Morphite Review – Procedurally generated space exploration take two

Platforms:
iOSPS4Xbox OneNintendo SwitchPC
Released:
September 20, 2017
Publisher:
Crescent Moon Games
Developers:
Blowfish StudiosWe're Five Games

Review

Morphite is a first person space exploration game where you explore the galaxy as Myra Kale. Visit procedurally generated planets, battle creatures, research animals and plants as you unravel the mystery surrounding Morphite! This is starting to sound familiar. Procedurally generated planets… research… exploration… first person – sounds somewhat similar to a certain other space exploration indie title that came out last year. A title which unfortunately was not received so well.

So, is Morphite going to be THAT game? Or will it execute on its premise and provide a rewarding and interesting experience? The truth is a little of column A and a little of Column B. The end product is great to look at and reaches its potential in parts, yet is held back by some frustrating mechanics. This makes Morphite a game that is equal parts beautiful and fun, yet frustrating and boring.

In the story you play Myra Cale, a young explorer. Myra lives on a space station with her carer and a floating robot cat, Kit Cat! You are sent out on an exploration mission with Kit Cat, a scanner and a pistol. On this mission you come across some morphite, an element that was believed to no longer exist. It turns out the morphite is capable of being turned into weapons. What follows is an intergalactic space adventure of self discovery.

Now the first sign that all is not so well in this game is the method of travelling. Either Myra chose the wrong ship or they just don’t make them with fuel tanks large enough to get you anywhere. The map is Mass Effect style, an over-map with galaxies, each containing some planets and a space station.  If you need to travel any further than the next galaxy over, you will need to stop for gas at a space station. So it works like this: figure out where you need to go and then open the map, choose closest galaxy, travel, go to space station, refuel, back to map, next galaxy and repeat. Sometimes 4-5 times or more. Trust me, when you are in this cycle it feels like it’s taking forever and is incredibly frustrating.

One thing I can’t fault the game for are the visuals. Lovely low poly visuals harking back to the days of pre-texture mapping and lighting. Thinking early first person computer games, Another World style visuals. Couple this with bright contrasting colours and the result becomes a game that frequently has you visit a planet that is so strikingly beautiful that it makes the constant gas stops worthwhile.

This also translates to the animals and enemies you will meet along the way. The animals range from resembling Dinosaurs, to walking trees, and everything in between, both friendly and hostile. They look great enough to be genuinely interesting and can be quite large. Some of the boss creatures are really cool (CRYOSHARK!) and there is no clipping meaning they don’t walk through obstacles.

As with many of the strong points of this game there is a negative. When it comes to the creatures, the AI is terrible. They get themselves stuck fairly frequently. In fact I defeated a boss creature by getting it stuck then just shooting it till it died. Plus the land based ones can’t jump so if you want to scan something dangerous just get its attention and jump up on a rock or something and you will be safe. Then fire away.

Speaking of shooting, this is a first person space exploration game with guns. The controls are really sensitive and there is no auto aim to speak of so it can be quite difficult at times. There is a target lock function but I found it to be unreliable. Most of the creatures don’t fire projectiles and your weapons don’t have the greatest range. A typical battle will involve you shooting something, it running toward you, you losing your aim and firing wildly whilst trying to run backward. Good times. Interestingly, you cannot fire through gaps so if there is a gap between some hanging branches or between some rocks then your bullets won’t make it through.

The NPCs in the game are few and far between. Most you cannot interact with, which is interesting when you are firing away at ammo crates (why not have a button to just pick them up?) at a space station and nobody is concerned. You run into the odd character every now and again on a planet with a trivial side quest such as feeding them marshmallows. Even the main characters in the game don’t have a lot of interaction outside of asking you to go to X planet and get Y item and bring it back.

The soundtrack on the other hand is excellent. It’s all synthesiser based which ranges from groovy to atmospheric. It’s 80’s sounding without going too Tangerine Dream. It really suits the look of the game and the different tracks are well matched to whatever is happening in the game as you play, enhancing your experience. It also very nearly makes those long intergalactic trips with the frequent stops bearable.

The Bottom Line

Morphite is a  game that has a lot going for it but lets itself down on many fronts – for every positive there is a negative. Great visuals and sound, varied creatures and enemies, loads of varied planets to visit, explore and scan. However  getting to those planets is pointlessly inconvenient and boring. The controls are overly sensitive making gunfights frustrating at times, the creature AI is terrible for the most part making them easy targets for the smart gamer and there is a story, but essentially the game would be the same without it.

Overall, Morphite almost delivers on its premise but counters all it’s positives with negatives. Certainly a playable and enjoyable game if you have the patience to look past its shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is.