Morbid: The Seven Acolytes

A game by Still Running for PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2020.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is an isometric action-adventure set in the world of Mornia. You take on the role of the last surviving Striver of Dibrom, and it is your mission to locate and defeat the creatures known as the Seven Acolytes, which have become possessed by evil beings, giving them almost godlike power. With this power, they have crushed mankind underfoot and left them barely clinging to life. Those that remain eke out pitiful lives surrounded by grotesque monstrosities that threaten their lives, slowly killing them off, driving them insane, or leaving them to wallow in misery as they drink themselves into oblivion.
The game leans heavily into its aesthetic, offering overgrown gardens and forests, dank caverns, and small patches of humanity set in a world that is filled with Lovecraftian creatures and evidence of arcane blood rituals and human sacrifice. As you wander the landscape, you discover long-abandoned towns overrun by carrion, boarded up structures with faint lights coming from within, and the bodies of fallen warriors lying here and there. The experience is accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack that underscores a feeling of danger and dread.
When the game begins, you awaken on a shoreline surrounded by beached lifeboats and dead bodies. Here, you acquire your first weapon, a short sword, which you take from one of the corpses. As you make your way along the beach, you pick up some supplies from other bodies and eventually encounter your own wrecked ship and the crawling beasts that have been feeding on your former crew… skeletal fish creatures that have been reanimated by some sort of fungal growth. Killing them releases spores that fly around and eventually move in to attack.
While you can attack with your fists, you’ll probably want to make use of swords or other weapons to see you through, including axes, spears, maces, and a handful of limited-ammo projectile weapons that can be aimed in 360 degrees. Each weapon has different strength and speed stats, but most offer slow strikes to support a focus on technical combat. Mindful players can watch for enemy attacks and block them, with a properly-timed parry allowing for a strong counterattack. Players wishing to take things a bit more quickly can rely on weapons with faster attacks, as well as a dodge roll to escape enemy strikes.
Most enemies take a while to begin attacking once they have noticed the player, giving him time to prepare his strategy, although some of the tougher foes will charge the player and continue to pursue him until they are destroyed. The player may also get the drop on some enemies by sneaking from behind and attacking before he is noticed… although the sound effect for footsteps is illogically much louder when sneaking than when walking or running.
Health restoratives are rare, and those that do appear are quite weak. The player’s best recourse for recovering from damage is the use of healing stones, which are in limited supply and are only found by looting corpses. Healing stones restore a large chunk of health and they can be recharged at shrines so that they can be re-used. Having a decent supply of healing stones becomes more important as the player faces more dangerous enemies, as well as the game’s many bosses and minibosses.
Healing stones are assigned to one of four hotkeys so that they are immediately accessible, although using them still takes a couple of seconds, making healing risky in the heat of combat. The player can assign any other consumables to the remaining three hotkeys, allowing for quick restoration, or even quick use of elemental enhancements during combat.
Enemy AI, even for bosses and minibosses, is minimal. Most enemies constantly move toward you once they take notice of your presence, but their limited pathfinding skills sometimes cause them to get hung up on objects in the environment. On the other hand, you have to get pretty far away before they stop giving chase – with enemies often pursuing you across multiple screens – which makes it difficult to run from danger if you find yourself overwhelmed.
Minibosses and bosses are less dangerous for their ability to move around the environment and more so for how powerful their attacks can be, with many able to sap half your life bar in a single hit (with your default health meter). These creatures are often capable of unleashing large area effect attacks that cause damage over the space around them, requiring some hit-and-run tactics, and some are capable of spawning weak supporting enemies. However, given their generally unintelligent movement patterns, the player can often get up close and unleash a flurry of strikes to shave off large chunks of their health without them doing much to stop it. This tactic becomes easier if the player upgrades his stamina meter or makes use of the genetically modified broccoli items that temporarily cancel stamina drain.
Weapons typically allow for a 3-hit combo as well as a much slower but more powerful special attack. The risk of using a special attack is that taking any sort of damage cancels it, so players need to gauge the long wind-up time versus the possibility of being interrupted and dealing no damage at all. For most weapons, the special attack is simply a heavy strike, but some weapons offer added effects such as spikes that rise up from the ground to strike surrounding enemies. Attacking enemies with melee weapons, blocking, or performing dodge rolls consumes stamina, which refills over time when no actions are drawing from it. The player’s default movement speed is quite slow, but he is able to run, which also slowly drains his stamina meter, which leads to an overall slow pace.
The player also has a sanity meter, which is drained by certain kinds of enemy attacks, and this meter can be restored by consuming certain items. When the player’s sanity level is reduced, his attacks deal less damage, he takes more damage in return, and the amount of XP he earns for defeating enemies is reduced.
XP is gained by defeating enemies, and the player gains a single skill point as he crosses each level threshold. Skill points may not be used until the player discovers destructible statues in the environment that grant certain blessings when destroyed. Blessings include increased health, increased stamina, increased recovery from healing stones, faster stamina regeneration, higher ammo capacity, and increased damage when attacking unsuspecting enemies, among others. A limited number of blessings may be active at a time, and each of them may be upgraded by spending skill points.
Throughout his adventure, the player regularly encounters pickups that fill his limited inventory space. Most consumables and other items occupy a single inventory slot, with up to 10 items of each type stackable in the same slot. However, most weapons occupy multiple slots, requiring that the player manage the physical layout of his inventory space to accommodate them, or requiring that he drop certain items to make room. For instance, a longsword may occupy three vertical slots whereas a large bludgeoning weapon may occupy six slots on a 2x3 grid.
The player can equip two sets of weapons, each consisting of a melee and projectile weapon type – which removes them from the inventory grid – but he can only swap between the two sets from the menu; this cannot be done while exploring or fighting, making the second weapon set somewhat less useful. The number of items that can be collected far exceeds the amount of space available, so you’ll find yourself tossing a lot of unneeded stuff since there is no way to make use of it otherwise and no economy system that might allow you to trade it for something better.
Pickups include health restoratives, sanity restoratives, ammunition refills, temporary buffs, temporary elemental enhancements, and permanent weapon enhancements in the form of runes. Weapons may have one or more rune slots, allowing the player to add effects such as fire, cold, electricity, poison, or bleeding to his attacks. Runes may be removed from weapons, but doing so requires the player to apply one-time-use rune removers.
Spread around the world are shrines that act as save points and allow the player to fast travel to other shrines, view quests, assign and upgrade blessings, and read the game’s lore. There is lore for every weapon, item, enemy, boss, and major NPC in the game, but viewing it is entirely optional, and it is only viewable when using a shrine. Meditating at a shrine restores the player’s health, restores healing stones, and refills his ammo. Doing so also respawns all of the monsters in the area, but it also respawns treasure chests, so the player can collect certain items again. Only items looted from dead bodies are permanently removed from the world. Creatures and treasure chests also respawn whenever the player leaves an area and returns, but areas are quite large.
Exploration is severely hampered by the lack of a map. In early areas, it’s pretty clear where the player needs to go, since his is primarily tasked with moving from one side of the area to the other. Later, when the player has received multiple quests and must backtrack to previous locations, mentally keeping track of such large environments becomes difficult. This is made somewhat less cumbersome by the fact that the player can often progress through an area and then open a route back to the starting point, but this becomes less useful once the player has traversed a larger chunk of the world.
Without a map to highlight important areas or suggest which areas may remain to be explored, the player is left to aimlessly wander large environments that are often designed with thick brush that can obfuscate the path forward. The player may find himself venturing quite a distance along one route only to find that he has reached a dead end that can only be opened from the other side. Even the fast travel system does not employ a map, so the player must remember the names of each area and attempt to decipher the geographical location of the warp point by its description alone.

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes was developed by Still Running, a studio founded in 2014 by Santeri "REllU" Relander and based in Helsinki, Finland. The studio previously developed The Walking Vegetables and Zombie Kill of the Week. The studio consists of designer and lead programmer Santeri Relander, art directors Elias Vienonen and Olga Zaitseva, audio director and composer Simo Talasranta, programmer and designer Rama Hannula, and level designer and world builder Jorge Carreon.
The game was published by Merge Games, based in Manchester, UK. The studio published Still Running’s previous games, as well as The Joylancer: Legendary Motor Knight and Sparklite, among others. The studio also published the European releases of The Binding of Isaac, Limbo, and Slain, and the console versions of Runbow, Dead Cells, Moonlighter, Children of Morta, and Streets of Rage 4, among numerous other titles.