Out amongst the planets and stars can be found the mysterious material called Morphite. Not seen for many years, new discoveries of it coincide with a wave of attacks by raiders. Are these two events linked? And what is one young woman’s connection to the sought after element?
Morphite is a first person exploration shooter. The player takes control of Myrah Kale as she travels from planet to planet following the trail of Morphite, and uncovering secrets about her past. Or, maybe, the player instead decides to just explore planets.
The game contains some very distinct game play sections. From Myrah’s spaceship the player can browse the Galaxy Map or Solar Map, travelling from system to system as well as to different planets within a system. Planets and space stations can be visited and explored, where the player can make scans of life forms to later sell for money. Other items, like minerals, bonus weapons and ammo can also be collected from these locations.
Money and minerals can be used to upgrade Myrah’s suit, weapons and spaceship. While travelling, random encounters may occur. These can range from trading with a passing merchant vessel, to dodging asteroids, or even spaceship dog fights.
There is a story which the player can pursue, as Myrah discovers her past and the link she shares with Morphite. Following the main narrative is the only way for the player to unlock new weapons, as Myrah accrues them along her travels. However, at any point, the player is free to explore the galaxy.
Non-narrative related planets are procedurally generated. They vary widely in environments, including arid deserts, exotic jungles and harsh larva fields. The flora and fauna too, which populate the worlds, can be quite varied and make exploring each planet quite interesting.
Visually Morphite is heavily stylised, drawing on angular shapes and flat colours to communicate its alien worlds. It harkens back to retro 3D space games like Elite, or even Starfox. Lighting and environmental effects help to bring this all to life.
As an overall product Morphite is a little hard to pin down. It offers up some truly amazing experiences, while at the same time being guilty of some horrendous atrocities.
The method, and feel, of travelling from planet to planet is perfect. It isn’t too complicated, and contains some mild resource management which makes the galaxy feel expansive, but not so large as to be unassailable. The addition of random encounters is a nice touch, and injects some interaction into what could have been a very dry element of the game.
Planetary exploration, too, is a lot of fun. There is an interesting mix of environments to traverse, with some really unique flora and fauna to discover. Visiting planets is literally drop-in-and-drop-out, as Myrah descends to the surface in her drop pod and leaves the same way. So once you are done with a planet there is no barrier keeping the player from continuing their exploration of the universe.
As a whole the procedurally generated planets are handled well. Planets are created from pre-designed topography which is stitched together via passes or tunnels. Onto these areas the planets ‘theme’ is randomly generated. So even if a player is familiar with the basic layout of an area it’s content and effect is different each time.
The scanning of life forms and items is a great idea, too. It forces the player to engage with the environment in a way that other games do not normally call for. Some animals are hostile, and can be killed, but this isn’t required. It is nice to see a developer thinking about how players can be directed to interact with a game, without resorting to lining up mooks for them to blow away.
For all the great elements, Morphite is equally as wonky in other areas. Some of the specifically designed narrative levels are awful, in the very least from a level design perspective. Little slips in layout negate the effectiveness of some challenges, to the point where these puzzles can be ignored entirely with a couple of jumps or the use of an item.
The sound can be a mixed bag as well. Some of the sound effects are quirky and interesting, but this is tempered by some bland or obtuse voice acting. Also, while the planets are visually appealing they are lacking in environmental effects. Seeing clutches of trees being blown forcefully by a silent wind is a little disappointing.
While the narrative missions are handled well – Myrah’s helpful assistant Kitkat marks your path on the Galaxy Map – the side missions are frustratingly vague. Some list the unhelpful location of ‘nearby planet’ as the source, which may be the same solar system, or on the other side of the Galaxy Map! Also, some of the side missions are odd physics-based challenges which require pinpoint movement that the system doesn’t handle that well.
In fact Morphite does away with almost any hand holding, to the detriment of a lot of the game. There is a brief tutorial at the start, but apart from that directions are either non-existent or overly vague. In some cases this can lead to wandering around levels with no clear indicator as to what the player should be doing. I had played for over 12 hours before I discovered that one of the items I had collected, a cybernetic pug dog, allowed me to place a turret. I thought the developers had just forgotten about the character!
Taken as a whole Morphite has its issues. Some of these problems can be incredibly jarring, but even so, the good aspects of the game rise above them. A lot of attention has been paid to creating evocative and engaging alien worlds, which those who love exploring environments are bound to appreciate. I doubt that the story is going to rock anyone’s world, but it does a fair job of supporting the interesting exploration mechanics, as well as gradually introducing new weapons and items.
If you are aching to traverse the stars and discover alien worlds, then Morphite has a lot to show you.
Morphite was developed by Crescent Moon Games, We’re Five Games and Blowfish Studios. It is published by Crescent Moon Games and is available right now on Steam, PS4, Xbox One and iOS.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 16 hours