The year was 2015, and a little game known as Bloodborne was unleashed. Now, I was never much for the Dark Souls franchise myself. The punishing gameplay was enough to frighten me off. Something was enchanting about that release though. It was utterly beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. So, I dove in headfirst and got immensely frustrated. I’ve never wanted to break my controller so badly. Five years later and Morbid: The Seven Acolytes manages to recapture my wonder. The gore and grotesque creatures brought me back to my mid-twenties. I was willing to experience that soul-crushing part of my life again – I’m a masochist. Will it be able to mimic the awe of my past, or is Morbid doomed to be nothing more than a just morbid curiosity? Awful puns aside, let’s get on with the review!
A GOTHIC SETTING!
You are a Striver; a woman not bothered by her surroundings. With her abilities and her weapon handling, she sets off to confront the Seven Acolytes. As she walks through all the devastation, she’ll face many monstrosities trying to kill her. Along the way, she’ll learn what has happened, but also meet survivors trying to live. It’s a journey full of death and decapitation – a bloody good time to be sure.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes has a simplistic narrative to it. Malevolent deities known as Gahars have been terrorizing and enslaving humans. Throughout the years, many who’ve donned the Striver moniker have tried to fight back. However, each failed in a brutal fashion. It‘s now up to you – the new blood – to attempt to cleanse this dark world of vengeful gods. You’ll achieve this by eliminating the vessels they inhabit – the Acolytes.
THE MISSING NARRATION!
I’m a sucker for a good story. Sadly, there’s not much here. Like the games it directly wants to emulate, most of the information will be told through descriptions found within the in-game encyclopedia – The Morbid Menagerie. After defeating an enemy, you’ll be able to read up on their past. One such foe tells the story of a man that drank a potion to be forever young. Unfortunately, such a thing comes with a hefty trade-off. After consuming it, he went insane. It then caused his body to be deformed.
While I feel this was handled alright, I never felt it fully fleshed out the tale. I did like that most NPC’s are drinking or already drunk. It lends credence to the misery of the world. In the same breath though, it never went into detail on what lead them to the bottle. It’s implied that the broken world has taken its toll, but nothing specific. I would’ve loved to see an actual reason.
- Are they drinking because their family was mangled and murdered?
- Is it because they had to mercy kill the love of their life?
The gothic setting was pleading to be fleshed out. I felt this was a huge missed opportunity not to go into the suffering of the inhabitants. As such, my immersion wasn’t what it could have been. There seems to be so much that’s been left untold.
ROLL, ROLL, ROLL!
Bluntly put, there’s nothing unique about the gameplay. It’s standard fare for games under the action/adventure umbrella. The reason Morbid: The Seven Acolytes stands out is its difficulty. It’s ruthless and it doesn’t give a damn about your feelings. What I especially loved was when returning to starter areas, the monsters still packed a punch. Yes, I was also much stronger. That doesn’t negate the fact I needed to pay attention to their movements. It kept Morbid from becoming stale because my engagement – to a degree – was always there.
Of course, to help maneuver around enemies, the Striver not only able to dodge, but also parry. I’ll be completely honest, I never used the latter. I didn’t know the exact moment to do so. Usually, games indicate this with some kind of cue before the attack. It could be a flash or a sound. There was nothing of the kind here. As a result, I had better luck relying on constant rolling. Thankfully, the buttons are quite responsive with no hiccups that I could notice.
Do keep in mind that a stamina bar has been implemented. Each time you dodge or even swing your weapon, it decreases a bit – I didn’t mind this personally. My one gripe with most games that have this mechanic is that it takes a while to refill. Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is fairly adequate in this, and there are ways to speed it up further. So instead of cheap deaths and frustration, I’d assuredly suffer, I was able to focus on the inherent strategy of it.
BLESSINGS OF THE STRIVER!
While there’s a variation of a level up system, it isn’t in the traditional sense. As you defeat and collect experience, you’ll receive a single skill point once the threshold is hit. At first, it wasn’t clear what these were used for. I’d get several but was unable to spend any. I found it strange that it was done this way. While it’s a method that has actually been used before, it made me question if I had missed something. Thanks to my documented memory problems, it was conceivable. Turns out that I hadn’t and after some progression, I was able to use them.
So, what is it that they do you’re asking me? In Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, you’ll find buffs known as blessings. These are capable of being upgraded five times. To do so, you’ll need to use your skill points as a currency, allocating them to what you’d like. The effects on offer will vary depending on which you use. You’ll be able to get a longer health bar, or increase the speed of your swipes, just to name a few. The latter is especially convenient for heavier weapons. If, like me, you second guess all your decisions, worry not. With each acolyte that’s defeated, you can harness one more blessing. With several to collect, there’s customization available, albeit a small amount.
The blessings themselves are hidden within the environments. They’ll be represented by a statue. I recommend thoroughly exploring as some can be missed. After completing Morbid twice, I still haven’t collected them all.
I’M BAD WITH DIRECTIONS!
Perhaps this will be an isolated issue with me, but I had a hard time moving through a level. While I believe the design, in general, is good, there were points when I couldn’t tell if there was a path or not. More times than I care to admit, I was confused and wandering around aimlessly. Also, because of my aforementioned awful memory, I couldn’t remember where I had been. There are not always distinguishable landmarks to use as a guide. And so, I again began aimlessly wandering. I feel some sort of map would have been beneficial.
PUT IT IN THE HOLE!
As you progress your journey to eradicate the Gahars, you’ll find Runes. You can insert these into your weapons, granting you all sorts of perks. It’s rather helpful, more so once you find the one that increases your attack speed. It injects the Striver with adrenaline, allowing her the strength to quickly swing large swords and maces. It sounds fantastic, but the biggest problem is I didn’t know it existed for my first few hours.
The tutorial in general is activated from books you’ll cross. However, despite having beaten the game twice, I never found one explaining this very mechanic. In fact, I discovered how to do it by accident. While re-organizing my inventory, I hovered over my sword with one. I then hit a button and it slotted in. It turns out all equipment has a set number of sockets to use. Although, these are quite hard to discern. On the screen of my Nintendo Switch, I had to squint and really focus to see how many a certain piece had.
For those wondering, you can remove all the runes after usage. In doing so, they will vanish. My issue with this is that these are limited as is. Instead of having the freedom to toy with what’s found, it’s a one and done deal. If you throw high-quality runes on a spear, only to find a better sword later, you won’t be able to transfer any. This made me hoard all that I’d find instead of utilizing them. I’d be holding out for the best sword or gun.
The music isn’t what I expected. Because of the pixelated nature, I anticipated chiptune. Upon booting up Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, I was welcomed by a choir. Their voices echoed as they sang, building up an epic atmosphere. The credits song was equally as beautiful and haunting. However, Still Running seems to have emphasized nailing an ambiance, and nail it they did. When it, it sounded oddly peaceful. In fact, the track in the very first area is full of violins and the sounds of crashing waves. It’s a big contrast to the brutal nature of combat but I never found it jarring. I never thought it took away from the tension Morbid tried to create with its battles.
AND THE GORY VERDICT IS…
There’s some fun to be had with Morbid: The Seven Acolytes. The fact I was able to replay it immediately is a testament to how good. The controls are snappy and responsive. The music paired with the sounds of weather helps bring the world to life. I loved the pixelated look and I felt the level of detail they were able to pull off is spectacular. A lot of work went into this, but I do wish they innovated more.
It isn’t all positive though; I felt restricted by the rune system. I didn’t have the freedom to slot in runes and remove them as I pleased. It created needless hoarding since I was always anticipating a better weapon. I think allowing us a chance to reuse runes would convince the players to be more open to experimentation.
What hurt Morbid: The Seven Acolytes most for me was the lack of story. I was missing the immersion. The minimal dialogue that it does have felt lacking. It relied too much on my going into the Morbid Menagerie for context on the things said. On the positive side, I adored the tranquil music full of violins and the sounds of nature. Still Running nailed the sound design and I highly recommend headphones.
Despite some negatives, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is still very fun. It never overstayed its welcome either, coming in at a respectable 6 hours. It is, perhaps, a tad too expensive. If you’re able to grab it for 20% off, I feel that’s more than fair. For these reasons, I exclaim that;
MORBID: THE SEVEN ACOLYTES IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Merge Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.