PAX Aus 2017: Morphite (Switch) Hands-On
As the Vooks team wandered the PAX expo hall we jumped with joy at the sight of an unreleased Switch indie game actually running on a Switch console. The game was Morphite, a space exploration game already available for other platforms but is coming to the Switch on November 2nd. I got to play through the game’s tutorial and watch a developer play through the same section and explore a procedurally generated location. I liked the look of what I got to play and see played for me, but it did seem like a game that’s hard to judge from such a quick session. In a game driven by exploration the longevity will be reliant on the variety and substance in the environments you can explore and the activities you can perform in them.
The thing you notice immediately about Morphite is its art style. It sports super saturated neon colours with low poly models, which gives it a very distinctive look. The models are stylised, embracing and owning their limitations rather than feeling cheap or unattractive. The human characters are like toys and manage to have personality despite their lack of facial features, and there’s a number of unique and interesting alien designs that you’ll encounter as well. The voice acting helps in this regard too, which I couldn’t actually hear on the show floor but enjoyed when I watched my footage back. The game has a sense of humour too, mostly through the guide character, Kitcat. He’s a robot cat who delivers some funny dialogue through a monotonous robotic voice. The sidequest I encountered was a laugh too – on the outskirts on one planet was an isolated drop pod from a spaceship. Upon opening the doors I was greeted by the fact this was actually an occupied portaloo and the alien inside desperately asked me to find some toilet paper for them.
Morphite’s core gameplay loop involves travelling between planets and exploring them. There’s a main storyline that you can follow through a series of handcrafted planets but you’re also free to explore a number of procedurally generated planets as well. You select a destination from your ship’s navigation computer and are flown there in a cutscene. However, sometimes along the way you can be faced with a random event. In my demo we got a warning saying that my ship was leaking fuel and that we could attempt to fix it. My guide chose to do so and it stopped our ship from losing fuel that’s needed to travel through space. The answer to these events isn’t always obvious as apparently the same event can have different outcomes next time even if you take the same action you did before, similar to those in FTL.
Once you’ve reached a planet you’ll head down to the surface in a drop pod, and you can turn around and view the screen inside of it to see a few more statistics on the planet which was a nice touch. You’ll eventually reach the surface and can head off towards your goal (if you have one). Or you could take the time to just chill and explore at your own pace, scanning the native flora and fauna and gathering materials. You can sell your scans and materials for money or use them to craft upgrades, like a new suit that allows you to withstand the hot temperatures of some planets. Combat was never too stressful, not only can you lock onto enemies for easier shots but the enemies I encountered were always either slow and easy to hit, or fast but not durable. So Morphite could be a nice game for sitting back, listening to the soothing soundtrack and taking in the sights.
That being said, I’m not sure how long the game will last for people looking for something a bit more substantial. While the shooting is serviceable it’s definitely lacking in oomph, and locking onto enemies and slowly shooting at them isn’t much of a meaty experience. Hopefully there’s some later enemy types with unique quirks, or some more exciting weapons to make that aspect of the gameplay more engaging. It’s also hard to gauge how repetitive the non-combat focused aspects of the game will be, too. The rewards for scanning that I found were mostly monetary and I didn’t get to see what you can actually use money on to see whether there’s some interesting rewards there. The few planets I saw were at least different from each other in a number of ways, so there should be some varied scenery at least.
My time with Morphite showed me something promising that could fill some gaps in the Switch’s library, but at the same time it’s the kind of game that could easily end up becoming repetitive quickly. We’ll have to see when the game releases on November 2nd whether it can live up to its potential. Check out our direct feed footage from PAX below: