Have you ever imagined how it would be to combine two of your favorite games in a new title? Well, I have – frequently, to be honest. And apparently, I’m not the only one who does it, because someone at the Finnish studio Still Running had this same idea. And this could be the idea that inspired their brand-new title, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes. Published by Merge Games, this adventure combines gameplay characteristics of games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with Dark Souls. But this description is far from fair with Still Running for what they achieved with this game. SPOILER ALERT: There’s a lot more in the formula here that will make this game a huge success!
Merge Games describes Morbid as a horror-punk action RPG filled with Lovecraftian horrors and Cronenbergian gore. And after checking who David Cronenberg, the Canadian film director, is, I cannot discord. In a world desecrated by evil entities, you play as the last Striver of Dibrom in a quest to eliminate the Seven Acolytes, humans whose bodies now serve as vessels for powerful deities called Gahars. Will you be able to endure the challenges of this world and keep your sanity intact? Or will you succumb to the villainous creatures that inhabit these lands and fall prey to their deities? Let’s take a look at our review and find out the answer!
We explored the world of Moria and fought monters and aberrations por over seven hours on Xbox One X
What we liked!
- Visuals: The graphics in Morbid are spectacular! You will live this adventure from an isometric perspective that allows you to fully admire the incredibly detailed scenarios, monsters, and characters in one of the most impressive pixel art games I’ve ever played. And it is as gory as it is beautiful. Wherever you look, you will see corpses and remains that testify to the oppression from the Acolytes against the people of Moria. Needless to say but I’ll reiterate that this isn’t a game for kids! Do you want an example? How about a lady that uses her unborn baby (still attached to its umbilical cord) as a weapon? Is it gory (or Cronenbergian) enough for you? I’m genuinely impressed with how much talent has been shown in its multitude of scenarios, animations, and visual effects. And you will be too!
- Audio: To perfectly match its impressive visuals, the audio in Morbid is another jewel! Still Running studio will grace your ears with an epic soundtrack that gives the perfect atmosphere to the title. And not only the soundtrack, but the sound effects as well. I especially like when you go into stealth and the music goes stuffy, giving more emphasis on the sound effects. The game trailer had fantastic voice work, but unfortunately, it didn’t make it into its final version. I felt a little disappointed, but it doesn’t take away any merit of the game.
- Exploration: In Morbid, you explore the land of Moria to accomplish your life mission: to eliminate the Acolytes and save what remains of the world. To do so, you will explore cities, forests, ruins, and other dangerous places, interacting with NPCs that give you missions to accomplish and tell you more about this world’s lore. This game’s exploration works under the Souls formula: no map, no compass, no directions. Only a few hints to keep you on track and a lot of terrains to cover. Each area is vast and can take more than one hour to be thoroughly explored. Most of the time, you will feel lost (I felt, at least… always), but the exploration will earn you new equipment and maybe even new blessings of Magratheus – we’ll talk about them later. You can freely explore the game, although some areas will be blocked until you accomplish some missions or defeat some enemies first. Surviving in the wild is no child’s play: you can only carry a few items to replenish your health. You will always depend on finding more from dead bodies, stashes, and breakable objects.
- Leveling up (or something like that): In Morbid, enemies lurk in every corner and are always ready to kill you (be it by exhausting your health or extinguishing your sanity, whatever they can destroy first). By eliminating them, you gain levels that give you skill points to upgrade your blessings. The blessings provide you with access to buffs like expanding your life bar (always crucial for me), your stamina bar, or increasing your damage, for instance. But you can only equip a small number of them (a number that increases as you progress), so selecting the one that best suits your playstyle is a must. You have access to these blessings when in a shrine (the good-and-old bonfires from Souls-series) where you can quickly save your progress, use them for quick travel between already visited places, learn more about the game’s lore and heal your character by meditating. Just remember that once you use these shrines to replenish your health, enemies will respawn too. And every time you fall in battle, you will rise anew from the last-visited one.
- Items and equipment: Your hero will have at her disposal a great variety of weapons, including swords, staves, spears, mauls, hammers, axes, crossbows, fire guns, and more. You can carry two loadouts composed of a melee weapon and a ranged weapon. You can attach runes into your weapons that enhance their status or give them special abilities like elemental damage and life draining. The game also offers a wide array of items that give you temporary buffs and can be the difference between life and death in combat. One cool aspect of Morbid resides in each weapon and item having a nice description, talking about their origin and uses, enriching the lore of the game.
- A story to tell: The lore of the game is excellent, but like in the Souls series, it is not exposed directly to you. You will only learn about it from NPCs scattered throughout the world of the game. I must say I’m not a big fan of this style of narrative – but if it doesn’t bother you, just ignore this comment. Notwithstanding, the game’s lore is fascinating, and I wish Still Running Games gives us other opportunities to explore more of this decaying world in future titles (or prequels, who knows… a man can dream).
- Dominating the combat: The combat in Morbid works like in most Souls games: you have a fast and a strong attack, you can parry or dodge enemy attacks, and must always pay attention to your stamina bar. Nothing particularly new, so far. Something that annoyed me (or, better saying, explored all the time) is that most of your enemies only attack in straight lines: they can only hit you if you are on their left or right sides. If you approach from above or beyond, you can easily avoid their attacks and eliminate them – mainly thanks to your broad and long-reaching swings. I’m not complaining about it – if not for this mechanic, I won’t survive long in these battles) – but it’s an exploit (probably intentional) that you will undoubtedly take advantage of.
- Exploration 2.0: Yeah, I know we have already talked about exploring the world of Morbid in the What we liked session. But man, I could really use a compass, a map, or some more orientation in this game. It’s tough to find where to go next if I can’t see all the possible way-outs in each area. I understand that it was an option from the developer not to give you so many directions. Still, sometimes it’s hard even to figure where I am – imagine to figure out where to go to – in the world of Moria.
What we disliked
- Swapping loadouts: I’ve seen very little use for the two loadouts available in this game. As you don’t have a quick command to cycle between them and must open your inventory to do so, what’s the real use for them?
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes was undoubtedly a great surprise! I was already familiar with Still Running’s work thanks to The Walking Vegetables, released in 2019, but this new title left me jaw-dropped. It’s beautiful, well-designed, and challenging (oh yes, it is!). And marvelous in every sense of the world. If you are a fan of Sous like games and enjoy pixel art, stop whatever you are playing and try this game right now! You won’t regret it!
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.