‘Morbid: The Seven Acolytes’ Review (Xbox One)

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes developed by Still Running and published by Merge Games is a frantic, beautifully grotesque isometric RPG based around Lovecraftian horror themes.

Morbid wastes no time thrusting the player into the action. Players awaken amongst the ravaged coastline of Mornia where you are promptly greeted by Thalas, the Last Monk of Magratheus. Thalas informs you that you are a Striver and that you must defeat the Gahars, malevolent deities that have enslaved the realm’s population. Unfortunately, many other Strivers have tried and failed before you. Thankfully, the Gahars have a weakness – they must be bound to a host. Thalas wastes no time sending you out on a mission to defeat the Seven Mighty Acolytes that the Gahars have bound their selves to, thus ridding the Gahars of their flesh and banishing them from Mornia.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

There are no cutscnees to speak of in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, instead most of the story is told through lore available to read about at various intervals throughout your journey. Each item found, enemy slain, or Acolyte defeated unlocks new lore, allowing players to dive deeper into the world of Mornia at their own pace without ever feeling like the story is being forced upon them. Being able to read about the lore or ignore the back story entirely is something I wish more games allowed – sometimes all we want to do is fight, while other times we are inquisitive and want to learn. Having the ability to do either at any time helps the game avoid feeling constrictive.

Thankfully, the focus throughout Morbid remains on fast, brutal fights and increasingly difficult enemies and bosses. Barely a moment is wasted during the game’s six to eight hour campaign; each new area ramps up the difficulty in a sensible matter as players fight their way further into the decaying land of Mornia in search of Acolytes.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

The core gameplay loop consists of killing enemies, collecting loot, and constantly either upgrading your current weapons with Runes or replacing your old weapons with new loot acquired. It’s very Diabloish in that vein, with tons of weapons, Runes, and items thrown at you at all times. Thankfully, managing inventory is simple and once you learn that it is OK to drop unnecessary items – as there is no way to sell items and thus no reason to hold on to anything you won’t use – the inventory system proves to be more than adequate.

Gameplay is simple – you have a regular attack, strong attack, and the ability to parry and counter with your main weapon. You  can also equip a variety of guns and crossbows as a secondary weapon. Each of these weapons can be upgraded via the numerous Runes found scattered throughout levels or dropped from enemies.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

Runes allow weapons to be upgraded with specific abilities – some cause poison damage, fire damage, electricity damage, etc. while others allow weapons to drain health or sanity from enemies or may increase your attack speed. Each Rune is useful and the sheer amount you are given during a playthrough allows players to experiment without fear of possibly hampering their weapons during the end game. During my first play through I was conservative with Runes and ended up with tons left over, my second playthrough I used them on nearly every weapon I equipped and still had more than enough. Go crazy with the Runes, experiment with different combinations of effects, and enjoy the incredible power that comes from the right combination.

All this customization is essentially there to make your main purpose – crushing the enemies of Mornia – easier. You’ll spend most of the game hacking at enemies and bosses, with rarely more than a moment’s respite. The gameplay may not be deep – but it sure is fun. I enjoyed every blood soaked moment during my playthroughs.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

Shrines are scattered throughout each area and serve as resting points where you can meditate and regain your health and ammo, view active quests, travel, and read about the world’s lore in the Morbid Menagerie.

Health is managed by The Stone of Dibrom, which is limited in uses and can only be refilled by dying or mediation. Thankfully, The Stone of Dibrom can be upgraded by combining it with other stones as you progress, which is done automatically anytime you find an additional Stone. Various single use health items do exist, although most are laced with caveats such as the loss of sanity – which can cause your attacks to be weaker – although rarely are the drawbacks to using an item enough to outweigh the gains.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

Defeating enemies grants ability points which can be used to upgrade blessings. Blessing are found throughout areas and obtained by destroying statues. At first, only two blessings can be equipped but with each Acolyte slain comes another equipment slot. Blessings raise attributes not covered by items found in the game, such as your health, stamina, stamina regeneration, damage dealt to bosses, experience gained, and ammo capacity. Each blessing can be upgraded up to five times using ability points, so there is a bit of picking and choosing what attributes matter most to you, although you can always grind for more ability points if needed. I never felt the need to grind during either of my two playthroughs, but it’s nice to know the option is there for those who enjoy maxing out their characters.

Maps are huge, with a variety of locations to explore; a bloody beach, a treacherous grove, a dilapidated garden, a mysterious forest, a peaceful village full of drunks, and an advanced city round out a rather diverse catalog of areas to visit for a game that is relatively short.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

While there are a number of maps to explore, exploration can be a bit of a pain. The levels are long, sprawling, and filled with dead ends or areas which can only be accessed after destroying certain objects. While it never quite leads to frustration, I would have loved an option to pull back from an area and see a world map just to figure out where to go next and if there were any paths or secrets  I had not uncovered – but that request may just stem from my impulsive need to 100% everything.

There are seven main bosses and multiple Elite enemies which are essentially mini boss fights. Each fight is unique and provides a decent challenge, especially your first time out when you aren’t quite adept at equipping Runes and balancing the various items at your disposal yet. The back stories behind each slain enemy and Acolyte are incredible, giving the game much more back story than expected while living up to the game’s central morbid theme.

Photo Credit: Still Running / Merge Games

I greatly enjoyed my time with Morbid. I’ll admit that on my first playthrough I became a bit frustrated by not knowing where to go next, but that was quickly solved by a bit of exploration which is significantly easier once you’ve upgraded your character and can easily dispatch enemies in previous areas. By my second playthrough I was able to just enjoy the game without the annoyances that plagued my first playthrough, since I had learned that there was no need to worry so much about what items to use and when, where to go, how to proceed, etc. and instead was able to just focus on enjoying the combat.

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a great hack and slash game with impressive boss fights, labyrinth type levels, and interesting lore. Do yourself a favor and set aside a few hours and allow yourself to become engrossed in Morbid’s bloody world.

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is available now on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Special thanks to Still Running / Merge Games for providing Fandomize with a review code.