by December 3, 2020 @ 8:30 am
Reviewed on Switch
There’s something quite soothing about the sound of hard rain hitting old stone rooftops. Maybe you hear a crack of lightning off in the distance. And maybe, just maybe, you can sneak up on that goblin-looking monster and gut it with your oversized blade. Unless you get killed, which is a massive possibility. Morbid: The Seven Acolytes from developer Still Running is horrific, challenging, and breathtaking — in more ways than one. It offers a level of challenge that feels like a cross between Souls-likes and retro games, and it’s an absolutely entrancing horror RPG.
Strive On, Striver
In Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, you play as the last in a line of Strivers. These warriors are destined to battle and destroy the Seven Acolytes and restore normality in the world — or at least some semblance of normality. Well, it looks like all those who tried before you have failed, so you’re up!
The backstory of Morbid is kept purposely vague. Like a lot off other Souls-likes, this game builds its world and lore using its atmosphere and imagery, and it’s up to you to put the pieces together. The result is a world that’s filled with horrorpunk imagery, disgusting creatures, and brooding aesthetics.
A Little Bit Souls, A Little Bit CRPG
One of the biggest takeaways is the manner in which Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is presented. Though mechanically the game is very much a Souls-like adventure, it offers an isometric camera perspective in line with classic CRPG series like Diablo and Wasteland. Though other hard-as-hell games have been presented in a top-down perspective before, this still feels like a mostly untapped convention. This makes the experience feel pretty unique.
Novelty aside, though, it’s the actual gameplay of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes that will hook you. This is a slower-paced game that requires you to play methodically at all times. There are enemies at every turn, and they’re all pretty tough. You probably already figured this out the moment I said the word “souls” earlier, but I’m going to say it anyway, because it’s fun: You’re going to die a lot in this game. Scratch that. You’re going to die a lot a lot. You should probably know by know whether or not that’s your thing.
Thankfully, the isometric view makes Morbid a little different from its unforgiving brethren. For example, because you always have a good view of the map around you, it’s hard to get ambushed by enemies. As you move through the haunted wasteland, you’ll see where enemies are waiting for you. Maybe they have their backs turned, or maybe they’re roaming around a small area. Either way, you can almost always plan ahead when it comes to these encounters. Of course, there are baddies, specifically when you go off the beaten path, that like to hide in bushes or behind walls.
Your character’s movements aren’t super fast, so you’ll need to employ a bit of strategic timing when encountering enemies, whether they’re smaller creatures, medium-sized monsters, or massive abominations that look like they were taken from a body horror film. You’ve got weak and strong attacks at your disposal, as well as a dodge roll and parry that can often mean the difference between life and death.
You also have a stamina meter, so you’ll have to keep an eye on that when you’re engaged in combat. Thankfully, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is quite generous when it comes to managing your stamina. Though there were times when I completely drained my character’s stamina bar, it was usually when I got too aggressive with my attacks. If you play carefully and wisely, you shouldn’t have this problem.
You’ll come across all manner of melee weapons and firearms as you play through Morbid. Experimenting with these is a lot of fun, and attaching buffs and elemental upgrades to your weapons is highly satisfying — especially when you put your freshly upgraded weapon to the test against a couple of monsters.
A Blood-Soaked and Fleshy World
Exploring the world of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is just as wholesome as the combat. This is a world shrouded in mystery, and though nothing is ever made crystal clear, you’ll discover bits and pieces of a land that once was. During your travels you’ll meet NPCs that task you with completing side missions. Maybe you need to locate a special item or character. In any case, these missions can typically be completed as you journey through the map anyway. It’s through these NPC interactions and missions, though, where you’ll discover bits and pieces of lore.
Speaking of the game’s world, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes features a mix of aesthetics ranging from horrorpunk to Lovecraftian to dark fantasy. The mood of the game is very somber, and it comes through perfectly thanks to the detailed pixel art. When you’re not breathing in the brooding landscape, you’ll be grossed out by decaying creatures and creepy, crawly, fleshy corruptions. There’s a menacing vibe to all of the enemies in the game thanks in large part to their incredible designs. Whether you’re facing a regular-sized, hood-wearing executioner or a gargantuan beast, there’s this hopeless you-versus-the-world feeling at all times.
Aside from the atmospheric sounds in Morbid, you’ll also hear a nice collection of great themes. The music is sometimes sad and morose, while other times it’s eerie and haunting. It always sounds grand, though — almost like it’s a character in the game. Like an Italian giallo horror film, the music is just as much a part of the visceral experience that Morbid offers as the gameplay, visuals, and world.
Maybe this speaks volumes of the themes and tones I enjoy in games, movies, books, and other media, but I felt right at home while exploring the ruined and ravaged world of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes. It’s eerie, tough, and saturated with pixelated gore. The game is very much in line with what you’d expect from a Souls-like, but it’s so incredibly designed that it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other dark and brutal RPGs like it.
Score: 9 out of 10
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