Reviewed on the Xbox One.
When I hear the term “Souls-like”, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Any RPG that has a moderate level of difficulty will get slapped with the label. Many games try to replicate Fromsoftware’s masterpiece to no avail, while games like The Surge and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order succeed in forging their own identity whilst wearing that Souls patch on their sleeve. Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is the latest to take a stab at the Souls formula. The top-down action RPG is a rotten tribute stuffed with hideous creatures and gore set in a Lovecraftian world. At first promising, sharp combat ideas and play style variation slowly devolve into a one-dimensional experience with too many indistinguishable items, hollow RPG elements, and a rather soft endgame.
Familiar Premise, Fresh Presentation
You play as the last remaining Striver, a warrior race whose sole mission is to destroy the Seven Acolytes. The Acolytes are powerful beings who have been possessed by some bad juju and now their corruption has spread across the kingdom of Mornia. The story is uninspired at best, but it sets the stage for Morbid’s excellent art direction. Mornia is a decaying land, and it looks like it. The swampy Felfields are rife with toxicity and mutated horrors; the Gardens of Mornia have long wilted away and fed off of the darkness. There wasn’t a glimmer of hope anywhere that I had explored. The soundtrack also lends itself to Morbid‘s theme expertly. Composer Simo Talasranta has created some great ominous tracks to accompany you throughout Mornia, and a bombastic orchestra adds to the intensity of Boss battles.
Lost in Mornia, Quest-ionable Tasks
Navigation of certain locations takes the dreadful aesthetic a step too far. Grimwald’s Grove, for instance, is a winding mess of bogs and grass. Trying to find pathways and objectives is a nightmare without any sort of map to consult, and your memory is already tied down to quests and locations that can only be referenced at Shrines. It feels like a chore more than it does a challenge. Shrines(Morbid’s version of Bonfires) were my only saving grace here, as they gave me the ability to heal and travel out of the zone.
Quests themselves are the weakest link of the RPG chain. I found a grand total of four side quests in my playthrough, all with the same task: find a mini-boss, kill him and get some loot. I was expecting more quests, and more variety to compliment the number of NPCs that reside in the Village Aer’Abuh and city of Yortael, but they spout the same 4-5 lines of dialogue. Tracking quests can only be done at Shrines, which is an issue. One of the four side quests actually instructed me to the wrong zone in order to turn in the quest, and I lost close to 2 hours searching for the NPC in a completely different area. That’s one way to increase the longevity of a game.
You’ve got a sword and a firearm to carry out your duties. The controls are basic, with two buttons devoted to regular and ‘special’ melee attacks, and a combination of the right stick and the right trigger for firearms. Instead of the hack-and-slash approach, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes relies on the player to take advantage of evasive rolls and parries while monitoring their stamina consumption. In addition to stamina, you’ll have to watch your sanity meter closely. If it drops too low, the Striver will do more damage – at the cost of hallucinating hostile spirits. The choice of taking on more creatures in exchange for a damage buff provides a unique aspect to Morbid’s combat but was spoiled by the constant purple flash that borders your screen until your sanity is restored.
Stealth options presented throughout the game allow players to sneak behind enemies and deliver a stronger attack. The Striver can seemingly “blend” into grass and shrubbery until it’s time to strike. The problem is, I never actually knew how effective it was. Using a special attack from behind didn’t have any noticeable difference in comparison to being in stealth mode. I simply sprinted past most enemies in close proximity without grabbing their attention. It didn’t do much to compliment the more satisfying parry-focused approach I was taking.
As you kill things over time, you’ll earn skill points. Upgrade blessings to higher powers once you’ve unlocked them. Blessings are used to increase your stamina, health, do more firearm damage, etc. Doing more firearm damage opened up my playstyle, and offered a fair balance between my sword and crossbow. Increased stamina allowed me to be more agile, or get a few more swings out of my heavier weapons. This is where Morbid‘s RPG elements shine brightest.
Too Many Items, Not Enough Pockets
Morbid‘s fatal flaws lie within the game’s repetitive items and its egregious inventory system. You’ll find runes and shrooms to empower your weapons, or mysterious liquids and capsule to affect your core attributes. There’s one major issue: there are simply too damn many. It’s easy to hang onto a maximum capacity of items, and too difficult to get rid of them. Item chests respawn after healing at a Shrine, making it simple to farm them in a short radius for an endless supply of items. Coupled with the fact that they can be found by crushing boxes or slaying enemies, and it’s seriously overstuffed.
I had no luck in finding a vendor to turn in my recycled weapons and items, much to my dismay. Whenever I needed to dispose of something, I tossed it on the ground and forgot about it. You can’t rearrange items to maximize space. Situation and necessity should have made an impact on what I chose to keep or discard. I didn’t want to be hogtied by outdated inventory management and an overabundance of consumables.
Cruising Across The Finish Line
Towards the end of my journey, specifically in the city of Yortael, the difficulty took its foot off the gas pedal. The Acolytes located here are laughably easy to dispose of; one of them didn’t actually damage me once. My blessed firearm carried me through the final 3 bosses, doing absurd amounts of damage. The final boss served no match for my dodge and shoot “strategy” and crumbled on my first attempt. The previously mentioned abundance of items felt like the “X” factor here, I never ran out of ammunition or consumables to maintain my health and sanity. I was gifted many duplicate weapons to ensure I went in fully loaded. It made all of the battles to earn what I had equipped earlier feel empty. As a result, it hardly felt liberating after I completed the game.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes does a fine job of setting the tone for its story with great visuals and a booming soundtrack. A flood of consumables, shoddy inventory system, poorly fleshed out quests and an anti-climactic finish leave too much to be desired. It’s worth a look, but don’t be surprised to see it collect dust in your library. If you’re interested, check out Morbid: The Seven Acolytes on Steam and all console platforms.