Souls-like games are very hit-or-miss. I mean, it’s kinda hard to replicate what made the Souls series work so well. Yet every once in a while, we get an indie studio that tries to do just that – and some can get pretty close. Morbid is the latest to try to break into the genre, this time from an isometric viewpoint.
Simple, yet satisfying combat. Morbid self-identifies as an isometric Souls-like, so you’re going to get the usuals associated with that genre – tough combat, few checkpoints, and boss-focused progression. The core to that experience though is the combat, and that is something that Morbid does really well. Right off the bat, one of the first things I noticed was the weight behind it. It isn’t like you’re just cutting down 2D sprites, hits have proper impact and provide enough feedback that you really get a feel for the combat. Whether I be using a trident or some giant cleaver, the game really nails this aspect of the genre.
It does this while also keeping things relatively simple. You’ve got the basics like dodge, attack, special attack, sneak, and parry, which all feel great, but then some additions on top of that that, while seemingly small on paper, really change how the combat works compared to others in the genre. The biggest of these is the addition of guns, which you can fire at anytime during combat and can upgrade just like your melee weapon. They’re quick as well, no need to put away your weapon and pull out the gun in some overly long animation. You can just start blasting and it’s a lot of fun to use them during mix-ups – especially because they don’t consume stamina.
The other cool addition is by way of weapon upgrades that can be found on the map or dropped by certain enemies. There are elemental upgrades (fire, electric, poison, etc.), stat upgrades (like attack speed), and others that add life steal or sanity steal. Sanity is basically a meter that determines how much damage you deal, take, and how much XP you earn. It’s increased by certain attacks and there are even weapons that inflict sanity damage on you at the expense of doing more damage to enemies – a very cool tradeoff that I definitely made heavy use of during my playthrough.
All of this lends itself to some really fun combat. It’s definitely difficult at times, but that just comes with the genre and I had a great time improving upon my combat with each death.
Very cool level up mechanic. Instead of going for a more traditional skill-based level up system (such as in the Souls games), Morbid instead has a “blessing” mechanic. Throughout the game, you will find these “blessings” hidden away on the map and they basically take the form of passive upgrades that you can freely equip and swap around at shrines – with each boss kill granting you a new slot. The skill points that you earn actually go into upgrading these blessings rather than upgrading core stats. And because they can be swapped to and from, you’re encouraged to find what combo works best for any given area or specific boss.
A blessing that increases firearm damage may be helpful against one boss, but not against another, whereas a blessing that increases your sneak ability won’t be helpful at all during a boss fight. I quite liked this change of pace compared to the usual RPG formula where if you stat wrong you can mess up the rest of your playthrough. It removes a significant portion of that risk and instead encourages experimentation, something I wish more games from this genre did.
Nice enemy and boss variety. Morbid is a very well-paced experience. Throughout the six hours it took me to clear it, I was constantly introduced to new enemies, new areas, and cool new bosses to fight. You’re never really stuck in one place for too long and by the time you’ve found the next, there’s another set of new enemies to adapt to. The game doesn’t just copy-paste these enemies and slap different skins on them though, they have entirely new move sets, some even adding new mechanics (like spraying acid or inflicting sanity attacks).
This extends to the bosses as well, of which there are seven main ones (hence the title) and several mid-bosses. These fights ended up being my favorite part to the game – they really showcase the strengths of the combat while also not being too similar to one another. Really, I was just impressed with the how much was packed into the experience – it’s much better than the quality we usually get from such games.
Excellent graphics. Of course, I can’t close out the pros without mentioning the graphics – as that is what originally drew me to this game after all. Well, now that I’ve played it, I can definitely say they don’t disappoint. The art is stylized, yet incredibly detailed and they really went all-out on the “Lovecraftian horrorpunk” look – as the game’s store page puts it. Color choice, lighting, animations, they’re all great and I don’t really have any complaints outside of one issue I’ll discuss shortly. The music, while not quite as good, is still decent and a good match for the kind of atmosphere that the devs went for here.
Frustrating map design. Depending on the area, you’ll oftentimes find yourself running into invisible wall after invisible wall. Some bushes the game lets you walk through, but others it doesn’t. Sometimes you’re able to walk behind a building, but other times you aren’t. It’s a combination of both the obtuse map design and lack of graphical depth that lead to this issue – an unfortunate downside to the otherwise excellent art.
This is made worse by the lack of any sort of in-game map. There are a ton of branching paths, so I would oftentimes find myself just wandering around hoping to find that path that leads me to the next area. If that path ends up being some very small entrance or through a bush, it just makes the whole process that much harder.
Frequent gameplay annoyances. The core combat may be great, but it isn’t without its issues. For one, hitboxes are not always that clear. Sometimes you’re able to hit an enemy from farther away than what you would expect and sometimes you can be standing almost right on top of an enemy and still somehow miss. Then there’s the issue of attack direction. It wasn’t uncommon for me to initiate an attack but end up executing it in the opposite direction from where I intended. You’re locked into a direction once you start an attack, so it can be quite frustrating when this happens.
It was also mildly annoying that any sort of damage at all cancels your attacks. This is likely a design choice, but it felt like it actively discouraged the use of heavy weapons. You’ll be prepping this mega attack and be one frame from landing it only to barely touch some acid on the ground that cancels the attack entirely and leaves you open for damage.
And it isn’t just the combat with issues. The base movement speed – both in combat and out – I found to be incredibly slow. You’re practically forced to sprint to get anywhere, which drains your already limited stamina. It often felt like I was struggling against my stamina meter more so than any enemy or other hazard. Again, this is likely by design, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Very limited settings.
The only graphical options you’ll find in Morbid are a brightness slider and a fullscreen toggle – that’s it. I know this is an indie game and all, but I would at least expect a resolution setting, a borderless window option, and perhaps some sort of frame limiting or VSync option – although the game is hard locked at 60 fps so those last two probably would not do much. EDIT: The game added resolution and Vsync options shortly after this review was published.
This lack of settings extends into the controls as well, of which there is absolutely zero configuration offered. You get the default controls and that’s it – no remapping and you can’t even pull up an image to tell you what those controls are. The game at least plays well on both controller and keyboard and mouse, but the ability to remap controls (let alone view them) is something that should be in the game day 1.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a solid take on the Souls-like genre. It’s got some incredibly fun combat, a very cool level up mechanic in place of the traditional skill-based one, nice enemy and boss variety, and some excellent graphics rounding it all out. It isn’t without its issues – mainly with regards to its map design and frequent gameplay annoyances – but it is definitely worth a look for fans of the genre – it’s one of the better ones to have come out this year.
Quote: Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a solid take on the Souls-like genre. It’s got some incredibly fun combat, nice enemy and boss variety, and some excellent graphics rounding it all out.
You can buy Morbid: The Seven Acolytes on Steam here. The game is also available on Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.