Space, the final frontier. The setting of endless works of fiction. The realm of infinite possibilities. Anyway, here’s a game set in space, so it’s time for blastoff.
Morphite takes place in a far off future when humanity has long since populated the distant reaches of space. The player takes on the role of Myrah Kale, a young woman residing on a space station and workshop under the care of her surrogate father. What starts as a simple exploratory mission to gather supplies to support their shop rapidly turns into a journey revealing Myrah’s unknown past and her relationship to a rare, coveted, and nearly extinct unobtanium called Morphite. It’s rather sophisticated for an indie title, and even though some of the twists can be seen coming, it’s an okay plot. Could do without the hilariously cheesy voice acting, though.
Morphite is a first person adventure taking cues from classic titles like Metroid Prime and Ratchet & Clank. Your journey through the story will largely involve visiting a number of planets, finishing objectives, finding upgrades and moving on. Rinse and repeat throughout the whole journey. The aforementioned games are where the game’s substance lies.
Metroid Prime’s influence can be seen in the control scheme, specifically the lock on function, scattered upgrades (mostly hidden away on revisits to previously explored worlds) and weapons (discovered through natural story progression), and the incentive to scan objects and creatures, in this case for currency, known as chunks, used to upgrade your suit, ship and armor. Likewise, the planet travelling based progression is reminiscent of Hunters and Corruption, mainly where revisits are concerned (though with much more than 4-5 planets). Ratchet & Clank’s inspiration comes in with the space segments come into play. Sometimes when travelling between worlds, you may be impeded by an enemy combatant or an asteroid field, forcing you into combat or evasive maneuvers. It’s a nice side mode to complement the space aesthetic and balances out the exploration gameplay. There’s also a deployable helper dog which is Mr. Zurkon without the hammy lines, so there’s that.
There’s a third, more obvious (and probably the most often pointed out) influence not mentioned: No Man’s Sky. Specifically, there’s material gathering (also for upgrades), NPCs to shop and take sidequests from, and procedurally generated worlds. The latter aspect doesn’t feature in the main story and only applies to planets to be visited optionally (of which there are many), so there are no worries to be had over it messing with the plot, and the ability to recall your drop pod to your current position so long as there’s an unobstructed sky is a good counterbalance to the sometimes open environments.
These gameplay elements come together rather well to make the adventure pleasant, though not without faults. The scanning feature is far from perfect, taking longer to execute (though this is upgradeable) and not locking on automatically like in Metroid Prime (and the manual lock on isn’t perfect for some creatures moving erratically). The ship’s need to refuel does forcibly slow progression for you to gather chunks and/or visit space stations every few solar systems to keep going. The weapon switching could stand to be a bit faster. Even with problems like these, however, they don’t bring down the experience significantly. Morphite is still fun to play.
Presentation-wise, Morphite goes for a minimalistic style with little in the way of pronounced textures and details, and it looks good. The environments are never totally bland since there’s always something colorful in the horizon, and you’re never really getting lost over similar looking areas due to the map and drop pod recall ability. The music clearly rides on this as well, with atmospheric tunes that wouldn’t be out of place in our average Metroid title. There is a glaring issue with performance, however. It’s not unplayable by any means, but in a reverse Splatoon 2 scenario, the core gameplay runs at 30 FPS and stuff like cutscenes and low interaction areas run at 60. The transition is therefore rather jarring when it happens. Optimization from mobile devices might have to do with the inconsistency, but it is the game’s single greatest fault, and something I hope a patch improves.
As an FPS Metroidvania on a console without Metroid Prime 4 yet (and probably for a long while), Morphite is an overall good time. Quirks like the scanning, the forced progression halting and definitely the framerate could be a lot better, but the core package is still serviceable for a first person adventure and you’re getting a lengthy campaign to go with it. Recommended for those who enjoy Metroid in particular, but those with an affinity for sandbox games and adventure games can find value in Morphite too.