Moonbreaker fuses tabletop miniatures with Brandon Sanderson’s sci-fi writing

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It’s strange to hear the developer of Subnautica say that the game has a “lifespan”. I immersed myself in this alien explorer for hours, venturing into the depths to find the resources needed to escape the planet and solve the game’s many mysteries.

This spawned a sequel, Subnautica: Below Zero, which once again had me hooked. Still, Unknown worlds is leaving the series to try something new, something he hopes will keep it going for years to come in a way that Subnautica couldn’t – even after selling millions of games. copies.

Unknown Worlds founder and design director Charlie Cleveland says Moonbreaker will “last for decades”, giving the team the stability it needs.

Back to the drawing board

Wide shot of an in-game battlefield

(Image credit: KRAFTON Inc)

At first glance, Moonbreaker looks like a version of the Subnautica games, as if the team replaced the oceans with the surface of a moon. Its weird and wonderful art style and out-of-this-world aliens took me back to the days of deep-sea diving. But make no mistake, Moonbreaker is set in an entirely new universe full of its own mysteries.

“It’s completely different from Subnautica,” Cleveland says. Moonbreaker is a turn-based strategy game, played as a set of tabletop miniatures. You’re the captain of a crew of ragtag sci-fi aliens trying to make your way through the world by winning battles, collecting units, and growing your roster.

Each game of Moonbreaker starts with you and your opponent dropping your captains in an arena, and only ends when one of them is dead. Each turn you accumulate energy which can be spent to summon more teammates from your ship above or spend that energy on special abilities on the ground.

As with XCOM and other turn-based tactical games, each of your units has weapons and skills that allow them to play roles, such as a long-range damage dealer or a big tank, and you will need to use smartly to beat your opponent. You must carefully position your units to hit your enemy with the most damage possible without exposing yourself to danger. After the solo dives of Subnautica, this 1v1 multiplayer game is quite the change of pace.

Four figures fighting on the battlefield

(Image credit: KRAFTON Inc)

Moonbreaker also differs from Subnautica in that it’s designed to run for years, with new seasons of content released every few months. Each new season will bring new units, but also a new installment of an audio drama – a storytelling experience that’s a big step up from previous Unknown Worlds games.

In Subnautica, you unfolded the story. Several narrative threads ran in parallel and they progressed based on what you interacted with. For example, when I was playing Subnautica, I could delay the main story by simply not visiting the starting island. Instead, I worked on the side quests listed in my futuristic iPad, searching the ocean for wreckage that I could use to repair my crashed ship. This is not the case in Moonbreaker; there is no campaign in which you will progress. Your multiplayer battles are in the story world, but they don’t advance it. Instead, things move forward in audio drama – that linear style is more book-like.

Unknown Worlds plans to release the audio drama as podcasts, so Moonbreaker can live ‘outside the games’

This new inspiration may come from science fiction and fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, author of the New York Times and Stormlight Archive chart-topping Mistborn series. Sanderson built the world of Moonbreaker and wrote the audio dramas that will be released each season.

You may not need to own Moonbreaker or even play the game to access new episodes, Unknown Worlds plans to release them as podcasts so Moonbreaker can live “outside the games”, says Cleveland. Potentially it opens the door to new players – “people who haven’t purchased the game can learn more about this game”, says Cleveland – but it’s also a nice acknowledgment of the inspiration of the games of Moonbreaker table.

While Moonbreaker’s main focus is its multiplayer battles, Unknown Worlds has built in a paint system that allows you to customize every miniature in the game. You can take your crew into battle using the stock design created by the artists of the game. team, or you can repaint them to suit your own sensibilities. I’ve always loved to paint, so I’m going to make sure my team will be at their best before I send them into battle.

Painting an alien miniature in Moonbreaker

(Image credit: KRAFTON Inc)

If you’ve ever dabbled in model painting, you might have found now is the perfect time to put on a podcast or audiobook. This is where Moonbreaker’s audio dramas can fit in. As each episode will center on a different captain’s story, Cleveland suggests “Maybe even one day there will be certain thumbnails you want to paint while you’re listening to an audio drama because they’re related.” You can incorporate details of their history into the paint job.

adventure capitalism

Unknown Worlds made this drastic break from Subnautica because the underwater survival game wasn’t financially viable, Cleveland tells us. You only needed to buy Subnautica once, so there was a limit to the number of “ongoing transactions” players would make. Moonbreaker can solve this problem, although the studio is still working on the payout structure.

Like I said, it’s strange to think of a game like Subnautica, which I’ve come back to many times in the eight years since it was first released, as having a “lifespan,” but if that thinking has leads Unknown Worlds to build “an experience” like Moonbreaker, which brings together a bag of hobbies that exploded during the pandemic and turns them into a game, so I can’t wait to see more.

Unknown Worlds hasn’t let me down yet, so I guess it’s time to dust off my artistic skills.

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