Morphite promised to be No Man’s Sky with Metroid-style platforming and a story to keep you chugging along from one planet to the next. The prospect sounds great on paper: hundreds of planets to explore, minerals to mine, money to make, and a tale to tie it all together. Read on, then, to find out why this is No Man’s Sky: Poor Man’s Edition.
The opening of Morphite actually had me a little excited. It looked pretty good with its low-poly aesthetic giving everything a very clean and sterile appearance. You play as a young lass named Myrah Kale who lives aboard a space station with some old dude who gives her pocket money for doing chores around the place. All fair so far. Myrah explains that she’s only ever known this space station and that she longs for adventure. Before she’s barely done pouring out her sob story, she’s thrust into a simple mission that ends up taking her all over the galaxy. And this is where my interest started to wane. Quickly.
Morphite breaks up its story mode and exploration by having procedurally generated planets and a core set of worlds that have been tailored to the story. So if you want to plow through the campaign, you need only ever follow the mission guides which tell you where you need to go and what you need to do. It’s really simple, yet my first mission was a disaster.
The game’s first mission – don’t worry, there are no spoilers here – tasks you with going to the planet Aven to collect data which can be sold. You’re armed with a scanner and a pistol, the former is used to scan plants and whatever weird animals are roaming around, while the later can be used to shoot dead whatever weird animals are roaming around. That’s your choice. I shot everything out of frustration.
Getting to Aven from the space station is simple. You have a star map – which will look awfully familiar to No Man’s Sky players – and you choose where to go, with mission planets being highlighted green. So I set off to Aven and watched the little cutscene which showed Myrah being dropped down to the planet in a pod. When I landed, I got out of my pod and – ew, what the crap? The graphics were… painful. There’s a faux vignette filter applied to the screen that just makes everything look very pale. The game’s settings reveal it to be the “cinematic” filter. This can be turned off, thankfully, but you won’t believe what happened next. Click here to learn this one simple tric – oh, yeah, I’m not working in advertising anymore…
I expected there to be some sort of clue as to what I should be doing. There wasn’t. I ended up mooching around for 20 minutes, jumping around, shooting whatever animals I saw, and generally just getting a little bored. The world wasn’t exactly teeming with life, nor was it that great to look at. After getting a mission to fetch some toilet paper from some dino-dude using a port-a-potty, I decided to leave the planet and go on a roam in space.
I ended up on another planet that was equally as dull. I quickly left and returned to the space station only to find there was nothing to do there, so I decided to head back to Aven in the hopes of completing my mission. The familiar cutscene played out and Myrah was dropped down to the planet Aven once more, only this time it wasn’t Aven, or at least not the Aven I first visited. No, this time it was actually working. Within seconds I had Kitcat (your robo-kitty companion) giving me tips on how to use the scanner and advising me on what to do. Within no time I was on the move and actually working towards something. This has got to be a bug, right? If it is, it’s a pretty big one, but I can’t say for sure how often it will manifest and if other players will have a similar experience. Well, the rest will be just as dull, but the first mission may or may not work as intended.
The story behind Morphite is all about, erm, Morphite, a special mineral thing that’s extremely rare and unbelievably valuable, apparently. The first time I came across one (on Aven, no less) was part of a dungeon-style puzzle room with some simple platforming. It wasn’t simple, though, as the controls were bollocks and I ended up falling into the noxious water over and over again. But back to my point, Morphite is the driving force that keeps Myrah cutscening between planets. The story is a bunch of tosh and with some dodgy voiceover work and dodgier writing, but at least it has a story. Yay?
I understand as I sit here and type this review out that I’m being very critical, but the fact of the matter is that Morphite just isn’t very good. At all. It’s obviously nicking a bunch of No Man’s Sky’s mechanics, but it’s not even doing it very well. Space combat? Yeah, it’s in Morphite. Is it good? Is it hell. It’s shite. It’s boiled down to a simple static shooter where you move your ship’s gun around and fire at the bad guys until they’re dead. There’s no actual flying and after the second encounter you’ll be sick of it.
Procedurally generated worlds? Yep, they’re here, too, but they may as well not be. The main planets that serve the story aren’t anything special, so don’t expect some algorithms to magically make everything else amazing. They don’t. They’re plain, uninspired, and can be summarised as “same shit, different planet”. In fairness, there are a few moments that offer a glimpse at something that could have been pretty good, but even the “boss” battles fall flat, and the zombie-like robots that appear throughout are about as dangerous as a baby with a tea towel.
Economy, mining, and scanning of wildlife? Yep, you’ve got that and it actually makes up about 75% of the gameplay. You need to scan wildlife and sell your data scans to get money to upgrade your ship, gun, and yourself. Is it worth trudging around these barren planets to collect a few bits to upgrade your visor? Nope. Not at all. Though it is necessary to progress further into the game, so be wary of having your playtime artificially inflated with plenty of fetching.
Exploring the planets and beyond should have been an enjoyable experience. It should have tapped into the wanderlust that is deep inside all of us, the instinctive need to explore further, that drive that propelled mankind to the moon. Instead it drove me to put the controller down, make a cup of tea, and write this scathing review.
Morphite PS4 Review
Overall - Really Bad - 3.0/10
Morphite wants so badly to be No Man’s Sky that it takes as much as it can from Hello Games’ indie flop without giving anything back. There’s little in the way of originality. This is No Man’s Sky: Poor Man’s Edition – The Low Budget Sequel Nobody Asked For.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.