Morbid: The Seven Acolytes Review
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a new title out of the indie studio Still Running. This indie studio was founded back in 2014 and has created two previous titles, The Walking Vegetables and Zombie Kill of the Week. With Morbid: The Seven Acolytes Still Running has created a Horrorpunk Action RPG for the isometric Souls-like genre. I got a chance to get my hands on this title early thanks to Still Running and Merge Games. See what I thought of this game in the Morbid: The Seven Acolytes review below.
Beautiful Style, Some Rough Gameplay Mechanics
At first glance of the Morbid: The Seven Acolytes trailer the game appears to have everything I like in my video games. There is a huge selection of weapons, grotesque bosses and enemies to fight, difficult combat, and an art style and ambiance that looks beautiful and sounds amazing. Many of these aspects shine while playing, but there are a few major gameplay decisions that really hurt the overall experience.
The story of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is fairly standard. You begin the game waking up on the shore of a mysterious land of Mornia that has seen both its residents and animals infected. This infection causes the people and animals to mutate, leaving vile beasts in your path. As a Striver of Diborm it is your job to free the kingdom of this infection by defeating the Seven Alcoytes in that have been possessed by the Gahars.
This description is about it in-terms of what is blatantly presented to you. After the stage is set you will need piece together more story information by reading lore you find in the world, speaking to NPCs, and reading item descriptions.
This method of storytelling is in-line with the genre and does a fairly good job at building out the world and its mysteries. The main story itself is interesting enough to push you forward and there are optional side quests you can complete to further build on it. With that said I do wish there was slightly more direction to the story especially in the game’s ending as it unfortunately just sort of ends leaving the journey feeling slightly less impactful.
When not reading lore you will spend your time actually playing the game. The core gameplay loop is made up of two central pillars of combat and exploration. Combat is the most important of these two pillars as grasping it is the difference between advancing in the game and getting basically hard stuck.
Combat in Morbid is designed akin to something like a top-down Bloodborne. You character wields both a melee weapon and a firearm. The melee weapon requires stamina to use while the firearm requires bullets. In both classes of weapons there are a variety of different types to find in the world and by completing side quests. On the melee front there are swords, axes, maces, and more to find while the firearms include things like pistols, crossbows and other ranged weapons.
With so many weapons at your disposal the developers have implemented a very strange inventory system that has a serious Resident Evil vibe to it. Instead of having a near infinite inventory or box to place all your weapons you are severely limited to what you can carry. This inventory approach means you will basically have to juggle resources with weapons. I was absolutely not a fan of this design decision as collecting an arsenal of weapons is half the fun of game’s in this genre. Tossing weapons aside because you don’t have the space just isn’t fun.
Weapons you do manage to fit into your inventory can be upgraded using the rune system. Runes add better stats to your weapons when slotted into them. The better the rune, the better the stats that weapon receives. The Rune system works fairly well in keeping things interesting. There are a number of different stats you can add to a weapon like fire damage, poison, faster attack speed, and more. If you don’t like the stats you’ve applied you can use a Rune Remover tool to pivot your weapon’s stats in a different direction.
Having talked about the weapons of the game its time to look at combat itself. Morbid: The Seven Acolytes combat was easily the worst part of the game for me. There are a few reasons for this with a major one being the Stamina system. Stamina usage feels excessively high. When you run, dodge, parry, or attack you use up your stamina at what seems like an excessive clip. If you use up all of your stamina the character returns to her bizarrely slow walking pace where the stamina gauge will pause briefly before beginning to refill. This design decisions makes it very easy to get killed if you misjudge your stamina usage at all.
Alongside this strange stamina design there are also a ton of odd hitboxes. These hitboxes seem randomly assigned with enemies being able to hit you and you being able to hit them while being nowhere close to them. Since the hitboxes are all over the place attempting to use melee weapons feels like a chore at times. Towards the end of my playthrough I switched over to the a strictly firearm build that left me able to kite well away from the terrible hitboxes which basically flipped the game from being punishingly hard to a cake walk.
To make combat more manageable you can level up your character using the game’s special blessings system. Blessings replace the traditional levelling you may be accustomed in games of this genre. When you defeat enemies you earn experience that builds up to earn points. These points can be spent to level up blessings you find in the world. Blessings themselves improve a variety of stats like armor, health, stamina, and so on. Each blessing can be upgraded to increases its bonuses and you unlock the ability to equip more blessings as you advance into the game.
The blessing system is an interesting approach to the simple levelling you find in these types of games. For the most part I liked this system as it provides a fairly simple way to create different builds. With that said the game does a horrible job in actually explaining what blessings are, how they work, and what you are actually getting as a bonus. I would have appreciated clearer instructions on this system as I played the first few hours wondering how to even level-up my character.
Sanity is another aspect of combat that makes the experience more interesting. You don’t lose anything when you die, but instead lose some of your sanity. This meter slowly fills (unless you manage it) until you are insane. When you become insane your XP gain decreases and you begin to have enemy apparitions appear in your game.
I like the idea of sanity but never felt as if it really impacted my game all that much. The items you need to manage your sanity are fairly readily available so there is never any looming threat of being consistently insane. With that said I could see the system itself being very punishing to players new to this type of game.
While you are out defeating the varied enemies and bosses in the game you will spend your time traversing the different locations of Mornia. These areas are one of the more bright-spots of the game. There are a number of different locations you can explore with distinct their own unique designs and feelings. You start the game on a beach but end up passing through locales that include a fishing village, a garden, swamps, and other interesting places.
Within each of these areas there are shrines you can rest at that serve as the game’s bonfires. At these shrines you can level-up, fast travel, see what quests you have active, or read lore. Around these shrines in the locations there is a ton to find with many chests and hidden items to collect. Many of the areas also feature optional bosses you can fight for side quests which is rewarding if you are the type of player that likes to search every nook and cranny of locations in games. The locations also tell their own stories and add to the overall feeling of the game in a positive way.
I loved both the artstyle and music in the game. The character, enemy and boss, and world aesthetic is very nice with it perfectly creating a great sense of dread throughout the entire experience. The music adds to this as well with a very haunting orchestral score playing throughout your adventure. Overall presentation is really well-done and is a very welcome aspect of the game.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a game that could’ve been an amazing experience. Instead what I would say of its current state is that it is a very, very rough diamond. There are positives in game like an interesting and intriguing story, awesome presentation both visually and in the sound design, and the blessing and sanity systems. Unfortunately these positives can’t outweigh the odd design decisions for the game’s limited inventory and rather clunky melee combat system.