After two gruesome deep-sea survival games, the next project from Subnautica developer Unknown Worlds is heading in a very different direction — a tabletop-inspired turn-based tactical game called Moonbreaker, coming out on September 29th Enter Steam Early Access.
Fundamentally, Moonbreaker, which has been in development for about five years, is pretty simple. Every match sees players — whether against human or AI opponents — strategizing on the board, using careful positioning to their advantage as they work to eliminate the opposing player’s captain.
So far, everything has been simple, but the complexity comes when you start thinking about the tactical options available to the player during the match, including cover and things like that – which could be impenetrability or penetration accuracy Cost – plus captain, crew, ship support, and resource management.
Captains are essentially Moonbreaker’s interpretation of heroic characters, each with their own unique special abilities, while the crew roster is formed before the game and consists of ten smaller units, each with their own strengths, Abilities and combat preferences – both melee and ranged. Once the crew is assembled and the game begins, players must protect their captain and can summon units (these will activate on the next turn) throughout the game, with up to six crew units per side at any time.
Ship assists, meanwhile, are essentially powerful bonus attacks that players can choose from at the start of a match, choosing from three available pairs. These actions must be recharged over time, and – like almost everything that happens in the game – must be activated by spending Moonbreaker’s core resource, Cinder, which the player can carry per round if Cinder was not used in the previous round Three Cinders.
And that – aside from a fun boss-fighting rogue-like solo player experience – is pretty much basic level. If that’s what Moonbreaker is all about, I’d say it looks like a solid enough foundation for a tactical game, and then moves on until we get a chance to play more. But Moonbreaker has a particularly appealing gimmick, an almost servile contribution to replicating the simulation experience of playing a real tabletop game — in part, Unknown Worlds says, to make the expensive hobby more accessible.
For example, the map is designed to look like it was handcrafted using resin, grass texture paint, and any other material a real-life builder might use, and that aesthetic runs through the characters themselves, all made of wonderfully unique miniatures Instead of animating, the model wiggles happily on a chessboard on its base as it moves.
But the “simulation” angle goes further than that, Moonbreaker includes full-featured in-game customization tools designed to replicate the miniature painting experience as closely as possible, although there are details like undo functionality and masking abilities to help painters stay between the lines . All units come with a default paint job (created by a real-life miniaturist contacted by Unknown Worlds), but if players want to get creative they can apply primer, paint, wash, dry brush, airbrush, Stippling, luminous paint, metallic paint, decals, and more, you can even physically mix paint to create your own color.
It’s the attention to detail, based on early press presentations, that’s evident elsewhere in Moonbreaker – including in its expansive lore, created with Mistborn author Brandon Sanderson and informs everything from captains to individual units. Unknown Worlds even plans to release a fully-dubbed talk show, telling the story of each new captain as the lineup grows.
During Moonbreaker’s Early Access release season, three captains will be available – holographic smuggler Zax Ja’kar, ex-death droid Extilior, and young girl Astra who is looking for her father – who will accompany around 50 crew characters. The roster is expected to grow approximately every four months, with each new season bringing more captain and crew units, as well as new Battle Pass-style seasonal tracks, unlocking in-game currency, sticker packs and decals, New paint sets and more, new banners, alternate unit paint schemes, and loot box booster packs as players gain experience and climb the different levels.
By the way, booster packs are said to be the main way for players to expand their crew roster in Moonbreaker. They are available in-game and through the premium currency store, and each pack contains a random rarity aura of three random units (replicas convert to merit, and can be used to “craft” unowned or higher rarity units).
Unknown Worlds insists that all captains, crews and maps can be unlocked by playing the game, but lingering questions about Moonbreaker’s monetization remain. For example, players need to pay for Moonbreaker’s early access despite including loot boxes and a premium store, while Unknown Worlds and publisher Krafton would only be willing to say the transition to free mode later is “what’s happening with consideration.” However, for the price of early entry, players will get the season track, three starting captains, 10 crew members, and 10 booster packs, which Unknown Worlds says is “enough to get a ‘universal’ version of the game for all crew members to start”.
Whether the original product will be palatable to Moonbreaker’s target audience remains to be seen. We’ll get a better idea of how this all plays out when Moonbreaker hits Steam Early Access on September 29th.