Morbid: The Seven Acolytes

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is one of those 2D Soulslike games, in this case taking its cues mainly from Bloodborne. It reminds me a lot of Minoria, not because of the nun fetishism that immediately grabs your attention in Minoria (though the protagonist is a woman, there’s nothing especially fetishistic about Morbid, unless you’re really into gore, I guess), but because it feels like an apprentice-level game created as a learning exercise. This isn’t to say that it has no creative identity of its own. It has original worldbuilding and monster designs and locations and piles on some unique mechanics like stealth and inventory tetris. Ultimately, however, when the game is good, it’s because it’s kinda like Bloodborne, and the best thing you can really say about its innovations is that they mostly fade into the background and don’t get in the way. In fairness, the stealth mechanic might’ve been really good, I never really tried it.

Morbid is a much easier game than your standard Soulslike. There is no penalty for death, except in that your sanity doesn’t regenerate when you visit a shrine (the local flavor of bonfire), so any sanity damage you took before getting kicked back to the last shrine will persist. Sanity regenerating items aren’t that hard to come by, however, and sanity damage is rare enough that you’re not likely to have to deal with it often. Since there’s no corpse runs, if you find one part of the game too difficult, there’s no risk or penalty in trying another instead.

Not that you’re especially likely to run into serious difficulty walls. The only particularly hard bosses in the game are King Cornelius and Bile Toad Putrus. The others I generally beat on my first or second attempt, and it should be noted that my first attempt on most bosses happens when I stumble into them unprepared, with half my resources already depleted, and trying to avoid using anything that doesn’t regenerate automatically when I die so that I can save those for a rematch when I’m better prepared both in how many resources I go into the fight with and having a basic understanding of the boss moveset. And I still got the game’s second to last boss on my first try! I doubt this is intentional, either, since some bosses’ later phases are actually easier than their earlier phases (Bile Toad Putrus, for example, uses his most difficult attacks from the very beginning, which means later phases are easier as less difficult attacks get mixed in, decreasing the frequency of the really hard ones).

While slightly disappointing, a game at this level of craft is defintely wise to err on the side of too easy rather than too hard. You still can’t sleepwalk through it, and making a frustrating game that requires you to beat your head against a boss for hours before getting it is a huge gamble. Sure, it can make the game very rewarding to beat, but you have to make a really good game in order to hold a player’s attention long enough to bother beating it. I liked Morbid, and while I would’ve liked it more if its difficulty had been perfectly balanced to the Bloodborne standard, I would’ve liked it much, much less if it had overstayed its welcome. Besides, if someone really wants the game to be hard, they can always equip rubbish weapons and take all their blessings off to give themselves a short healthbar and low damage. Now every boss is a gauntlet that requires perfect play over the course of (estimating since I haven’t tried this) 15-20 minutes, rather than a blitz where victory is decided one way or the other in about 5 minutes and if you find one particular attack to be hard to dodge/parry, you can probably just facetank it and focus on countering the other attacks instead.

Bottom line, this is one of those games that I recommend to anyone who really likes Soulslikes and has already gotten through all the luminaries of the genre. There’s a lot of luminaries to get through in that genre, but not so many that a fan of the genre can’t get through them all. We’re still talking about 50-100 hours’ worth of S-tier Soulslike gameplay being released per year, which is a lot compared to some other genres but still very easy to get through with six months left to fill with stuff like Morbid.

That’s obviously not the highest recommendation possible, but Morbid came along with Raji and Kingdoms of Amalur in the November Humble Choice (along with Eldest Souls, which I passed on because I doubted the creative vision of a game so blatantly aping FromSoftware, and some others I don’t care about at all), and after Raji was a flop and Amalur I had only picked up out of academic curiosity, fully expecting it to also be a flop, I was concerned that maybe November was a flop entirely and I needed to let some months just have no new games at all. While I do still want to keep in mind that it is possible that there will be a Humble Choice with exactly zero games I am interested in, I do think Morbid saves November from that fate. It’s not my new favorite or anything, but I’m glad I played it.

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