Morbid: The Lords of Ire – PS5 Review

The second of the Morbid series, Morbid: The Lords of Ire opts to delve into a more specific arena. Still Running have decided to give a souls-like a go and, for the most part, it does a competent job. It lacks some polish but there’s a couple of interesting ideas that, if fleshed out, could’ve led to something greater.

Thematically, Morbid: The Lords of Ire‘s story maintains the dark fantasy setting the genre seems so comfortable in. As The Striver, the player is tasked with putting four big bosses in their place, presumably to set the world to rights. The world is, predictably hostile with very few friends to call upon. Ones that can lend their aid do so at a central hub. This hub connects It’s not explicit in the methods of storytelling. You’re given a little bit of backstory in-game but it’s mostly handled in menu screens. There’s not a lot of interconnectivity with each level picked from a list of locations. As such, I struggled to stay invested.

Mechanically, this game does propose some interesting changes to the established format. Combat is very deliberate with a mild emphasis on parrying. I say mild because, outside of a few specific enemies, there’s not a huge need for it. You can parry while blocking and I do think the window for it is generous. It does vanish into the background as enemies quicken and take more time to whittle down. It can feel satisfying to pull off and it can be a reliable way of dealing with most humanoid enemies.

There is two bars to consider when engaging foes. They have health and fatigue with depletion of the latter usually opening up an exposed state for extra damage. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. There’s also a gun that can be used to interrupt enemy attacks. By default, it will have one bullet but it replenishes itself after an enemy is defeated. That can prove interesting when considering fights with multiple enemies. Should you need more shots, there’s ammo you can pick up, although consumables are finite.

When it comes to character building, it is very light. There’s not a sheet to pump stats into but there is an experience bar that banks skill points at certain thresholds. These points can then be used to upgrade and unlock blessing slots. These are passive buffs that can be acquired at certain times and can influence your stamina, health and other attributes. There’s 8 to find in total but they feel tucked away behind tomes that can be easy to miss. Strangely, the thing you upgrade is the slot rather than the blessing itself.

Weaponry is where customisation can really kick in. Each weapon has four aspects which can be increased by slotting in coloured gems. Each of these gems come with compromises. For example, one could raise your speed significantly but impede overall damage. These trade-offs do lead to some decisions about whether to focus on a particular trait or settle for something a touch more balanced. I really like the system. Despite runes being finite, they seem plentiful and offer some experimentation.

It does lead to situations where you can stick with a weapon for the majority of the game. Short swords have been my favourite with their decent speed numbers. Knuckles have the highest speed overall but their lack of impact makes me avoid them. I do feel there’s enough in the world to forge anything to your liking.

One last trick is the sanity meter. It’s the one status effect Morbid: The Lords of Ire has and it effectively plays with your stamina and healing effectiveness. As you become more corrupted, the environments take on a purple haze that can be quite oppressive. This does clear up over time but it does look visually impressive when it first strikes. As it rises to prominence, the novelty wears thin and it can be an obstacle when trying to navigate with impeded vision.

The environments reward exploration well. The level design is intricate with an early emphasis on shortcuts and side-alleys. I generally found poking into each corner had something worth grabbing. The locales are a little grubby. It’s a run-down world so you get the usual tour of frozen wastes, poison swamps and urban decay. It’s rough and unpolished but mostly remains stable. I’ve had some unfortunate crashes and falling between geometry has led me to warp back to previous checkpoints.

Encounters are generally one-on-one but the game does flirt with big, multi-enemy encounters that will usually lock the player in an arena. I don’t always feel these are well balanced but they do tend to have a puzzle element to them. Friendly fire can become a factor, leading to enemies taking each other out. I loved using that to my advantage but some of these battles felt like a war of attrition.  Staying out of trouble can be tricky, especially with several foes bearing down on you. Most other encounters can be ran from.

When enemies can’t be leashed, finding reliable ways to thin out the opposition is crucial. The challenge is occasionally uneven but, for the most part, I found my way through it fine. I had enough tools at my disposal to come with solutions. Stealth can be used to backstab solitary problems and, with fodder enemies able to recharge your gun, it can be fun to figure a way through it.

I do feel the pace suffers in the closing stages. It can initially seem on the short side but the final couple of areas throw a lot at you. It’s surprising to see new enemy types pop up but run-backs can feel sometimes torturous. At least death doesn’t penalise you much in terms of lost experience. Bosses do increase in complexity but they all have recognisable patterns. Some can be parried for quicker victories but, as the game goes on, that becomes less of an option.

Morbid: The Lords of Ire is an admirable attempt at replicating the Souls formula. It’s competently made and the combat has a decent feel to it. The presentation can feel jagged and, despite taking plenty of good ideas, I can’t think of anything it does that elevates itself about the competition. With the cheaper price tag, it’s easier to recommend and I did have fun with it.

Morbid: The Lords of Ire
6 Overall
+ Runes allow for any weapon to be viable.
+ Very lenient penalty for death.
+ Solid combat that can be satisfying.
+ Budget price tag.
- Fights involving multiple enemies can feel frustrating.
- The story isn't very gripping.
- The sanity mechanic feels more like a nuisance.
- Pacing suffers in the final act.
With some interesting tweaks to the formula, Morbid: The Lords of Ire can feel like a stripped down attempt at the souls-like genre. The runes system allows for some relatively neat weaponry and the combat has a solid feel. Unfortunately, it lacks some polish and some of the larger encounters can frustrate. The pacing begins to sag in the closing hours and it's a shame the sanity mechanic doesn't quite land.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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