Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a horrorpunk action RPG by developer Still Running and published by Merge Games. You are the last Striver left and only you can defeat the Acolytes in a blood-filled parade of gruesome enemies. Starting off you will follow a path of books on the ground that will act as your tutorial. In these books you find instructions on how to sneak, run, access your inventory and many other things. Learning to run is vital as you will be doing this for the majority of the game. Walking, if you can call it that, is probably the slowest action you will ever perform in a game. It was certainly an aspect of the game that at first made me question if I had made the right choice. As you watch your stamina bar deplete time and time again you will begin to wonder why was the slowest walk ever implemented. I can now say though that after a while the running became second nature and I wasn’t bothered by it anymore. Something that will add to your worry is the sanity bar. It’s a cool feature in what is a horror game at heart that will require a constant eye. If the sanity bar depletes then you might start to notice enemies coming back to life after you defeat them. This of course in the beginning is annoying with enemies that strongly want nothing more than to watch blood gush from your eye sockets. Find ways to combat your sanity or things will take a turn for the worse quickly.
As you venture about slaying ugly monster one after the other, you will come across shrines. These act as save points but also fast travel points. Here at the shrine, you can save, equip or upgrade blessings, check on your quests, fast travel or look at all the things you have discovered in the game. The blessings come from leveling up, something I was really good at. You can equip blessing such as regenerate stamina faster, gain a larger health bar, take less damage and so on. As you level up you gain a skill point and these are used to upgrade your blessings. Be careful though as each time you upgrade it will cost you more skill points.
The vile creatures come in all shapes and sizes from a parasitic organism known as “Madman’s Moss” to terrifying masked beasts called “Grove Grazers”. The mixture of horrid things lurky around every corner is the sole reason to learn the combat in the game quickly. Most of your enemies will be difficult to dispatch of until you find a nice groove. The motion of the attacks is somewhat odd and different. A quick strike will do enough damage on most foes to dispatch them within a few hits but you can also attack with a slower heavy strike. This of course is difficult to pull off and can leave you vulnerable. Don’t worry though as there are plenty of weapons to obtain in the game that can add speed to your attacks or you can simply add runes to it but these are permanent. Well, they say that but you can find a rune remover that will do just what it says so you can mix and match whatever you want at another time. Each weapon is different and holds a different amount of rune slots. You can pick up buff-shrooms that will add such things as speed, fire, bleed and so on but only for a set amount of time. You can equip two main weapons and a sidearm in your menu and yes, I did say sidearm. However, you can’t switch between them as you are fighting. You must go into the inventory menu and change them out manually. I don’t know why it was done this way but it should definitely be something the devs think about adding.
The weapons not only come in different types such as swords, axes and spears but they also great names. The Sane’s bane my favorite sword to use is powerful with and decent amount of speed. You also have skull splitter, snake fang and face breakers to name a few. Choose wisely though as you do have limited inventory space. It’s not all about the weapons though is it? No, it’s about those hideous boss fights. When it comes to these fights you will encounter the “Formidable Foes” or “Mini-bosses” if you will. This is where Morbid shines the brightest. While you won’t get the challenge the Acolytes present, the mini-bosses still pose one hell of a threat. You will find this out quick with Boatswain Borga who got infected with a disease that transformed him into a disgusting monster or with Yaga Moer a witch from Grimwald’s Grove.
The meat and potatoes of the game though are of course The Seven Acolytes. I will admit that at first the way the combat is setup in the game I had a difficult time. The first Acolyte Lorn the blind, the Lord of Loneliness pretty much had his way with me until I figured out his patterns. Just like with most boss fight, once you learn their pattern then the fight really begins. The boss fights are large, grotesque and for the most part, very challenging.
One thing that did cause some rage inducing moments outside of the boss fights was how I became lost in the game. Now I am not talking about being lost as not knowing where I was at, that can be a problem on its own. Yet, lost in not knowing how to proceed. As you come to a certain part of the game you can no longer move forward with the game unless you are exalted. Now I knew this meant I need to be more powerful or that I needed to move up in rank. At least that was my understanding. After spending hours reaching new levels, I realized this wasn’t the way. I searched each area thoroughly to find a clue, something, anything to point me in the right direction when finally, I came across a boss fight I hadn’t previously discovered. Once the fight was done, I was exalted. Why wasn’t this explained in one of the books is beyond me but I certainly left a sour taste in my mouth and I’d bet for those that experience the same thing it could cause those players to give up out of frustration. My advice, check every square inch of each area and try to become familiar with points of interest.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is brutal, grotesque, horrifying at times and rage inducing at others. It’s probably what you want in a game that says it is a “souls-like” game. The bosses are difficult for the most part and the level progression is very rewarding. I enjoyed checking out the different names for the weapons just as much as the bosses. I did find some of the NPC interaction lacking with some of them repeating what others had already said. I also found the slow movement cumbersome in the beginning and I think most people might agree. The areas look great and the enemies are oddly satisfying with how disgusting they look. While getting confused cost me a lot of time it also helped me become efficient in combat. This was a good and bad thing as I walked through a few of the Acolytes in the later part of the game with not much a problem. All in all, the game achieves what it intended to and it kept me wanting more. I couldn’t wait to find the next big boss and eventually exhale knowing it had finally been defeated.
You can find Morbid: The Seven Acolytes on PlayStation, Steam, Switch and Xbox on December 3rd, 2020.
The game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.