Morphblade is a turn-based strategy game set on a board of hexagonal tiles. Each hex gives you different abilities – some are attack-based like the hammer that hits adjacent bad guys, acid that strips armour from anything that lands on it, and the blade that hits enemies on either side of you as you move – others are more utility-driven like the teleport that, err, teleports you… and the heal tile that restores your health.
You have to use these tiles tactically in order to survive wave after wave of bad guys. As you would expect, this starts of very easy with slow moving, easy to dispatch enemies, but progresses quickly to introduce new types of bad guys that have ranged attacks, can move further or are armoured. You can be hit twice before death, and you only have one life. So basically you are forced into thinking about how each turn will play out and where you need to be in order to exploit any weaknesses with your tile abilities.
In order to stop this from being a completely impossible task, the tiles in Morphblade can be upgraded. Each tile has an upgrade meter that fills as you kill bad guys from that tile. Once it’s full (and you’re on the tile) you can adopt the attributes of one of the neighbouring tiles. This means that there are up to 720 different tile combinations. Interestingly this means that you can stay on one tile for quite some time, building up that tiles abilities. The downside to that is that tiles can be destroyed by enemies, and when you lose one of your super-tiles, it can really hurt!
Graphically, this game is very simple – with a basic but informative colour pallette. Animations are smooth and sound effects are nice and meaty, but the lack of any ambient background music can feel a little odd when you are considering your next move in complete silence. Helpfully the gameplay is slick and intuitive, and you never feel cheated by the game’s AI – any mistakes are entirely down to your own lack of foresight and strategy, which is exactly how it should be.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that Morphblade has been developed by Tom Francis (of Gunpoint fame), and his sense of humour is definitely present here, shown through some tips that appear. It adds a great personality to the game.
If I have any misgivings about this game, it’s actually down to the platform choice. Morphblade plays well as a casual game, with each bout of levels (punctuated with your death) meaning that it’s very easy to pick up and play for a short while, which would lend itself well to a mobile platform – but instead it’s (currently) only available on PC. Also oddly missing are any achievements, which means that the only real driver for playing the game is simply to see how far you can get before dying.
All in all though, at the low price of £3.99, it’s hard not to recommend Morphblade. It’s good fun, easy to play, hard to master – and that’s gaming 101 for me.