Oh, Soulslike. Today, it feels like all other games are somehow likened to the FromSoftware series, but some games are closer to the official than others. Pathological: Seven Acolytes is a game cut from the cloth of Dark Souls in terms of atmosphere, setting, and the need for a careful and thoughtful approach to the heavy world of combat. It translates into a top-down retro pixel aesthetic, but also with a clear visual influence from the Souls series. Still, comparative reviews are only possible so far. So how does Morbid confront its own bloody stump?
The visuals of the morbidity will probably split. For some, pixel art is as overkill as the Dark Souls comparison, but Morbid is one of the most effective fake retro games I’ve played. Still Running uses the overall effect to create an ominous and twisted world full of evil beasts and shed blood, rather than reducing the number of pixels to limit itself. Everything looks and feels broken due to the presence of the renowned Seven Acolyte Pseudo Lovecraft. There are many types of enemies to discover and defeat. Your journey will see you move from the first coastal areas to swamps, corrupt cities, graveyards and more. They all have specific enemies that match their unique style.
Narratively, Morbid isn’t new, but world folklore is interesting and is offered through books scattered around the environment. You can safely ignore everything but the center and go here and kill things if you want. You played as the last surviving Divrom Stryver and was launched on the shores of the land under the tyranny of Seven Acolytes, a cursed entity owned by the evil Gaar. This is a fairly standard horror fantasy setting that StillRunning named Horrorpunk.
In the first place, your striker is relatively weak and has no weapons. You quickly pick up a basic sword, and regularly find new weapons as you progress. At first I thought it was a random drop, but the backtracking and farming of the item revealed that there was actually a place set for both the weapon and the item. This is useful for agriculture, but it means that about 80% of the destructible landscape is purely decorative and unrewarded.
Weapons range from spike gloves to giant hammers, all offering different risks and rewards as you might expect. Certain weapons seemed to be much more convenient than others, but this could depend on my playstyle rather than balancing. If you hit a two-handed weapon hard, it was too slow to swing and took too much stamina, but the mileage may be different.
A typical battle in this genre is the case of cats and mice. Your first health bar is small and you’ll see you underneath as soon as you hit it with a single blow, but if you overuse it, the familiar dodge roll will absorb your stamina. Obviously, your attack also drains your stamina. Alternatively, you could provide defense and parry that proved essential in a cramped space, but as in my normal experience, I found that it sucks in at the timing of parry and rolls down and works. There are also secondary ranged weapons, but these have very limited ammo and are best stored to help boss battles.
The weapons you find can be improved through the use of runes, mysterious glyphs found along your adventure. These offer benefits such as increased attack speed, elemental damage, and health drain abilities. Setting these runes will fix them unless you use the rune removal tool. This destroys the rune, so there is a strategy to find the best balance for your approach. This was helped by making the loadouts of the two weapons available, but I didn’t know how to switch between them other than navigating to the inventory menu. There is plenty of room in your inventory to hold several different weapons until you find the one you like best.
Lots of items will help restore your health, stamina, and sanity bar. Some of these are simple healing items, but others trade off attributes with others, increasing the sanity bar at the expense of stamina. There are four quick item slots, one of which is always occupied by the Soul of Dibrom. This is the equivalent of Morbid’s Estus flask. This can be upgraded if the exploration finds a suitable corpse, but will only be replenished if you meditate at a shrine that replaces the typical bonfire of this genre. Structurally, here you can see how closely Morbid follows the Souls formula.
The highlight of the battle is clearly fighting the seven Acolytes themselves, a huge boss with a unique grotesque look and challenging attack patterns. If you inadvertently rush, these will kill you right away, but not as formidable as they first appear. This is a refreshingly viable Soulslike, as I was able to finish the game in about 8 hours even with the reaction of the old man.