Midautumn comes to Steam Early Access as a labor of love for the small dev team Team Midautumn. Set in the deceptively quiet small town of Nambo Quay, Midautumn is a roguelike dungeon-crawler that combines traditional Chinese mythology and customs with the trappings and responsibilities of modern life.
Done with school and no job prospects, Robin Lam spends the summer crashing at their grandmother’s house in Nambo Quay. Expecting to be running errands in town to make some quick cash, Robin is thrown into the Spirit World beneath our own, where it bursts at the seams as it tries to spill over into the town above. Right in Grandmother’s backyard is the Lunar Stone, a massive crystal where Robin can focus their thoughts and look at their objectives.
Whenever Robin enters the spirit world, they are transformed into the Guardian, able to absorb enemies’ energy and use it to their own advantage. The energy is called Lunar Blood, and while it has powerful capabilities for the Guardian, it also causes something called Lunar Rot. When Lunar Rot sets in, you have to purge it from your system, or it will continue to damage you over time. You can still attack using the Lunar Rot, but utilizing it during battle will cause you damage.
Progressing Through Midautumn Is A Blast
Leveling up and gaining abilities is also a unique and fun mechanic in Midautumn. To unlock new powers, Robin has to talk to the people and spirits they meet on the way and frequently study their journals. Leafing through the pages will reveal highlighted words that will enable abilities to be unlocked and bought at the entrance to the Spirit World.
Not only does Robin have to deal with the chaos beneath the streets of Nambo Quay, but they also have to deal with a warring brother and sister team of Tsechoi and Wenye, ancient spirits that each proffer gifts that will power up and buff aspects of combat. Interacting with the gift boxes that seemingly house these bickering boos also offers the chance to uncover some extra lore regarding the pair.
The lore of Midautumn is part of what makes the game so enjoyable. Created by a team of Asian devs, the world is heavily steeped in the Asian diaspora. A quick explainer of diaspora for those unsure: diaspora refers to a people that have settled far from their ancestral home. When you look at Midautumn, it’s plain to see how this shows up in the world. Blending clothes, shopping, drinking boba, and battling evil spirits is a pretty effective and simple way to show how the current culture still intersects with the historical culture. Purchasing boba tea will help Robin in their adventure because it can be consumed in the Spirit World, and different flavors offer different effects.
Battling in the Spirit World is also how Robin gains resources, including rent for Granny. Smash the pots, smash the spirits, and occasionally run into a nervous seller spirit called Jing to obtain items and helpful services like purging Lunar Rot. Each day in the world of the living, Robin can purchase clothing, music tracks, and more with a revolving inventory available. However, when it comes to boba, Grandma Maggie has instructed the seller only to sell Robin one drink daily, so choose wisely.
A Beautiful World Awaits You In Midautumn
As for the goings on in the world of living, Nambo Quay is more than just a hub area to get cosmetics and power-ups. There’s also something strange happening to residents. The hospital is filling up with people in coma-like sleep states, and no one knows why. It’s up to Robin to figure out what is causing it and stop it.
The combat is smooth and easy to grasp. Catch the energy fired at you and send it back in various attacks. It’s fast and frenetic but never feels stunted. It’s a “clicky combat” type system, meaning once you’re in a full dungeon, you furiously click your mouse to fire. You can adjust the difficulty in the settings by changing player health and damage as well as enemy health and damage. Create your own super simple or ultra-challenging experience.
Midautumn switches between pixel art for the action and beautifully detailed character drawings for the cut scenes. It also has a banging soundtrack that is as energetic as the gameplay. Unfortunately, I played a super early build of the game, pre-Early Access launch, and there are some issues.
All the issues I have experienced have been back-end issues. For example, in the version I have been playing, the save system isn’t working. My saves are there, but they won’t load. I’ve also experienced issues with the game simply not loading past the initial introductory screen, but uninstalling and reinstalling seemed to fix that. There was also an issue returning to the menu from the game, but as of writing this, it appears to be fixed.
These small things are mostly benign, although the save issue is somewhat annoying. However, the game’s actual content is excellent, fun, and rich in narrative. The characters are well-rounded, and the storyline and dive into mythology create a spellbinding experience.
Midautumn is out now in Early Access on Steam.