Listen, if you’re going to release a game that was clearly inspired by Bloodborne or Dark Souls, I’m going to play it. It’s as simple as that, with FromSoftware’s revered titles certainly providing more than a few hints of inspiration with countless releases over the last console generation – I think I’ve played just about all of them… well… the good ones, at least.
I’m happy to report that Morbid: The Seven Acolytes falls into that category too, with its grim and gruesome escapade one that kept me entertained from the start to end. Sure, its combat could do with a bit of tweaking and I hated the inventory system (more on that in a bit), but it still managed to keep me hooked in as I slayed the countless grotesque foes that it served up to me…
Much like the titles that inspired it, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes isn’t too forthcoming in plot details from the get-go. You awaken alone on a beach in the role of a Striver of Dibrom, the last of her kind of well-trained warriors that has been tasked with destroying seven vicious Acolytes in order to protect the land of Mornia from the deadly race of beings known as the Gahar. With Mornia thrown into a tormenting sense of chaos and vicious beasts roaming through each locale, you’ll have to get your hands dirty (and VERY bloody) in order to protect the few survivors that seek your help along the way.
The finer details of the plot can be uncovered by interacting with NPCs or reading through the books of lore that are scattered across the land, with plenty to uncover about the plight of Mornia if you’re willing to take the time to find it out. Side quests flesh out the narrative too, with the individual needs of different characters helping you understand the trials and tribulations that they face with a bit more detail. Ultimately though, it boils down to one thing: the Gahar are bad dudes that need to be killed.
At its core, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes’ gameplay utilises everything you’d expect from a Soulsborne-style release. You’ll partake in methodical battles with foes where you’ll have to time your attacks, dodge out of the way of incoming ones, and unleash parries in order to catch foes off-guard, all whilst ensuring your health gauge remains healthy and that you don’t use too much stamina and leave yourself in a vulnerable state. Patience can be the key to taking down enemies, especially when they attack in big groups, so knowing when to strike and when to keep your distance can be a big factor in determining your success – fortunately, you’re also armed with a ranged weapon that you can use to pick off enemies from afar or lure them from other mobs, meaning it’s possible to isolate foes and take them out one-by-one if you’re clever enough. Heck, there’s even a stealth mechanic thrown in for good measure, meaning sneaky players can get the upper hand on an enemy from the get-go if they strike unnoticed.
There are a good variety of weapons to use in the game that bring with them different advantages and disadvantages based upon your playstyle, so there’s plenty of versatility in place as to how you approach showdowns with foes. Whether you prefer speed, distance, or power, you’ll find something that suits you, whilst the different Runes you find along the way can be equipped to your arsenal to further fine-tune their specifications to your needs. It’s a neat system that combat-fanatics will certainly enjoy tinkering with, even IF some of the improvements that the Runes bring can just feel a little menial at best.
Whilst combat is slick and fun, the AI of your enemies is guilty of falling short of the mark on occasions. There were plenty of times where enemies seems to get caught in a loop of movement around me and wouldn’t attack, whilst other times they’d get stuck on an obstacle as they staggered towards me and left themselves an easy target to take down. Sure, I was guilty of exploiting the flaw by ensuring there was an obstacle in their path, but it’s still a bit of a shame that it occurred.
The biggest flaw with combat? The fact that enemies have to get themselves into a specific position to attack you. With it’s top-down viewpoint on the world, you’ll often be out of range of enemies until they line themselves right up next to you, meaning they won’t always attack until they’re by your side. The problem is, the same doesn’t apply to you, meaning you can unleash an attack as they make their way towards you and dish out a good bit of damage before they’ve even started to line up a hit on you. It’s a really cheap tactic to use and it doesn’t apply to enemies that have ranged capabilities, but it does make some battles with foes feel trivial in design.
The enemy AI could definitely do with some fixing, but other than that the combat of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is pretty great. The weapons you use feel weighty and lining up attacks is satisfying, whilst the range of attacks at your disposal across each of the weapons adds variety to battles too. Best of all, the bosses are hulking (and often morbidly designed) beasts that make for some thrilling showdowns, with their more versatile and powerful attacks having to be mastered before you can even think about taking them down. I loved facing off against each one of them and they were easily the highlight of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes as a whole, whilst the standard enemies themselves are a grisly sight to behold too.
One way in which Morbid: The Seven Acolytes changes itself up from its peers is with its levelling system. You’ll still apply upgrades to your individual stats (known as Blessings) at special Shrines (this game’s take on Bonfires), so there’s a sense of familiarity there, but you can only equip two Blessings at a time. This means you have to specify what elements of your character you want to improve, whether it’s when focusing on your health bar, your stamina, or even how quickly they regenerate. It might sound limited in scope, but it actually allows you to be versatile and specify your capabilities to suit the enemy you’re facing off against.
The fact that you don’t lose any XP when you die changes things up too, with players retaining any earned XP and simply respawning at the last-used Shrine. This alleviates the need to grind in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes and also lowers the risk that comes with dying in an encounter, which helps make the game a little bit more forgiving and accessible to newbies of the genre.
It’s something I actually really appreciated. Whilst I’m a veteran of the genre and love the old-school and punishing vibe that it typically embraces, I’ve had one too many bad memories of losing all of the XP I’ve earned due to one little mistake. Not having to worry about that here made playing through Morbid: The Seven Acolytes that bit more enjoyable.
It also brings with it a different style of inventory system, with Morbid: The Seven Acolytes utilising a grid-based inventory where you have to move around the different items you’re carrying to make them fit. I really didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, grid-based inventories have worked well in plenty of games in the past, but I found that mine got crammed too quickly and I had to give up plenty of loot that I would have otherwise liked to have kept to play around with. It means giving up weapons, Runes, and all sorts if you want to be able to pick up new items, with no way to store anything in-between. This might not be a problem for a lot of players out there, but for hoarders like me, it felt more frustrating than anything.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes’ world is fascinating to explore and full of unique sights that add a sense of discover to your journey. It’s all complimented by some fantastic and detailed dark-fantasy pixel art, which helps strengthen the atmosphere of desolation that the game is striving for. There’s something grim about almost everywhere you go, but in that intriguing Lovecraftian-way where it makes the world more alluring to uncover. If you enjoyed exploring the likes of Yharnam or Lordran, you’ll be pleased with the locales that Mornia has to offer.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes offers a darkly entertaining Soulsborne-like escapade that’ll hook players in, even IF it could do with a little bit of fine-tuning here and there. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad to find in the game (well… except maybe the inventory system) and the grisly combat remains methodically fun throughout – the AI of enemies just needs to be fixed up a little to make encounters feel a little less easy to exploit.
With its excellent boss encounters and impressive world design though, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes offers more than enough to keep players enthralled until they reach the end of their journey. It’s a lot more accessible than similar titles in the genre too, so it’s a good place to start if you’re new to the punishing yet ultimately satisfying style of play that it offers.
Developer: Still Running
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC