Morphite (PC) Review

Developer: We’re Five Games/Blowfish Studios/Crescent Moon Games | Publisher: Crescent Moon Games || Overall: 8/10

Morphite is more than a game.  It’s about finding your purpose in life.  What is the meaning of your existence?  What is the point of anything?  Moreover, what is the point of Morphite‘s procedurally generated universe full of random planets?  I don’t know.

In a nutshell, Morphite is like a less ambitious version of No Man’s Sky.  You have plenty to “do” but there’s not really any motivation or purpose in doing “it.”  Outside of a single player story that has you finding out about the main character’s past and how it relates to the mysterious element morphite, there isn’t much impetus to “explore.”  You’ll want to find resources to upgrade your armor and ship, but the resources aren’t plentiful enough on planets to want to go grind for them.

Morphite has a full universe to explore with procedural planets, which is appealing to hear on its surface.  However, it would be hard to qualify these as actual “planets” considering their size and access, and its best to refer to them as “levels” instead.  In addition, the procedural planets aren’t anywhere near interesting or rewarding enough to warrant the effort of repeatedly visiting new ones.  I only ever wanted to run in one direction, hit a dead end, then leave.  The fauna is quite interesting and I hadn’t run over too many duplicates of creature models as I progressed through the storyline and visited a few of the random planets.

The story itself has hand-designed planets and boss battles, and they are usually way more fun to play on than the procedural levels.  The story takes about ten hours to complete, and there isn’t a point where the game says “ok, now explore” until you finish the story; outside of the random side missions you might come across until then, there honestly isn’t any point to exploration.  On the bright side, if you did want to explore every planet in the game, it will take you 5.9 x 103932349029302909530490394 hours, give or take a few exponents.  When you complete the game you’ll gain a significant buff to your ship’s capabilities, so if you are interested in experiencing more of the random levels, its probably better to wait until then.  Though, I haven’t seen much of a difference in levels the further you fly away from your origin point where all the story takes place.  So, your mileage will definitely vary, as once the story is over there’s nothing left to do but to visit these randomized levels.  On a more meta level, the long-term goal is to increase your character’s power by upgrading.  You are able to unlock new abilities by scanning plants and animals that pop up as rare, and have a special ability; using this scan in tandem with your other resources unlocks your potential.  With more upgrades, more planets become available for exploration, where you’ll continue scanning more and more.

Gameplay is your run of the mill first person shooter with different guns and explosives.  As you find more of the “elusive” morphite, you’ll get more weapons, as they morph into your new equipment.  Platforming and light puzzles will be the main activity other than shooting, but nothing usually on the scale of frustrating; some of the later story missions have interesting puzzle design.  You’ll occasionally run across items that will buff your character in small ways, such as a bracelet that gives you more health.  Ammo randomly spawns in boxes and you’ll probably be hurting for ammo at the beginning of the game when you only have a couple of weapons to use.  Later on there will be a lot more boxes to shoot open and more weapons to use, so this problem goes away eventually.  You can restock a moderate amount of ammo at the pod you used to land on the planet, but you’re usually going to be far away from the pod by the time you need it.  When you run out of ammo completely, your weapons will recharge up to a certain point, but anything over that number will require extra ammo drops.  Considering your ammo doesn’t recharge very quickly, this hinders your gameplay experience in the shooter department as you’ll have to run away a lot as there are no permanent melee weapons.  Relying on Puggles, who is a dog with a laser cannon on his back, to do most of your dirty work is the best way to conserve ammo.

Collecting resources to upgrade your stuff can be a grind, but the resources are so scarce its forced to become an afterthought usually.  Its also hard to monitor how much you have if you have the opportunity to buy more resources or the time to upgrade comes around.  No numbers fly up telling you what you’re currently at — you’ll have to menu hunt to see your current stock.  There’s also some story encounters while traveling from system to system where you’ll either get lucky or unlucky.  You may fly into an asteroid field where you actually get to control your ship for a bit, or lose resources due to pirates, or run across a trader from whom you can spend “Chunks” at to buy resources.  Chunks are the currency in this universe, and the primary way of earning Chunks is through selling “Common Scans” of plants and animals, whereas “Rare Scans” are used to upgrade yourself (or you can sell for a much higher price).  Unfortunately, scanning is pretty fucking awful until you upgrade it a bunch of times, and even then its sad that this is the only way to really make money in this game.  Resources are not found nearly as often to want to ever sell them, and the amount of Chunks you get from ammo boxes and the like is usually very low.

When traveling from system to system, you’ll also have to wait for your fuel to recharge.  This forces you to go space stations (which are available in every system) to refuel, or you can waste time and wait for it to refill automatically. You can use this time to explore a random planet, or do your laundry.  It’s your choice what you think is more productive.  The side missions I came across were also not appealing to try and complete as the rewards they offered were usually not that exciting.  I only ran across one side mission that I could complete then and there; most seem to want to send you out into another part of the universe to complete and I’m not about that life.

The standouts here are the art style and the music.  The art is actually quite fun and reminds me of old 3D DOS games, but obviously this title is much more detailed in certain aspects than that.  Low Poly definitely has its benefit when it comes to space as detail can often be left to the imagination.  The ambient music also fits the space theme accordingly and I was really digging everything I was listening to, which seemed to be at least ten different tracks.  The variety of music is done well and each song sounded was good in its own right, I would probably listen to this soundtrack on its own.  There was also weird sound mixing with the voice overs, sometimes the music would overtake the voice over and you could only understand what they were saying by reading the subtitles.

User interface is another story, however.  The space navigation screens, typography, and the menus all seemed like afterthoughts.  The spaceship cockpit distracted me in a way that felt as if it looked unfinished and they forgot to put some more polish into making it look good.  It’s quite odd, because you arguably spend the most time seeing your spaceship and the menus, but everything else about the game looks great.  Besides that, the usability of the user interface is much more clunky than I’d like and its a pain to use a controller to navigate it.  Considering this title is meant to be released on a phone, you can see some of the design decisions were not built for a controller, and too spread out for mouse/keyboard.  Its also a huge pain to switch weapons — how you can screw this up in a first person shooter is beyond me, but there’s no easy and quick way to switch to your weapons with a controller, and you are relegated to another menu hunt to switch logically.  This becomes increasingly exacerbated as there will be puzzles that require you to switch between three different weapons over and over.  Keyboard/Mouse isn’t much better and you’ll have to remember which weapon is assigned to the numbers on the keyboard.  You can also use the scroll wheel to go one by one, or menu hunt then click “equip” once you find what you want — there are N64 games that are easier to switch weapons in.

Admittedly, its hard to get too excited about Morphite, but it is fun while your interest holds.  The story isn’t too long and I don’t think it overstays its welcome.  The ending is anticlimactic and the boss battles tend to be a bit on the easy side.  The mystery of the story is good while it lasts, and it never takes itself too seriously, not to mention it takes a dark turn towards the end that I wouldn’t have guessed would be part of the story.  Coming into Morphite thinking you’re going to be playing an indie sci-fi shooter is a better way to go about it than thinking its anything related to No Man’s Sky.

 

Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Three Phase Interactive || Overall: 6.0

Occasionally a game comes along that reminds me of something that I used to do as a kid.  I was very much into building my own custom LEGO spaceships or random things and having them fly around and shoot at each other, making up a story in my head about all of the cool shit that was “actually” happening.  Indeed, I was just waving plastic around in the air and making noises, but it was fun to me, dammit!  Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit harks back to my earlier days, giving you a litany of neat spaceship parts to assemble and construct, then take it out for a spin through the universe.

The concept is great.  The shipbuilding is fun.  The game design is okay.  The controls, though… holy shit are they frustrating.  When you get out of the shipbuilding menu and into an actual mission, you’re going to be fighting against the user interface as much as you do enemies.  The game controls exactly as you would expect an Asteroids-floaty-space-combat game to be, and that’s not an especially great thing.  Because there are some micromanaging aspects in the arcade gameplay, it is hard to be able to control your ship during intense action as well as make use of the “Direct Control” options.

Your crew will automatically use weapons, but they don’t hit your target very often.  When you put weapons under “Direct Control” your weapons are a lot more effective, but it becomes painfully obvious that it’s a lot harder to kill anything than it should be, especially at the beginning of the campaign.  Your projectiles usually don’t have a very long range, or are slow-moving and dissipate before they hit the moving target (these are alleviated as you progress).  It would be a lot more satisfying if anywhere near half of the shots you are shooting hit something, but in my experience it was more like 25% unless I was right on their ass.  Considering your ships start with awful engines and awful maneuverability, that wasn’t very often.  You can also use Direct Control to buff another piece of your ship and also to repair them as they take damage.  There are plenty of weapons that will one-shot you, so you’ll have to be careful.  A major impact on your performance is how well you execute building a ship that is able to move fast, have enough weaponry, and have enough armor to accomplish the task at hand.  Not an easy feat, typically.

After the first couple of missions, I hit a wall in the difficulty level, mostly because of the controls.  It became frustrating for me to constantly fail despite designing all sorts of ships and doing all sorts of tactics.  Another grating thing on my patience was that the whole level had to load again for each retry, after booting you to the mission select screen.  Considering the game starts you out quite under-powered, your enemies seem to be a lot harder than they should be, and the missions don’t seem to ramp up in difficulty in a consistent manner.  I started out on “Normal” difficulty and once I hit the wall, I knocked it down to “Easy.”  Unfortunately, there was no tangible difference between Normal and Easy that I could see.  After getting through the first few missions, about six different ones become available for play and go into different branching paths for a total of 50 missions.  The mission variety is not too bad, but tend to boil down to “kill the enemies,” and rightfully so.  You are able to replay older missions so you can unlock more parts, but at the same time you don’t want to be stuck in a grind instead of doing new missions — especially since new missions grant you the most new parts.  Not to mention, doing an old mission isn’t an assured win by any means.  To top it all off the camera constantly zooms in and out; this removes you from the action and being left with not knowing who or what is being shot at.  Getting disoriented from the seemingly-random zooms is another obstacle in and of itself.

After defeating a mission, your ship will always be stolen away from you by mutineers.  At the end of the next mission, you’ll fight that ship in a duel.  This is a sort of clever progression mechanic as it forces you to at least have to build a “better” ship than your last and you can’t always rely on your older designs as they use lesser equipment.  The double meaning of “Defect” becomes quite amusing as you have to fix the defects (flaws) in your ships, and your ship ends up being your enemy when your crew stages a defection by mutiny.  As an Easter Egg of sorts, a fun homage to David Bowie is one of the mutineer character designs.

Since the game forces you to constantly design new ships after they are stolen, it is a great way to put focus back on the ship building.  Even though your ship designs are saved, you’ll typically unlock something new after each completed mission, so you’ll want to mess around with the new things you got or try to make something completely different.  Missions usually demand a unique ship configuration, anyhow.

There is a great variety in ship building even from the start.  Your main limiter in building is Power Level, which is dictated by the Power Core you have.  You earn better Cores as you complete missions, and as you have more Power, you are able to have more Crew.  Most pieces require Power Level+Crew, but since Power converts into crew, you’ll eventually hit a point where you can’t add anything more to your ship due to your initial Power Level.  As you equip stronger propulsion engines you’ll need to balance them out with Stability, which forces you to mess around with different combinations of wings and rockets.

Defect also looks great; the enemy spaceships are unique and quite inspired in their designs.  While many pieces of ships are obviously influenced by popular media, the combination of them all together make for some interesting sights.  As you progress and acquire larger Power Cores, you’ll be able to build larger ships.  The graphics in general are pretty good and the sound effects aren’t annoying either.  The ship building user interface is also pretty simple to understand and nothing hinders that experience.  You are allowed to save up to 499 designs and share them with friends, which is also cool.  Using a controller during missions is an option, but most of the game requires a mouse/keyboard, so there isn’t much impetus to use one.

Despite all of the good things I have to say about the game, justifying giving it a low score really comes down to me not being able to derive much enjoyment from the actual usage of the ships I was making.  The controls aren’t intuitive, which leads to the levels being too difficult which leads to the game simply becoming a frustrating experience.  I can’t in good conscience recommend this game to anyone unless you’re great with floaty-space arcade games.  It may be entirely possible that none of the defects (pun!) of the game make no impact on your enjoyment, as it is essentially Asteroids on steroids with ship-building.  And much like no longer playing with LEGO spaceships in the air pretending they shoot lasers, I’ve given up on what could have been.

 

Max the Lovelorn Bear

There once was a bear named Max.  He was a hopeless romantic who spent his days smelling flowers and eating bark off of trees for the cleanliness of his teeth.  He would always try to find the perfect flower to give to one of his many potential mates.

Natasha the Big Brown Bear was the skankiest bear in all of The NeighborWood, also known as “The Wood.”  She would climb trees and then eat the acorns out of their shells and then spit them at other bears.  She was so annoying.  This one time she spat an acorn shell on the mayor of The Wood, Mayor Hunstingson.  She was kicked out of the city for three days and had to direct traffic from the neighboring city ForesTown to and fro.  Traffic duty is pretty much the worst duty you could do in The Wood since everyone is an idiot and doesn’t know how to drive their cars.

Max found a Red Mistberry Flower growing in a ravine north of the NeighborWood Nuclear Factory.  He thought it smelled so good that he picked it and decided to give it to Natasha as a gesture of affection.  He thought since Natasha would be all alone on the Bearway Pass between NeighborWood and ForesTown, he could make his move.

It was an unfortunate misplacing of romantic intentions for Max.  Natasha had the IQ of a baboon, and the brain of one, too.  That’s why she’s so stupid.  Because she isn’t a bear, she is a baboon in the body of a bear.  Too bad for Max because she had a booty like DANGGGG!!!!!  Natasha ate his Red Mistberry Flower and spat the seeds at him when he presented it to her.

All spat on, heartbroken, and no one to love, Max went back to his den made out of bricks.  It was a nice den, but watch out if he wanted to fart because IT’S MADE OF BRICKS!!!!!  You may not get it, but sure.

The next week, Max found a flower called the Junior Talap Wishmaker.  It was the perfect type of flower to give to Allison the Green Bear.  Why was she green?  Because she is soooooo cool.  That’s why!  She’s like one of those chicks you see on BizarroBook who is friends with someone you know but sticks out like a sore thumb in their friends list.  So, Allison the Green Bear was at the local record store Bear-cords, smelling the guitar tablature books.  She liked the very minor temporary high the glue gave her.  Max came in, holding the large flower between his teeth, trotting down the aisle in a triumphant fashion.  Allison looked over to see Max presenting her with the flower.  She smelled it, but it did not give her even the slightest amusement.  Her swollen red eyes watered as the flowers pungent smell filled her sinuses.  She stood up on two legs and sneezed right onto Max’s face.  Max dropped the flower in astonishment and suddenly he was teleported back to his brick den.  The Junior Talap Wishmaker would grant one wish to anyone who sneezed on the face of the person that had picked (aka murdered) the flower.  In this case, Allison wished for Max to go away.

For two weeks, Max was again depressed and lacking in the macking.  He searched high and low for the next flower that would really impress his new love, Calista the Model Bear.  Calista spent most of her days at the NeighborWood Hidden Lake Resort, poolside, tanning in the moonlight.  The moonlight tanning fad had become a mandated regiment by the bear modeling agency known as Bear-It-All, and was forcing all of their famous bear models to take part in the tanning procedure which consisted of placing a huge amplification telescope above the tanner and focus the beam onto them until they became glowing with moon radiation.

Max was able to catch a spaceship to the Moon and picked a Moonflower for Calista since she seemed to like the Moon and he thought if he got this rare and special Moonflower which you could be arrested for if you picked it because there’s only like three of them left, so it makes it even MORE romantic because he committed a crime to show his love and chicks fall over for that stuff like a domino in a hurricane.

Max was seen by the Moonflower Security Response Team and for the next three days he was in the middle of a Western-Sci-Fi-style laser gunfight and spaceship dogfight campaign to get the flower back to the Earth.  Needless to say, and really the point I’m trying to make, is that Max did a lot to get this flower and it was a lot of effort.

After killing 67 members of the security team, they finally let him go.  Max gained the nickname the Moonflower Assassin for his cunning flower picking skills and being able to elude all of the security around the illustrious Moonflower.

Max , dressed in his space fighter leather jacket, with 67 tally marks on his right shoulder and “Moonflower Assassin” written in capital letters across his back, journeyed up the mountain to the Hidden Lake Resort.  Standing on two legs, he presented the Moonflower to Calista.

“Ugh, what is that?  I don’t even LIKE flowers… harrumph!”  Calista put the cucumbers back on her eyes and began to ignore Max again.

Max fell backward and the Moonflower, encased in its little forcefield blasted off towards the moon, to return to its nest.

Later next week, Max was escorted to the Emergency Sex Change Room.  He had absolutely no luck with women so he decided he wanted to try being one so that he could learn how to make one like him.

He hated flowers forever.

The end.

Moral of the story:  If you only have two minutes to think up a moral to explain your story, you’re doing it wrong.

 

The Wise Tennis Ball

Tenny the Tennis Ball has been stuck in the same fence for 15 years.  Oh, the stories he could tell you about Rochestor Elementary School.  Tenny wasn’t always in a fence, though.  At one point, he was used as a tool for mass infliction of pain!

But, ever since he was thrown into the very top rung of the fence, Tenny observed the school and all of the events that transpired below.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Tenny is a romantic.  He longed for the days when he was trapped between two other tennis balls to whom he could have constant contact with in the metal tube he came from.  He is into the multi-racial thing, too, as one was green and the other was orange.

It isn’t easy being stuck in a fence at a lowly school in Missouri.  No one ever says, “Hi,” to him and when the seasons change, he weathers the weather without so much as a glimpse from a 5th grader.

There Tenny stayed stuck in a fence, never minded upon, simply unnoticed, always observing.

That is, until an electrical storm forced an alien spaceship into the atmosphere!  They were planning an attack on a K-Mart building that had gained sentience and was threatening to collect on the layaways the aliens had at the store.  The Layawaliens’ plans were foiled when the K-Mart Building #1335 created an electrical storm to foil them.

The immense radiation blast that came from the Layawaliens’ ship was focused solely at Tenny the Tennis Ball.  His simple existence of being stuck in a fence had instantly become something more… and as the Layawaliens tried to restabalize and exit the atmosphere, a second large burst of radiation hit Tenny and he sprouted legs, and arms, and a brain, and a head, and a kidney… two even!  He had become what he only knew… and elementary school kid.  A 5th grader, to be exact.

But he was still stuck in a fence, body organs hanging out every which way because there was no room for him to grow “naturally.”  There he groaned and lamented in pain as his tennis-ball-fur-covered organs hung and bounced around as he tried to free himself to no avail.

How he longed even more for the days of being a normal tennis ball!  This being a half-human-half-tennis-ball thing got old after about ten minutes of having two swinging kidneys.

There he stayed over the weekend until the children went out to recess.  It’s sort of hard to not notice this weird human hybrid monster thing hanging at the top of the fence.  Some children started to throw rocks and insults at Tenny for no reason.  He hated being “human” and hated humans, too!

Just then, the K-Mart Building #1335 developed space flight capability and empathically felt Tenny’s pain.  If K-Mart Building #1335 wanted a life-hating space captain, Tenny was it.

As the K-Mart building lifted off it made a tractor beam shoot out and rip off the piece of the fence that Tenny was stuck in and levitated it into its roll-up doors and exited the atmosphere.  Tenny the Tennis Ball was given a chair that fit the contours of his new body perfectly.  Even though he was still stuck in afence, he was able to integrate his thoughts with the space-bound building.

First order of business, was a volley of phasers and rockets and contact solution as well as several types of canned goods at Rochester Elementary.  There were tons of screaming children as they were splashed with exploding cases of contact solution and pelted with canned cucumbers and peaches.  The phasers targeted the handball and four-square courts to the children would never get to play at recess again.  This would lead to diabetes in 3/4 of the children and they wouldn’t be able to eat any fun food for the rest of their lives.

The K-Mart building communicated to Tenny that it was going to follow the damaged Layawalien ship back to its home planet and collect on its layaways in full, even if that means taking over their planet.

The Layawaliens ship finally made its way back to its home planet of Layaway Planet, where everything on the planet took a decade to pay for, so it was all old-looking shit.  The defensive capabilities of the planet were no match for K-Mart Building #1335, and soon it landed on the planet, creating a fortress around itself and infecting the population with a derivative of salmonella from its sliced Turkey products that the Layawaliens foolishly took it out on layaway from the store.

Three weeks after the fortress had been completed and 90% of the Layawalien population had food poisoning and stomachaches, Tenny declared Layaway Planet the property of K-Mart Building #1335.  The Layawaliens were forced to sign a treaty agreeing to this fact, so that they would be able to get antacids and cures for the salmonella poisoning that threatened their race.

Tenny thought back to his simpler days of being stuck in a fence as a normal tennis ball.  Look how far he had come, in such a short time.

Moral:  When your life is changed drastically, think of the consequences it has on others as well.