful melee strikes in a row, at Noctilum Rifts that are scattered across the world, and at Crow Statues which act as bonfires, refilling not only your bullets but your Roses, which refill your health bar, and your bombs. Vesper’s movement is governed by dark energy, and dashing is perhaps your most important tool when in combat. Every time you dash, your dark energy will deplete, so spamming it can lead to vulnerable moments if you aren’t careful. The learning curve, as mentioned earlier, is steep. Learning when to dash, especially against bosses, offers a brief moment of invulnerability, and when learning the attack patterns of bosses, this can be the difference between death and success.
Throughout Medhram, chests can be found which offer new weapons and Moonstones, permanent buffs that when equipped, give you a range of protection and advanced abilities. It’s well worth exploring every nook and cranny in Hunt the Night as you might miss something important, whether it’s a new weapon or stockpile of Noctilum, the game’s currency, which can be spent on upgrades, equipment, and upgrading your Roses. After a while, you’ll also unlock Vesper’s darker counterpart Umbra, who can help you to teleport across longer areas and activate switches. Finally, Vesper can also acquire dark powers to add to your arsenal, and while they can be extremely effective, they all have cooldowns that will need to be factored into each fight.
There’s plenty of customisation in battle, and the challenge of getting it right can be highly satisfying, especially when you’re trying to overcome one of Hunt the Night’s difficult bosses. Factoring in attacking patterns and what gear and abilities you have selected can lead to some intense battles, but with enough patience and a willingness to learn, Moonlight Games has found a strong balance of difficulty and reward. Right from the beginning, you’re pushed to the limit, and its difficulty might put off a fair few players who aren’t used to such a steep challenge. If you’re willing to put in the time, though, there’s a lot to be gained from persevering through the darkness that lurks around every corner.
After finishing the opening dungeon, you’ll be able to travel around Ravenford and take on contracts to slay various monsters, with victory leading to an improvement of your health. You can also meet up with Dalia and spent Noctilum to improve the amount of Roses and the type of healing they can provide, and meeting Zylax and Isaac in the Apothecary will lead to upgrades on your weapon. While preparation and upgrading your abilities and arsenal is of vast importance, Hunt the Night also mixes things up with a selection of puzzles that will need to be solved. Some require you to use items you find, while others are more complex. One of the first big puzzles highlighted the range of ideas put into them by incorporating the lore of Hunt the Night with a layered conundrum that took a while to solve.
It involved finding various paintings which housed a statue, and once I’d found them all, I had to put them in a particular order on an altar to unlock a lift that led me to a new boss. I had to read a description of every statue that made up a story revolving around a king, a maiden, and a baby, which told a brief yet interesting tale, but also had me thinking about how each piece of the story fitted together. Through its presentation and art style, Hunt the Night tells an interesting story about Vesper and the Stalkers, and there’s lore in every conversation, making it fun to learn everything about the curse of the Night and the history of both Vesper and Medhram.
Hunt the Night is difficult. There’s no sugar-coating that fact, but you’ve got a lot at your disposal, from your melee weapons like swords, daggers, and spears, and ranged weapons. Moonstones and dark magic offer further help, and the status effects certain items have can inflict further damage on the creatures around Medhram. Bosses are wonderfully designed, as is the world, and the lore is an integral part of the story and the puzzles, and everything in-between. Despite struggling with many of the fights, Hunt the Night rewards you for your patience. It doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it keeps it rolling in a beautifully crafted world.
Gorgeous art style
Great combat variety
Vesper's a cool character
Doesn't do much new
Can be really tough