Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a horrorpunk action RPG developed by Still Running and published by Merge Games. It released on Steam and consoles on December 3, 2020, and is filled with Lovecraftian horrors, Cronenbergian gore and good old-fashioned loot. Players take control of the last surviving Striver of Dibrom. You have trained your whole life for this moment, to defeat the Seven Acolytes which are powerful beings possessed by mysterious monsters called Gahars. Playing Morbid: The Seven Acolytes reminded me of Diablo 2 back in the early action RPG days.
The Gahars have bound their twisted minds to the flesh of the Seven Acolytes, for without hosts they cannot survive. They are foul looking beasts, and I’m thankful for the pixel art style of the game as some of the monsters and bosses are quite graphic. There is lots of blood and guts but it’s not too in-your-face thanks to the art style. Whilst fighting the first boss, I didn’t notice what was in the background until its guts exploded everywhere upon defeating the boss. It was a dead whale and after the blood explosion settles, it lets you run through to the next area.
The controls for this game took a little getting used to – WSAD to move, 1-4 to activate items in the quickslots in the bottom left of the screen, and using the keyboard to navigate the inventory is a bit clunky. The mouse is used to aim melee attacks and fire ranged weapons with single clicking LMB for light attacks and holding it down for heavy attached, while and RMB parries. Holding down shift allows you to sprint at a cost of stamina and holding ctrl allows you to stealth which amplifies the sounds around you, allowing you to sneak past enemies or get behind them for larger attacks.
There’s a heavy emphasis on managing your stamina as sprinting, dodge rolls with spacebar and heavy attacks sap your stamina and you don’t start with too much initially. There are over 25 different weapons in the game ranging from small and quick weapons like 1-handed swords and daggers, or heavy-hitters such as tridents and great swords. You can also carry a ranged weapon that you pick up a short time into the game and you can use pistols, shotguns and crossbows, but you have very limited ammo – just 5 bullets/bolts but you can collect rare ammo refill packs. Meditating at a shrine restores your health and ammo thankfully.
Each of the different weapons in Morbid: The Seven Acolytes has a number of upgrade slots that you can fit runes into. Runes do things such as add fire or lightning damage, increase your health, life-tap on hit and can be added to weapons on the fly. My sword and trident had four rune slots which made a noticeable difference to damage output and adding fire/poison/cold damage. Whilst I would normally go for faster swing speeds in games like this, I preferred using 2-handed weapons even though they are much slower. The range that you can hit monsters gives you a lot more escape and dodge mobility, especially with the boss fights where they hit you extremely hard. Later you are granted an item to remove runes, however be warned, they remove all runes at once, and this rune remover is a single-use item. It’s a bit of a bummer that we can’t swap out individual runes as it means we need to store more for later, taking up inventory space.
Exploring each zone early on, which are impeccably detailed, you’ll find books that will either provide a game tutorial hint or provide some of the game’s story and lore. You get a quick glance at the item description, but it’s not until you get to shrines that you are able to read more into the game’s story, read the quest log, meditate, fast travel and save the game. These shrines are your save points and therefore you will want to remember where they are. You’ll die a lot whilst learning each monster’s mechanics, particularly the skull icon mini bosses. When you die, you respawn at the last shrine you visited. You don’t lose items or XP thankfully, but monsters all reset.
When fighting through these zones, there’s no minimap or overarching map to open. Therefore you need to remember where things are or where you picked up that side quest which got frustrating. I had to do a fair amount of backtracking to remember where an NPC was that I got a side quest from, to the point I skipped handing them in during the starting zones. There are also no vendors or storage chests, so after a while I had to just discard items when my pack was full.
The other unique additions to Morbid: The Seven Acolytes are the levelling system and the sanity meter. When you gain enough XP to level up, you’re rewarded with a skill point. I was waiting for a while with no method to use these skill points, until I came across my first blessing. Blessings are like buff cards that you spend points to level up and they can only be slotted when at shrines. The sanity meter is purple on the left of the screen and if you start dropping close to zero, purple veins pulse at the edges of the screen. When this happens and monsters die, there’s the chance a purple ghostly form of that monster will spawn adding more difficulty to combat.
I like the fact that shrines are your save points and meditating at them will reset all the monsters you just killed. It’s a bit of risk versus reward in that you come across a shrine and you may have half health, but you may decide not to meditate as you can then run freely to paths you may have skipped past to get there. I also like that you can fast travel between shrines, allowing you to teleport back to hand in a side or main quest without having to run back and remembering the way without a map. It’s sometimes a good break between combat, allowing you to unwind a little by reading some item, weapon, area or story lore that you uncovered through recent travels.
Overall, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a decent action RPG that fans of the genre will enjoy. It has a souls like playstyle so be sure to keep an eye out for those shrines. Death isn’t to be feared but you will have to fight the monsters you just cleared, and in the later levels, this can mean a decent amount of time lost. I enjoyed the progression from each zone with terrific music and I liked the art style that softened the sometimes-graphic content. If you’re up for a challenge, Morbid is for you.