We’re Five Games and Crescent Moon Games (yes, the makers of The Deer God) have set out to create an epic sci fi adventure game with near limitless exploratory opportunities. A game where players can set off around the universe, hopping from one solar system to the next seeking out mysterious ancient resources and extraordinary new lifeforms. Sound familiar? It is admittedly a pretty similar to the pitch for the ill-fated No Man’s Sky, and many a reviewer and interviewer has drawn that parallel. But where No Man’s Sky fell short, Morphite dares to show off.
Morphite tells the story of Myrah Kale, a young woman who lives in a distant future where humans have successfully colonized a great deal of space. There’s a space station in nearly every solar system making intergalactic space travel not only possible but seemingly easy. Myrah has been left without parents, and so she has come under the guidance of mentor and surrogate father figure, Mr. Mason. With the help of an AI cat drone, named KitCat, players and Myrah go through a training exercise to learn how to properly use the plasma pistol that Myrah has available to her from the beginning. The plasma pistol is used for dispatching potential enemies (obviously), but also opening doors and resource chests that Myrah encounters. There’s limited ammunition in the plasma pistol, so aim carefully. Don’t despair, though, as the pistol does gradually recharge its ammo with time. It can also be refilled by entering Myrah’s travel pod, if it is nearby.
After completing the training mission, Myrah and KitCat meet back up with Mr. Mason who unveils a new tool – the scanner. Myrah can simply aim the scanner at the various flora and fauna she encounters, hold down the trigger, and receive a study about that plant, animal, or mineral following the completion of the scan. Equipped with her scanner and plasma pistol, Mr. Mason sends Myrah out on her first adventure with directions to find and scan new resources. The reports Myrah collects on these adventures can then be sold while visiting a space station for Chunks, Morphite’s in game currency, or used to upgrade Myrah’s own equipment with a variety of bonuses such as additional heat or cold resistance. These upgrades are necessary for Myrah to travel to additional planets, where temperature extremes may have otherwise been too dangerous.
While aboard her ship, Myrah has access to a star map so that she can navigate the expansive universe. Player choice comes into play here, as KitCat will mark the suggested route players need to take to reach story missions, but there’s a whole big universe out there just begging to be explored. Its up to you to determine where Myrah goes, and its perfectly acceptable to deviate from KitCat’s path so that you can explore as you choose. But be forewarned, doing so comes with consequences, as well as possibilities. Jumping from solar system to solar system is fun and all, but it comes at the cost of fuel. KitCat will provide a head’s up so that you know how much fuel it will take to reach your destination, and also warn you in advance if you won’t have enough. Additionally, Myrah is at risk of encountering bandits during her interstellar travels and it is up to the player to decide whether to retreat to avoid them, attempt to bargain resources for safe passage, or just straight up fight them.
One of the greatest sins of Morphite is that in it’s effort to provide an enormous universe to explore, the planets that Myrah finds her way to are surprisingly light on interactivity. There’s rocks and trees, and other life forms, but they’re often very few and far between. Many of the earliest planets Myrah visits will only have 1-2 creatures, sometimes no more than a couple of insects clinging to the trees. This can make the beginning of the game feel a bit monotonous and dull. Later planets, however, do offer up a slightly more fulfilling variety of experiences and even involve side missions for other civilizations such as finding missing codes or helping a lone stranger on a mysterious planet build a shed. While the these side missions are completely optional (unless you want the achievement related to them) its greatly advised to finish them when they become available, as backtrack to previously explored planets can be difficult. There’s no indicators available as to which solar systems you have previously explored, though individual planets do indicate whether you’ve visited them in the past. The resources earned for completing these side missions can make a difference toward progress for the campaign missions as eventually Myrah can be prohibited from landing on mission related planets if her ship and armor are not capable of tolerating the destination’s climate.
Morphite is an ambitious adventure title that is bound to appeal to the senses of those who just enjoy exploring large in game universes as well as those who are looking for a solid science fiction single player campaign. It’s difficult not to wish for a little more interactivity the various planets that you can explore, but it’s even more difficult not to appreciate the ambition behind everything Morphite does offer especially when considering the price point.