MEGATech Reviews: Morphite (Nintendo Switch)
Great graphics are hardly a prerequisite for a great game, but we do want to be captivated and engaged while we're playing it, not confused and indifferent.
Pros
  • Expansive exploration opportunities
  • Focus on exploration, not combat
  • Decent value for money
Cons
  • Very slow paced
  • Lack of visual interest
  • Clunky user interface
6.5Overall Score

It's perfectly understandable that the majority of the attention on the Nintendo Switch is directed at the biggest names in the business. Everyone talks about Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey and for good reason; they're terrific games. But sometimes, as you dive your way through the eShop, you uncover some hidden gems that may have otherwise overlooked. Is Morphite for the Nintendo Switch one of those games? Well...

Boldly Go?

Developed by Blowfish Studios and published by Level 77, Morphite will inevitably be compared to the Metroid Prime series and No Man's Sky. The game's premise shares a lot of similarities, after all, as it's a space exploration title where you get to visit far-off planets in search of new discoveries. There's a little bit of science, a dash of botany, a pinch of crafting (sort of), and intermittent combat.

The story follows a young woman named Myrah Kale as she veers all across the galaxy in search of a rare substance called Morphite. We're not sure what it is or why it is significant, but we know that we want to learn more about it as the narrative plays on. The graphic style is decidedly minimalist and polygonal. There are practically no facial features to speak of and you won't really see anything in terms of texture. It's a striking aesthetic that you'll either love or abhor.

The approach to this game is equally minimalist in that there is no main menu, no difficulty settings, no character selection or anything of that sort. That being said, you do get to play into several RPG elements as you can upgrade your suit, your weapons and your ship in several different ways.

Polygonal Exploration

The majority of your time will be spent on the actual planets (and space stations) themselves, exploring these environments on foot. Even though there are some FPS-type elements here (which I'll describe in just a moment), Morphite doesn't really focus on that aspect at all. Combat is intermittent at best and can oftentimes be avoided altogether. It's mostly just walking around and exploring.

That being said, you are responsible (to an extent) for getting from solar system to solar system, planet to planet. This was vaguely reminiscent of the planet map from the original Star Fox games, but decidedly more complex. While you are provided with a specific primary mission at any given time, you are free to visit other planets as you please, so long as they are reasonably hospitable. You'll need to upgrade your suit to handle planets that are too hot or too cold, for instance.

One other factor that you'll need to consider is fuel. That gas tank won't get you everywhere, so you'll oftentimes need to make a pit stop somewhere along the way to refuel. This isn't free, so you'll need to trade in some of your scans (another thing I'll describe in a moment) for the in-game currency (affectionately called "chunks") to pay for that fuel.

To navigate around, you choose the star system you wish to visit and, once you arrive, you choose the planet or space station. Along the way, you'll make some random encounters with asteroid fields that you'll need to dodge (as shown above), potential trading partners, and even space battles.

Science and Combat

Now, remember how I said that you'll be spending most of your time on planet (and not in space)? And how I said that you really won't be spending that much time in active combat at all? That's because the core of the game really relies more on scientific inquiry and exploration, so to speak.

One of the primary tools you are provided in the game is a scanner. As you mosey your way around the planet at this mostly relaxed pace, you scan any of the interesting fauna and flora that you encounter. And even the not so interesting plants and creatures. The idea is that you want to encounter as many unique organisms as possible, adding them to your catalog. The process takes a few seconds and it involves variants, like the old, young and diseased versions of the same fern.

This is decidedly easy for plants, as they remain stationary. Animals are another matter altogether. Most are skittish, but some aren't friendly and will attack you. But if you're a completionist (and I imagine some of these creatures may become necessary later in the game), you'll persist. On the bright side, the animal AI isn't that bright. They'll run in circles or into walls. On the down side, I found aiming the scanner to be frustrating and I noticed a lot of graphic clipping as these creatures hurled themselves into mountainsides.

And in my chase (or retreat, in some cases), I'd sometimes fall down into a crevasse or into the water. From what I can tell, you don't really drown. However, you can get completely disoriented in the decidedly simple, polygonal graphics. The whole side of a riverbank could be one solid color.

When you do encounter wildlife that reacts aggressively to your scientific scanning, you will likely end up swapping out for your blaster to shoot the darn thing instead. That's what I had to do with that bull (bear? rhino?) near the top of the page. Even so, I probably could have avoided that encounter altogether and walked right past it if I were careful enough.

This is a big reason why I was caught so off-guard with the first "boss battle." I didn't realize I had to fight this dragon-like creature (spoiler!). At least, it seems now in hindsight that I had to fight it, but even now I'm not completely sure. My video game instincts kicked in when I saw the life bar, as no other creature had a life bar, but whatever the case, combat is clearly not the main focus of Morphite at all.

MEGATechie Rare Gem or MEGATechie Out of Its Element?

My experience with this game was largely paradoxical and contradictory. On the one hand, I appreciate the attempt at a unique graphic style, but I found the stark presentation lacking. I liked how combat wasn't the primary focus here, but gameplay felt too slow and too relaxed; my three-year-old daughter literally fell asleep watching me play. The lack of true direction gives you the freedom to explore, but there's almost too much ambiguity at times.

Like, look at this guy here. My video game instincts told me that I should probably shoot him, but he just stood there and stared at me. Turns out that if I talk to him, he provides me with a side mission. And then, later on, I'm told to avoid other humanoid-like figures because they might attack me. What gives? And after a while, everything starts to look kind of the same, especially with the plants.

It would be unfair to compare this title to its AAA counterparts, as the latter come with AAA price tags too. If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive casual diversion, Morphite offers a fresh take on interstellar exploration. Just recognize that it probably won't hold your attention forever. Morphite for the Nintendo Switch is available now through the Nintendo eShop for $14.99.


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