With a name like ‘Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock’ you may be expecting a generic, dungeon-crawling RPG but the reality is almost the opposite – a sci-fi adventure game. To be more specific, a point and click adventure game using static screens in a similar fashion to the classic adventure fame Myst. I actually recently reviewed Decay: The Mare which in principle was a very similar game, albeit a horror title rather than sci-fi, which I found very underwhelming. Would Morningstar be just as disappointing or would it show Decay how adventure games should be done?
The action begins with a dramatic cinematic as space=trader Powell is jolted out of hyper-sleep to find his ship the Morningstar is spiralling out of control and with his two crewmates either dead or critically injured steers the vessel to the mysterious planet below. The pace slows down once the game begins as Powell must work to save his injured captain, repair all the damaged systems on the ship and find a way to get the Morningstar off the planet – now revealed to be aptly named ‘Deadrock’. Gameplay consists of mostly static screens filled with collectible items and interactive puzzles to be solved in the guise of systems and problems to be fixed and is surprisingly engaging. As is established practice with traditional point and click games all actions are controlled with the mouse, although here there are no verbs for interaction – just clicking on items.
Morningstar succeeds in playing to the strength of the genre and avoiding many of the common problems that can afflict adventure games. Each screen has numerous items and features and will need to be revisited several times, although this is naturally incorporated into the story and never feels forced. Items are frequently needed more than once rather than discarded after a single use as per ma ny inferior titles and often have to be combined with several others, while the puzzles always feel logical. And most crucially all the areas feel very distinct and you never get disorientated (unlike Decay), moving between screens is very quick and a map is also introduced for external locations allowing for easy navigation.
Slightly less inspiring are the graphics which are merely functional but still feel sufficient despite their immobile nature – after the opening cinematic you actually have to wait until the end of the game for the next cut-scene. However they complement gameplay well and various locations feel vivid and real – whether it’s the grimy spaceship interior, the barren desert landscapes of Deadrock or the mysterious structures upon its surface. The scenes are viewed from a first-person perspective and through Powell’s visor which helpfully identifies and permanently highlights any areas of interest once you’ve hovered the icon over them.
However for adventure games the most important areas are the story and characters – which is a slightly mixed-bag for Morningstar. Uncovering the mysteries of Deadrock is certainly intriguing, to the extent that I was craving more once the game had ended with numerous questions still unanswered. Characterisation is less successful as the protagonist’s audio narration tends to be a bit dry and dull, but he’s a bundle of laughs compared to the ship’s irritable captain (although he does have an excuse to be grumpy with a steel rod impaled through his torso). The audio therefore ends up being one of the most disappointing aspects of the game and could really have benefited from more enthusiastic actors.
What Powell lacks in personality he makes up for in ability however. He’s not fazed by any obstacle, and demonstrates some impressive engineering skills in his ability to jerry-rig replacement parts out of any spare items. As I mentioned earlier the puzzles do generally have rational solutions although some of Powell’s accomplishments do seem worthy of MacGuvyer which stretches the plausibility somewhat. A couple of minor issues also arise due to the interface which although mostly positive would have benefited from a list of current objectives and an easier method of scrolling through your collected items.
The main criticism for Morningstar however is the same one that beset Decay – the length of the game. Morningstar is actually an updated version of a flash game and this is reflected in how quickly it can be completed – I breezed through in three hours with only one use of the help feature (pro tip: if something doesn’t work try hitting it with a wrench). With no replayability you do have to be a real fan of sci-fi and/or adventure games to be suitably satisfied.
Although I certainly am a fan of both sci-fi and point and click games so did find the game extremely enjoyable, despite the brief experience. It’s remarkable that despite being so similar to Decay, Morningstar is a far more satisfying game all-round and despite a few niggling criticisms is one I can easily recommend to any fans of the adventure genre.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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