Thursday, August 23

Review: Morphies Law [Nintendo Switch eShop]

As a longtime fan of the genre who has played a ton of shooters over the years there’s no doubt that getting them right, especially when you’re trying to do something new and different, is a tricky business. In more recent history Splatoon 2 was probably the biggest surprise, managing to take traditional dynamics and blend in a variety of new ideas that heavily affected mobility and strategy, making the experience much less vanilla. There’s no doubt that the folks behind Morphies Law had some of those same goals in mind, and the foundation of a unique take on gameplay is definitely there, but there’s no denying that for the moment the growing pains in key areas are also very clear.

The hook in Morphies Law is that as you shoot your enemies those shots will land on specific body parts, and for each hit they take you’ll begin taking on additional mass for that same body part. This explains why they shots of the action in the game tend to be a bit weird, with characters running around with massive heads on tiny bodies and other odd combinations. Across 3 distinct game modes and some pretty diverse stages you’ll engage in variations on genre staples. Morph Match is a straight-up Team Deathmatch, Head Hunt is a funky variant of Capture the Flag, and Mass Height is a great mix of Territory Control and Capture the Flag concepts that marry heavily with the mass-stealing concept. Here you’ll need one team member to stand on one of 3 designated pads that allow you to shoot the other team’s massive avatar and steal mass from it. You’ll then need to get to an ever-moving shrine to give up that mass and essentially contribute to your team’s score. This mode in particular can take on a heavily strategic component if you’re with the right crew, and feels very unique. It’s worth noting that on top of local play, local play against AI bots, and normal online play there’s an option to play online with people against AI bots. I appreciate the option and it can be a bit less intimidating as you learn the ropes.

Of course the key to enjoying a shooter is having reasonably good controls. Focusing only on the controls themselves I was pleasantly surprised how great they feel, I’d say roughly on par with the likes of Splatoon 2 in making proper use of motion controls for fine aiming on top of the dual analog sticks to move and turn more quickly. While it can be tricky to connect, especially from a distance, the crosshairs will change to bones when you’re hitting someone, which is a great visual aid and enables you to do some pretty long-range shooting even without a scope. Conceptually the mass stealing mixed with shrinking and growing is a good one, but I’ll admit that unlike the mechanics of Splatoon’s swimming in paint that allow for extreme and creative mobility, the similar attempts here tied to your size don’t feel fully fleshed out. Small doorways or tubes will only allow smaller players to get around more quickly, while bigger jumps may only be accessible to larger ones, but in a typical match I didn’t find these options usually came heavily into play either. More often the ability to “boost” your jumps and fly around tends to be the ideal way to get around quickly. The ability to remix your guns, though it takes too long to unlock enough variety, is also nice and allows players who’ve leveled up a bit to fall into roles, providing support on offense, defense, or simply being a pain to the other team.

When it comes to missteps for the moment the list is unfortunately a bit on the long side, but I’d say that in general the potential is all there, the game just could really use some tuning. The foremost problem, one that the developer is obviously aware of and looking to address, is that the online experience can still get janky. When things are working smoothly it can be a good time but when you hit problems with lag in particular any shooter will always be aggravating. Another area that could use addressing is the rate and way player customization is handled. Currently it feels more like a mobile game, with you grinding for currency, and getting some random drops through a pinata you’ll earn for every level you complete. I understand the desire to make certain enhancements more rare but even having played many games that have progressive customization unlocks this one feels unnecessarily slow. Tied to that same concern is how long it takes to get access to more variety in the base gun types. There’s just too much grinding involved to get past the generic base machine gun (though the secondary enhancements more quickly available are nice), and it’s currently possible people could get tired of the lack of variety in weaponry before they gain access to more. This is all aside from the challenge involving the community that will form around the game and the quality of competition and cooperation they’ll provide. The more strategic modes
can be a blast if people work towards the objectives but if people insist on only playing everything as a Deathmatch the quality of play suffers in a hurry.

On the whole there’s quite a lot to like about Morphies Law and the ways it has played with the shooter formula. The mass stealing and jump boosting mechanics can provide for unexpected situations and some fun, though there’s definitely a learning curve to making the most of it all and becoming accustomed to some of the game’s quirks. Consistent online play is probably it’s weakest element, followed by the unlock and progression rate, but hopefully these can be addressed in patches in the near future. The potential for greatness is certainly there, and when everything clicks into place it can be a good time, but until it all gets refined it may be a bit too early for everyone to jump on the Morphie train just yet.

Score: 7

  • An interesting take on traditional shooters
  • Character customization is extensive, though perhaps a bit too gated at the moment
  • Eventually, once you level up enough, there’s a fair variety of weapons and enhancements to choose from
  • Online play against a team of bots is a great touch

  • Online play can still be pretty janky at times
  • Progression and unlocks currently feel too slow, earlier available variety could help it from feeling so one-note earlier on
  • Enjoyment hinges heavily on who you’re playing with, always a risk with online games of this sort