Morphite is a first-person planetary exploration game from indie developer Crescent Moon Games. There have been a lot of comparisons made between Morphite and No Man’s Sky, and they’re somewhat accurate: Morphite is what you get when you strip the few elements from No Man’s Sky that were actually good — the varied and beautiful planets and their flora and fauna — resulting in a title that’s as dead as outer space.
Unlike No Man’s Sky, Morphite has a campaign that sends players across multiple solar systems in search of a rare and powerful resource called morphite. There are tons of solar systems with their own planets to explore, and any planet that isn’t related to the main story is randomly-generated. You’ll pick what planets to go to in a menu, and you’ll have to stop at a space station in every solar system to refuel. They took away the long travel times between planets that No Man’s Sky had yet still managed to make it tedious.
Sadly, the scope of these planets — generated or not — is incredibly small. The story planets all play out in the same way: walk in a straight line, hop across some platforms, activate platforms that hover, and repeat until the goal is reached. Sometimes there’s a boss at the end, but the path there lacks any clever puzzle solving or fun enemies.
The randomly-generated planets are even more boring. They’re typically smaller than the story planets and the only reason to bother exploring them are for minerals to upgrade your equipment or to take on sidequests. Minerals can be found by shooting mineral deposits and only one or two minerals are picked up at a time. Don’t sweat mineral hunting, though: I made it through the game just fine without adding any optional upgrades to my equipment. These upgrades include making your weapons or ship stronger and improving the defensive capabilities of your armor.
Sidequests, found both on story planets and the randomly-generated ones, are so bad they’re good. I found my favorite sidequest while running around a tiny randomly-generated planet when I spotted a blocky NPC huddling next to what looked like a wrecked home. The character needed help preparing for the invasion of some alien creature with a silly name, and tasked me with putting up a barricade in less than a minute. The barricade turned out to be a couple fence-looking things, pictured below, that I’m sure will totally stop predatory aliens.
The signature feature in Morphite is that it has a simple, blocky art style. At first it seemed charming, and that had a lot to do with the blocky robot-cat that follows you around and the 90s-quality voice acting. It starts to get progressively worse as you play more of Morphite, though.
That’s because so much of the game has to do with discovering new creatures and plantlife and scanning them to earn money. The problem is that everything in Morphite looks so damn similar, it’s hard to tell anything apart. Planets have plenty of variation in their coloring — some are green, some are red, some are orange — but everything on the planet is a bunch of ugly blocks.
It gets even worse when you try to actually scan stuff. The scanner in Morphite acts like a really wonky vacuum from a Luigi’s Mansion game, basically: you have to point the scanner’s beam directly at the object you’re trying to scan, and you’ll lose the scan if you even slightly move it off. Scanning trees and flowers is easy because they don’t move; scanning a bug or an enemy is next to impossible. The developers should have made the scanner work like it does in Metroid Prime, where the object you’re scanning only has to be somewhere in the viewport to scan it.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of Morphite for this Morphite review.