Review: Morphite (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Morphite (Switch)

By Sairus Delaney

What if Metroid Prime and No Man's Sky had a baby?

Morphite is a first person shooter and exploration game that sees you take the role of Myrah as she roams the galaxy trying to unearth the secrets of the mysterious substance called morphite. She does this by hopping into a ship and flying to a massive array of procedurally generated worlds, solving simple puzzles and scanning or shooting everything that does or doesn’t move.

In a clever touch, the entire game is not procedural; there’s a spine of story critical planets laced into the game which have been manually designed. These worlds tend to hold more intricate puzzles and platforming segments than the regular planets and space stations. The next story planet is marked clearly on your star map, so there’s always something concrete you can work towards, even if you spend most of your time just randomly hopping from planet to planet.

By far most striking thing about Morphite is its visual design. Everything is rendered with confident low polygon models and strange neon colors. Even after landing on a dozen planets I was always excited to see what strange new creatures and locals I would encounter on the next world. A lot of the procedural worlds are noticeably small and simple, but story missions in particular have some exceptionally picturesque areas to wander through, and unique boss battles to ogle.

The very pretty visuals are also accompanied by a gorgeous soundtrack. Somber electronic beats match the slow, exploratory gameplay perfectly. Sound design for the environments is a little more jarring, with harsh boops and trills like you’d expect from an 80s arcade machine. All of the story missions are also fully voice acted, which was an unexpected treat, though recording quality varies wildly.

Gameplay is unfortunately where Morphite trips up a bit. The game has a heavy focus on relaxing exploration and less on shooting. Thankfully the movement controls are all serviceable and get more varied as you progress through the game. Morphite’s other primary focus is collecting data on animals and plants by scanning them, then selling that data for crafting materials. Unfortunately, scanning objects, and aiming in general is flat out atrocious.

The basic controls are the same twin analog setup as in any modern first person shooter. You line up a target in front of you and hold down the fire button for a few seconds to scan objects. That all sounds simple, however, aiming is twitchy and it’s extremely hard to keep any moving object centered long enough to complete a scan. The developers tried to remedy this by adding a lock-on to keep animals fixed in your aiming reticle. This does very little though as I found enemies almost immediately breaking out of my lock, or moving too fast to be scanned even while targeted.

This all culminates in taking one of the games primary actions and making it extremely frustrating on all but slowest of targets. As you progress through the story you can upgrade different aspects of your character’s ship, suit and weapons, including the scanner. I found this more annoying than helpful as it felt like the developers deliberately gave me a painfully awkward scanner at the start just to give me more things to unlock later on.

The game is still fully playable, but I always felt I was struggling against the controls instead of just playing the game.

Annoyingly I did run into a bunch of other issues as I played, like text lingering on screen after it should vanish, clipping through walls, being unable to drop items after you pick them up, quests not updating properly and other hiccups. Most annoyingly I had to restart the game a couple of times when the navigation map became frozen. Hopefully these will be addressed in future patches, but they obviously shouldn’t be there in the first place.

It’s not all doom and gloom of course. If you can get past the twitchy aiming and occasional bugs, there’s a wealth of gameplay to be had. Story planets will unlock brand new abilities on almost every mission and upgrading your ship and suit will allow you to explore deeper into space and land on a wider variety of planets and space stations. Side Quests can be found in many of these locations, further mixing up your tasks in the form of mounted races, fetch quests, bounty hunts and a host of random target practice events. 

There’s basically limitless gameplay available if you want to go out and find it. Though be warned, while there is a lot to do, even with side quests that change up the gameplay here and there, the loop of planet hopping, scanning and refueling will probably start to seem repetitive after a while if you're expecting much more than a relaxing sightseeing romp through the galaxy. The story driven sections are also quite short if you decide to push through them, so what you get out of this game is directly tied to how much you just want to wander around and explore.

Overall, Morphite was an unexpectedly enjoyable game that might tide over some folks who are desperate for a new Metroid Prime style exploration and shooting experience. However, extremely awkward aiming and occasionally buggy gameplay lets down and otherwise excellent and expansive package.

Final Score:5.5

(Review code provided by the publisher)


Famicomplicated said...

Aw man, little disappointed! Looks like it still has promise though, maybe they can patch out those bugs?

Sairus Delaney said...

I was too! It's a really gorgeous and ambitious game, but the janky controls and progression halting bugs really just killed the experience.

There was talk of motion controls coming eventually but I haven't heard anything on that front in a while. I hope it does come sooner rather than later because that could possibly fix my biggest complaint about the game.