The Morrigan - Where do I begin with this utterly fantastic game? perhaps I should start with the fact that the beautiful stylized graphics along with the music and sound created one of the most immersive and often spectacular dungeon crawling experiences I've ever had the pleasure of playing. Or perhaps I should begin by saying about the amazing level design, with each level bringing its own wow factor to the game as you traverse your way through the many wonderfully atmospheric locations such as the magnificent church and tombs, a stunning bridge location and other beautifully crafted and well thought out places throughout the game.
However, having come straight from the 'Swords of Gargantua' (SoG) open beta - a game all about melee combat (in particularly sword play) the combat system in the Morrigan is where I will begin, and I can tell you straight off that although not quite as hardcore with the realism as SoG might be, and the parrying and blocking did not feel quite as crisp and clinical as SoG, over all the system in the Morrigan did pack a mighty punch and smashing skeleton heads with a steel axe has never felt so good.
The bow combat too was great fun, and quickly became my in-game weapon of choice, however It did take me a while to get used to simply pulling the bow string back to nock an arrow, and I kept reaching over my shoulder to grab one. Old habits die hard but I did get used to it eventually and began to praise it for its efficiency, for the system allowed for getting off more arrows in a shorter space of time than most, and believe me you need to fire them off quick as sometimes multiple enemies come at you at once, with some moving much quicker than others and it can be touch and go whether they get to you before you bring them all down with your piercing shots. However, if they did reach you it made the over-the-shoulder quick slot for your melee weapons all the more useful and sweeter.
The majority of enemies in the game seemed to be of the skeletal variety, with zombie skeletons, skeleton swordsman - some with shields some without, and some very cool but annoying skeleton archers that were an excellent shot and would tactically stay back firing shots at you whilst you were preoccupied with the melee opponents. This forced some tactical awareness, as you try to position yourself out of their line of fire whilst dealing with the melee attackers and sometimes it became quite a challenge, however, overall I felt the game was a little too easy at times, and my first death wasn't until I reached the final boss, and this itself could have been avoided had the game made me aware that a shop exists outside the keep where you can buy potions, such as health and a very useful time-limited invulnerability potion. One thing to note about the enemies too is the fantastic animations they posess, which really gave them a lifelike appearance making them all the more menacing, especially the faster moving ones that were a little unnerving at times.
As I usually try to do, I played this game without watching any real video footage, looking at too many images, or reading too much about it. Although this does have its downsides (such as not knowing about the shop and several other things) over all I find it generally makes for a much better spoiler-free experience and the final boss in this game was an absolutely spectacular surprise when I got to him, and without giving too much away I can tell you that it was one of the most jaw dropping moments I have had in any game, ever, and was a thoroughly good challenge without being frustratingly difficult as so often can be the case. Please don't look up anything on how to win this fight, as you will only ruin the challenge and it makes for a much better experience when you have to work things out for yourself. Dungeons are meant to be a challenge from start to finish, so don't ruin it for yourself by cheating.
If I had to pick holes in the game at all they are fairly minor issues in the grand scheme of things but worth mentioning as it might help other players avoid frustration if they decide to play it straight after reading this review. The first one would be that I wasted far too much time at one particular spot trying to negotiate my way across a gap between castle walls before realising that the game was forcing me to use its teleport system, albeit only for that particular section of the game. However it did annoy me as I'd spent a lot of time looking for a way across, assuming I needed to pull a lever, light a fire, or something else in keeping with what I'd been doing all along throughout the game - which was solving puzzles and negotiating traps.
Another issue, and again not a game breaker but quite annoying all the same was the fact that I didn't realise (until after my first attempt on the boss) that there was a whole town outside the door of the keep where I could explore and buy useful items to help me throughout the game. A simple sign on the door 'to shops' would suffice, but I'd assumed the door where I'd entered at the beginning of the game was now locked with no going back through. It was a nice surprise however to find the town, I just wish I'd have known sooner and I may well have then beaten the boss first time around, which I did once I'd bought myself a few potions, some food, a new shield, and a nice new shiny axe to fight him with.
It is worth noting that the game is still actually in Early Access, which considering just how polished it already is, and how memorable it was, seems kind of incredible, so it may be that these small niggles will get remedied at some point soon if the developers haven't done so already. Still being in Early Access may also mean that we get additional levels or content at some point too, which would be a very fine thing indeed, as I have already decided that this would be one of my desert island games should I be stranded on one with only a limited number of games to choose from to last me throughout the remainder of my life. Lets just hope they have power on this island and I will be quite content indeed, for the dungeons of The Morrigan will be an awesome distraction now and then from all the palm trees and coconuts.
If I had to list all the reasons why I like the Morrigan so much, it would be a list of many things but surely topped by the brilliant and unique atmosphere that the game developers have created, and which really helps immerse you and trigger your imagination just like the original PC dungeon crawlers of old. I've tried to put my finger on exactly how they created such a wonderfully immersive environment, and apart from the lighting, effects, the sound, and just the level design as a whole, I think what greatly helps to achieve its look is the clever textures that make up the walls and floors, with each individual stone block seeming to have been hand crafted, having depth to it, and never being made up of 4 straight sides. All this gives the illusion that the whole place had been hand built a very long time ago, as the walls and floors catch the shadows and reflect the light, really giving the game its unique look, and with every corridor never feeling the same as the last one. It really is one of the best video game environments I've ever found myself in, and the music and sound effects were the icing on the cake, fitting the game and its incredible environments perfectly.
Over all then, playing the Morrigan has now made dungeon crawlers my favourite genre again as it used to be many years ago on a flat screen PC. I was never really that impressed with Vanishing Realms when it came out, which although at the time showed me a glimpse of what a fantasy dungeon crawler might one day be like in VR, it felt for the most part very empty and unfullfilling and I was left very disappointed with it. The Morrigan however drew me in from the very beginning with its incredible atmosphere and extremely fun gameplay and I really didn't want it to ever end. A truly fantastic game which should be the standard for all VR dungeon crawlers to follow from now on.
Please note: The core gameplay took me around 5 hours, but with the arena and more weapons and shields to unlock, there is plenty more fun to be had and I believe they are still adding content too. Happy days!