I’ve been playing a lot of soulslike games lately. There has been, of course, my playthrough of Demon’s Souls, and recently Chronos: Before the Ashes (you can find that review here). But Morbid: The Seven Acolytes brings a refreshing top-down perspective to the sub-genre. It’s not the first time a game with Souls inspiration used an isometric perspective, but it’s one that really fits this type of game.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a top-down action role-playing game with soulslike qualities. It uses a shrine checkpoint system that works a lot like bonfires. There is a healing item that you use to get your health back that replenishes at these shrines. Shrines also enable fast travel and character upgrades through a system of interchangeable buffs. Combat is mostly melee-based, with some ranged weapons thrown in, with stamina management a major concern. It’s also pretty tough, with varied enemy types and notable boss encounters. And it’s all rendered in a pixel-art style in a world that has some obvious Bloodborne inspiration—among others.
In Morbid: The Seven Acolytes you play as a Shriver—a type of warrior who is trained specifically in the slaying of Acolytes. Your order is dead, and you’re the last—left alone to carry out this seemingly impossible task. But it’s something that must be attempted, because the world has been infested with flesh-like corruptions, monsters, and mad fanatics who worship the Acolytes. There are a lot of terrible things to fight through before the world of Mornia can be freed from the clutches of evil.
Combat in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is about stamina management—with a consideration towards health and sanity levels. Lose all your health, you die. Stamina is needed to swing your weapon, dodge, and run. The sanity mechanics in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes are interesting: if you drop to zero sanity, blue veins grow across your screen, and phantom enemies begin to appear—among other effects. Combat itself is fun, and melee weapons feel weighty and satisfying to employ. Melee consists of light and heavy attacks, with certain weapons performing powerful abilities with their heavy attack. There are also guns in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, and they can pack a punch—but you have limited ammo, though you can find and carry ammo resupplies. While I mostly played with a controller, mouse and keyboard controls are completely viable and actually feel a bit more accurate than the controller sometimes.
There are dozens of weapons to discover through your playthrough—some mundane, and others interesting and rare. Weapons can only be upgraded by adding relics to them. These relics can only be removed with a specific item—or if you find a copy of that weapon, you can discard it. There are lots of other items to discover—some put effects on your weapons, others remove status effects from your character, heal you, etc. But there are no different sets of armor to equip. Some of the consumable healing and buff items are quite powerful, while others felt like they were just clogging up my inventory. There is no vendor or storage, either, so you’re forced to discard items as necessary to free up space.
There really isn’t much in the way of character development in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, either. There isn’t really a levelling system. Instead, you gather experience which gives you points you can spend on Blessings. Blessings are interchangeable buffs that change aspects of your character, like how much health they have, stamina regeneration, etc. You start off being able to equip two blessings, but your capacity increases as you play through the game.
The level design in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is okay. Most areas are labyrinthine, with fleshy protrusions barring straightforward passage through most. The biggest problem I had while navigating levels wasn’t their labyrinthine nature, however—it was its pixel art style. Some levels had areas that seemed impassable but weren’t, and conversely, others that seem like you should be able to walk through but are barred off. I wish there was a little bit more attention to detail in regards to contrasting areas of ground that can be traversed as opposed to barriers.
I’m already not a huge fan of Morbid: The Seven Acolyte’s pixel art style. It’s not bad—especially when it comes to some of the character and monster designs—but the levels are ugly. I know it’s a grim world, but some of the scenery is a little lacking—but it’s not all bad. There is a decent amount of scenic variety in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes. The different areas are interestingly themed, with enemy types appropriate to each zone.
No action role-playing game would be complete without an abundance of enemy types. Morbid: The Seven Acolytes sports a decent range of foes to spar against, with different enemies usually local to different areas. There are also enemy types that follow you through the whole game—like the floating flesh wads, a foe I personally abhor. There are also several mini-boss and boss battles to test your top-down combat skills. Boss variety is good, though I found most of them can be cheesed in one way or another, especially with their sometimes limited move sets.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes was a bit of a surprise for me. I was admittedly a little biased against it based on its key art. It turns out it’s a mechanically satisfying, fun top-down take on a soulslike action role-playing game. If you’re a Souls fan like me, and want to check out another solid soulslike, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes has that difficulty stamina-based combat you crave.
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