By Henry Badilla / November 25th, 2017
|Developer||Blowfish Studios, Crescent Moon Games|
|Release Date||November 2nd, 2017|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS|
As Captain Kirk used to say at the beginning of Star Trek, “Space, the final frontier.” We can now simulate cities and to a point all of the United States as seen in The Crew, but the idea of a game in which we can go from planet to planet exploring them and actually taking off on a spaceship is something that No Man’s Sky tried to do and showed us that the technology may not be there yet. Morphite is a game that gives us a sci-fi narrative and a bit of space exploration. The question is, how good does it feel to explore the universe this time?
After finishing the main story in Morphite I feel that it tried to be two different games, so I will split this review explaining what I think of each one of them. Let’s talk about the sci-fi adventure first. Myrah Kale, our protagonist, is a young woman who lives with Mr. Mason, an adventurer and mechanic that lives on a space station and has taken care of Myrah after her parent’s disappearance. As Myrah became an adult Mr. Mason has been giving her small tasks that he is not able to do himself anymore, like investigating nearby planets. In one of these missions Myrah comes in contact with Morphite, a living mineral said to have immeasurable power. This finding leads to an intergalactic adventure searching for more pieces of Morphite that will help her reveal what happened to her parents and what her future holds.
This game, while being a First Person Shooter, has a bigger focus on exploration than the action. As you can expect from a console shooter the left analog stick controls the movement of Myrah while the right analog sticks controls her aim. The right trigger is used for shooting and the left trigger is for an auto-aim option that allows you to keep shooting while moving. This will sound odd for a FPS but the truth is that the aiming on this game is not precise. It doesn’t matter how little you try to move the right analog stick, the aim always jumps around, which is why this auto-aim option is mandatory during any encounter on the game. However there are several puzzles which require you to shoot at a switch from a distance which can be tedious since such a simple action takes too much time to perform properly.
The second part of adventuring comes from the use of a Scanner. You are asked to try scanning all of the life you encounter in each planet. To do so you have to aim the scanner for a couple of seconds for the scan to be recorded. For all the plants and minerals this is quite easy, but when trying to aim at a moving animal or an aggressive enemy this becomes tedious and frustrating due to the reasons above. Auto-aim never works here and the hit box that you have to aim the scanner at is so small that you have to do it a couple of times to try to get it right. Thankfully scanning is mostly used to get money in the game. But there are some rare scans that are required to explore planets that are extremely hot or cold, so in the end it is a necessary evil.
The rest of the main quest is pretty similar to an adventure game like Metroid. You will have to complete puzzles, jump through platforms, defeat enemies and usually after 2 or 3 planets you will encounter a new weapon that is required to open new doors or solve puzzles. If the whole game was focused on this story and exploration I would recommend it. It has its flaws mainly in the shooting, but you are never required to have frame-perfect shots, the bosses are relatively easy and the story, while not mind-blowing, is entertaining and enjoyable. However, along with the story based missions, there is an open-world adventure in which you can navigate randomly-generated planets for scans and upgrades, and I didn’t like that part much.
The first thing that I need to mention is that you don’t really use your spaceship. You select from a menu to choose which galaxy you want to go to. Depending on how far it is your spaceship consumes more gasoline, which regenerates over time, and after a short cut-scene you’re there. Secondly you don’t actually explore a full planet, instead you explore an area of a planet with invisible walls or high mountains that prevent you from exploring it fully. And besides the story-related planets, these feel empty. There are not many different types of enemies or animals in general. The planets all look similar and scanning them just because you have to do so gets old quickly.
You are able to upgrade your suit by finding rare scans but these are also random and during my playtime I didn’t find anything that wasn’t mandatory to get to advance through the story. And even those upgrades were hard to get because you can’t upgrade your suit at any time. There are upgrade stations that you may run into randomly, and while there are space stations on each galaxy, not all of them have a place to upgrade your suit or weapons. So when I was required to upgrade my suit to stand a higher temperature I had to travel aimlessly for around 3 hours until I found an upgrade station.
I did mention that you can upgrade your weapons but don’t expect much of it. You can increase damage, ammo capacity and aim, but I was able to beat the game by just upgrading my main gun a bit, so this is never really necessary. Your ship can also be upgraded in regards to armor, gasoline capacity, and weapons. Which means that, yes, there is a bit of space combat, but it consists of shooting at incoming spaceships with a stationary gun. I only encountered this once as part of the main story and was able to beat it without upgrading any gun prior to it. So as you can see the exploration portion of the game feels bland, basic, and uninspired. The different planets are not too different from one another and there is no real end goal besides upgrading everything to the maximum.
Moving to the art department, the graphics of the game are very subjective this time. I personally don’t like the use of polygons to represent the game and feel that games around the PS1-N64 era haven’t aged well. But I’m sure that this art style will resonate with some people so that’s really up to you. I didn’t run into any graphical issues during the campaign that I didn’t force myself, like standing on a corner and aiming everywhere until you see the space between the walls, for example.
The soundtrack goes for a mysterious vibe on most of the songs, but personally the audio is so low that I felt that there was no background music most of the game. This feels very evident on the randomly-generated planets. The boss-song however was very enjoyable and I only wish bosses were more memorable.
In conclusion I feel that the idea of this game was good, a space-exploration adventure with a nice story. However the execution wasn’t the best and there are many little details that by themselves may not sound like much, but combined cause the whole package to suffer from it. The game is out for $15 and it took me around 20 hours to complete it even though I didn’t explore much. We’ll keep on the lookout for an amazing space game but I hope that the developers of Morphite take everything learned here and show us a better exploration game in the future, I’ll be happy to eat my words.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Blowfish StudiosExplorationFPSMorphitenintendo switchSteam