Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a beautifully disgusting game. The Steam store page describes it as “the most gruesome take on the isometric Souls-like genre yet!” They’re not wrong; the enemies you fight in Morbid are repulsive. The first enemies you encounter are ugly fish people, but it’s not long before you’re being attacked by moving shark corpses filled with tentacles and two legged cyclopean deer that drain your sanity with an ear shattering roar. Upon defeat, enemies disintegrate into piles of mush or collapse into various pieces, with each death animation accompanied by a shower of blood. They did not hold back on the gore in the slightest. Thankfully, the pixelated art style prevents this from becoming overwhelming.
The pixelated hero taking on these nightmarish abominations is unnamed. All the player knows, through NPC hints or item descriptions, is that they are the last Striver of Dibrom, a group trained specifically to fight the Seven Acolytes and save the world. Your task as the last of your order is to finish what the others could not: hunt down the Seven Acolytes and put an end to their reign. You do this with a variety of melee and ranged weapons that tend to have unique appearances and move sets. You’ll have to rely on melee weapons for a good chunk of the game, only using your ranged equipment for annoying enemies or tough boss fights. Ammo becomes easier to obtain as you progress. The gameplay emulates Dark Souls’ combat with the options available to the player. You have your standard light and heavy attacks, roll, and parry, all governed by a stamina bar. You also have a health potion that regenerates, along with all the enemies you’ve killed, each time you rest at a shrine. Although Morbid has all the required elements to make it feel like a Souls game, it falls short in the execution.
Morbid looks fantastic. The environments are detailed, gloomy, and foreboding. The enemy designs are varied, creepy, and interesting. Unfortunately, the gameplay is not on the same level of quality as the game’s appearance. Your character is sluggish and unresponsive. Attacks have massive amounts of dead time where you cannot move or attack again, inputs are dropped frequently, and parrying is useless. Enemies attack swiftly enough that you do not have the stamina to avoid all of their attacks and parrying does not give a big enough window to do anything. The enemies do not appear to be staggered after a successful parry and there is no riposte animation. There is no benefit to attempting a parry at all. Enemies frequently ignored me as I walked past them. It took me a good length of time to realize that an enemy in the first area I thought was passive was actually supposed to be attacking me, it just wouldn’t aggro. Some enemies can only attack to the left or right of their sprites, making them incredibly easy to best. The combat in Morbid is too clunky to be enjoyable and that’s quite unfortunate: without good combat, you can’t have a good Souls-like.
One of the most important aspects of a Souls-like game for me are the boss fights. My best memories of the series are taking on massive and unique bosses that can kill me in a single blow. The bosses in Morbid are interesting visually and thematically. It has gross tentacle monsters and giant zombies to fight, but also a terrifying woman who fights with her own entrails. The enemy designs are enormously creative and a pleasure to witness. It’s just too bad they’re not fun to fight. Most of the bosses have limited move sets with massive health bars. One poke with your sword and numerous rolls to try to get away from the boss’ indeterminate attack range is the normal combat loop. Boss fights are rather repetitive, except for one element. Morbid‘s Steam store page brags about the music in their boss fights. They’re right to do so; the soundtrack in the boss fights is spectacular. The exhilarating score feels like a perfect match for a Souls-like game, and it adds a lot of enjoyment to the boss fights.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes nails most of the elements of a good Souls-like. Exploring the world and striving to reach that next safe point replicates the feeling of playing a Souls game. The pixelated art style of the game is phenomenal and the music is extraordinary. Unfortunately, the combat needs some polishing before I can wholeheartedly recommend the game. Since last I’ve played, the developers have posted an update with changes to the combat system requested by the community. The implemented changes seem like they may improve the combat significantly and show that the developers are involved and active with their product. With these changes, and more on the way, I feel comfortable in recommending Morbid: The Seven Acolytes to non-squeamish fans of the Souls series.
Images: Still Running / Merge Games