Morbid: The Seven Acolytes – Not As Deadly As It Seems

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes Review

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a beautiful game to look at in a terrifying way. The horror-punk pixel aesthetic brings this world to life and the monster and boss designs will keep surprising you even towards the end. But as great as the enemies and environments are to look at, the gameplay fails to hold up the impressive visuals. From repetitive combat to questionable early game choices, there are many places Morbid stumbles. It still may be worthy of your attention, but you shouldn’t get into this one for the gameplay.

New Places, Same Events

Like many modern RPGs, Morbid is inspired by the Dark Souls franchise. Bonfires where you spend your levels and respawn, the limited healing resource you get back at those checkpoints, invincible dodge action, parries, so on. Lots of players, including myself, were attracted to the lure of Souls-like gameplay which usually means solid, tension-filled combat and interesting enemies to fight. I’m sad to report that for Morbid, this is not the case.

Pretty much all enemies and bosses fight the same. You attack once, they attack once, you attack, they attack, repeat until it’s over. There aren’t even moments you can land a satisfying combo, because monsters aren’t staggered by your attacks. But this doesn’t mean that the combat is difficult. Since most enemies have only a single attack, it becomes laughably easy to parry your way through the entire game. You might also be surprised that bosses also perform their 2-3 attacks on repeat, so you don’t have to change your strategy much against them either.

The fact that you can stand in front of the monster and just parry everything really takes away from the tension of the game. The only thing that the monsters do have is the fact that they hit very hard, however, with the amount of healing the game provides you with, it’s never that threatening. This is compounded by the fact that you can outrun all monsters and they never corner you if you take the wrong turns, meaning you can just rush for the next bonfire.

Other Souls-likes I’ve seen incentivize exploration, and to a certain extent, Morbid tries to encourage it, too. However, I soon realized it’s a waste of time, as the loot you find out of the way are always useless consumables that are never worth your time. There aren’t any armour or cosmetics in the game, so exploring to make your character look better is also off the table. 

How about the weapons? Well, they follow the same pattern: They may look different, but they all play the same. One of the biggest mistakes in the game design of Morbid was not adding any sort of stagger to the enemies. Since you have to either dodge or parry after every attack, you end up playing every weapon the exact same way. No cool combos with quick daggers, no ferocious knockdowns with your warhammer. Everything is just a stick.

The environments are another terribly missed opportunity. I get the sense that perhaps the artist and the gameplay director weren’t talking to each other when they designed these stages. They may look beautiful, but they offer up nothing but just a pretty backdrop to look at that doesn’t really add much to the gameplay. For the simplest example, there are no places where I would have to work my way up to a barricade of archers through obstacles, as you can just run straight at the enemies in Morbid. I never really felt lost and had the great tension of trying to desperately search for the next bonfire as they were too abundant. Again, it’s really a shame because the environments look so good.

Weird Early Game Choices

Early on in the game, you are introduced to a skill system as you start gaining your levels. However, no matter what you do at the bonfire, there are no ways to spend your levels. This is especially distressing, as the game warns you about the fact that you are gaining levels and can spend them on skills. Needless to say, I was frustrated and I thought I was an idiot.

Another weird choice is that for some reason, they decided to make the guns absolutely useless in the early portions of the game. This was quite disappointing, as the game advertised guns as one of its selling points. Why would I use something that only has five shots that do pitiful damage when I can kill everything with my sword? Later on, once you have more ammo and good guns, they become better, but by then I was so unconditioned in using it, I just forgot about it and stuck to my melee. Would it really have hurt the game to make your five shots in the early game more powerful?

With all the downsides in the gameplay department, I can’t reiterate enough how awesome the game looks. The monsters—from the simplest flesh pods, to a boss who uses her internal organs as a flail—are a delight to discover. The story in the game, although not terribly deep, is very interesting and the lore offers great snippets into the world. My only wish for it is that it had more interesting NPCs for me to have gotten attached to, as the silent protagonist isn’t doing much for me to invest emotionally into this world.

I’m not suggesting that the game needs some huge amounts of dialogue, as I think the quietness fits it well. But few NPCs with sparse but strong lines could have done wonders for the emotional stakes of the piece.

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes certainly isn’t a game you should pick up for its gameplay. The combat is just shallow, but in no way unplayable. If you are intrigued by the game’s world and aesthetics—and you aren’t much of a stickler for gameplay—I’d happily recommend it.

***PC review code provided by the publisher.***

The Good

  • Gorgeous pixel art
  • Imaginative monster designs
  • Terrifyingly dark horrorpunk

The Bad

  • Shallow combat
  • Confusing early game decisions
  • Unsatisfying loot