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Moonglow Bay is a small fishing game with big feelings

A fishing minigame turned full story-based game

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Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

The people of Moonglow Bay fear the ocean — and for good reason. For them, it’s an abyss filled with more than just fish: It’s brought a whole lot of pain. The once-thriving fishing town has seen its fair share of tragedy, mostly brought on by the sea. It washed away beloved people and hard-fought dreams. Since these tragedies struck, the town’s liveliness has been replaced with myths and legends centered around the ferocious beasts that prowl beneath the waves, devastating the local economy to a point that the city’s town hall is about to shut down.

Moonglow Bay, the voxel art game out now on Windows PC via Steam and on Xbox One and Xbox Series X, begins three years after the main character — named whatever you choose — loses her partner. Three years earlier, that character and her wife, Robin, moved to the small, Canadian bay to revitalize its fishing industry — a dream of Robin’s. But shortly thereafter, Robin went missing. Moonglow Bay starts with Robin being declared dead in absentia, your character housebound by grief. Slowly, life begins again, and your daughter moves to town to help.

cooking in a kitchen Image: Bunnyhug/Coatsink

You begin fishing, cooking, and selling your wares, bringing Robin’s dream to life in her absence. Fishing begins beachside and from docks, but eventually you’ll get access to a boat, too. Everything is centered around this act — tossing your line into the water and seeing what you pull up. The mechanical act itself is not difficult, and that’s intentional: Moonglow Bay removes the friction from fishing. It encompasses all the best parts of fishing — fishing as an idea — and makes it the chill, meditative act many of us wish it actually was. For reference, Moonglow Bay’s fishing is comparable to Stardew Valley in terms of involvement. But it’s not as easy as, say, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

That’s what feels good to me when playing Moonglow Bay — it lets you take things slow. There isn’t necessarily a rush to move the story forward or to focus energy on any one particular task. Instead, the focus is simply on being a middle-aged angler learning to live again after a major loss. A large part of that is becoming embedded in the Moonglow Bay community, too. Your character meets others by cooking for them, part kind gesture and part advertising for the new business.

two people talking by a old boat Image: Bunnyhug/Coatsink

A lot of the “helping” in Moonglow Bay — doing tasks or cooking for other residents — is not essential to finish the game, but it is quite meaningful. Here, you learn about the losses the community has faced, come to understand their fears, and help them live with them. It’s somehow both sad and sweet in a way that surprised me.

I’m seven hours into Moonglow Bay at this point, and for lack of a better phrase, I’m hooked. Moonglow Bay has its fair share of bugs and glitches; I’ve had to restart the game a few times to break out of glitched out screens, and I faced a massive bug that made one sea encounter impossible. I would also recommend playing this with a controller, too, if you’re on Windows PC; the keyboard controls feel obtuse and not clearly explained. (Even with a gamepad, there are still moments when things still feel unintuitive, particularly Moonglow Bay’s “boss” fishing fights.) Still, those shortcomings have been easy to ignore.

The slow pace and gentle yet solemn storytelling — with lots of bright, joyous moments, too — is delightful, and I’m eager to learn more about Moonglow Bay and its people, in a town shaped as much by fishing as it is by grief.

Moonglow Bay launched Oct. 26 on Windows PC via Steam and Xbox One and Xbox Series X, where it’s available for no extra cost to Xbox Game Pass subscribers. It comes to the Epic Games Store on Nov. 11. The game was reviewed on Windows PC using a download code provided by Coatsink. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.