Morphite is an arcadey, first person space exploration game with procedurally generated planets, resource collecting, and upgradeable equipment. Sound familiar? Well, while it may sound a lot like No Man’s Sky, the similarities are really only skin deep. Play Morphite for a while, and you’ll find it’s trying to carve its own path through the stars.
You play as Myrah, a woman living and working on a space station with her guardian, Mr Mason. Alongside a robotic feline companion, Kitcat, you’ll be navigating through the cosmos unraveling the mysteries surrounding an extremely rare and very powerful material: the titular Morphite. The story is ok, but the writing (and a lot of the voice acting) is pretty poor. Because of this, the story falls flat and struggles to earn back much interest.
What is interesting is the way the story mixes in with a sizeable sandbox. The planets upon which the story missions take place are all hand crafted, while everywhere else is procedurally generated. It’s an odd design decision, as it can be a help or a hindrance depending on what you’re doing. The story planets, for example, have more visual variety and offer unique challenges, whether it’s a simple platforming section or a boss battle against a giant alien creature. There’s always an objective to move towards, as well as crates of ammo to find, mineral deposits to pick clean, and wildlife to scan. All of these things are worth doing as they all tie into upgrading Myrah’s suit, her ship, or her weapons.
While the other planets do have the same features (bar the story missions, of course), they feel empty by comparison. They generally have quite a small area to move around in, a handful of creatures and plants to scan, and some items to pick up, but they are devoid of any real character. We would always drop into systems on the way to the next story mission due to a lack of fuel, but we never felt it was worth spending more than a few minutes systematically scanning aliens and doing a lap of the environment. Sometimes the procedural generation can really highlight itself; one planet we landed on had a miniscule explorable space, but you could spend 50 chunks (Morphite’s currency) to ride around on an alien dinosaur. It would’ve been a neat idea for getting around a large map quickly, but it was utterly pointless on the planet in question.
The presentation doesn’t really help matters, either. The polygonal graphics paired with vividly coloured landscapes and wildlife make for a unique look, but once the novelty wears off, the levels all look basically the same. The music is suitably ambient and synth heavy, but there’s only a small selection of tracks, so you’ll quickly grow weary of how the game sounds as well as how it looks.
There is at least some nice interplay within the game’s simplistic systems. Scans of common species can be traded for money, while rarer critters can unlock new upgrades for your suit. Some planets are too hot or cold to visit straight away, so investing in upgrades is worth doing in order to explore the more hazardous locations. Gathering elements and minerals is also necessary for upgrades, and you can buy/sell them depending on your needs. The story introduces new weapons as you go, some of which help you explore further. The ion grenades can blow up weak walls or piles of rocks, for instance.
Space travel is largely automated outside of choosing your destination, but sometimes random events will crop up to keep flights interesting. It’s a nice touch, but they vary from the useful (crossing paths with a trade ship with which you can, er, trade) to the frustrating (paying a fine for flying through a no-fly zone, which is obviously beyond your control). Again, it lends a little personality to the space travel, but the RNG in play here can be a little unfair at times.
What you end up with is a sci-fi exploration title that is, ultimately, dull. There's barely anything going on in Morphite. Once you’ve beaten the story and upgraded your equipment, there’s very little reason to go back to previous locations, and new ones are too similar to offer any meaningful extended play. Myrah’s adventure may pique the interest of genre die-hards, but the limited scope of the game makes it difficult to recommend.