Explore the universe in Morphite, a game with procedurally generated planets and an unraveling mystery

By ·October 2, 2017 9:45 am

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Many titles have been created about interstellar flight and the grand journey an individual or group takes to save the world. Along the way, they may discover entire planets they never knew existed. Your experience, however, differs depending on which medium you choose. In movies, you can explore outer space as an outsider, but not necessarily through your own eyes. In games, the experience becomes much more personal. Oftentimes, you view and participate in events, like a war between humans and aliens, from the first-person perspective.

Games may be entertaining, but do these titles truly showcase the mystery and thrill of space exploration? The terrains are most likely pre-designed, whether it’s by the developer or someone else, and you might spend too much time with other things that need your immediate attention, like battling alien creatures or some other issue dealing with the main story. Space exploration – the very mysteries of an unknown world – can often become secondary to these other aspects.

Enter Morphite, a game that’s attracted comparisons to No Man’s Sky. It’s no surprise then, that much like No Man’s Sky, Morphite features procedurally generated randomized planets, in addition to those designed for the main story. In Morphite you play as Myrah Kale, who while scanning lifeforms on planets for research and trading, finds herself thrust into a mystery surrounding the coveted substance called Morphite. There are 15 main planets to explore, with many more awaiting you in the cosmos.

Landing on a new planet.

Even as you proceed through the story, Morphite is a game with a large emphasis on space exploration, specifically the thrill of exploring the unknown. This purpose is supported by the game’s atmosphere, which features low-poly visuals and an electronica soundtrack reminiscent of older science-fiction flicks. It’s conveyed most, however, through the ability to explore other planets that don’t follow a prescribed design.

That is, every time you visit a generated planet on Morphite – including if you return to the same planet later on in the game – Morphite constructs an entirely new map, limited by certain restrictions. For example, a planet at a certain temperature may spawn similar fauna and appearances upon repeated trips, even though the landscape might be different. (You could construe this as visiting different parts of the same planet every time you choose to land.) And because of this “restart” with every landing, it’s impossible to exactly predict what the planet will look like before you go to it.

Indeed, there is always something to explore – whether it’s completely new or a new incarnation of something you’re already familiar with. There’s great incentive for this, since upgrades for suits can only be attained through a combination of money (“chunks”) and the right number of minerals. Visiting the randomized planets – whose maps are usually just large enough to hold your interest without feeling like it’s become an arduous side mission –  provide additional items, flora/fauna, and side quests that will be a great boon as you continue your journey.

Myrah and her snarky sidekick, Kitcat.

It’s this sort of contained vastness which ultimately focuses the game, whittling it down from a grand vision which encompasses the utter vastness of space, to a personalized journey where the individual takes command of an interstellar adventure and sees everything the universe has to offer along the way. It’s seen in other aspects of the game too, like how there are only a few planets in every solar system, and how you don’t have to travel too much – if you choose – in order to progress the story.

In this regard, the role of Myrah Kale as a researcher/scanner of things, where she spends just enough time to capture the flavors of wildlife on a planet, and as a major component of the game’s main storyline, which imbues her exploration with a grander purpose, makes perfect sense. Perhaps the most fulfilling part of outer space is the ability to explore and discover the unknown.

Morphite is available on Steam, Xbox One, PS4, and iOS, with a release for the Switch planned for later this year.

Image credits: Crescent Moon Games, We’re Five Games, Blowfish Studios

Written by Alane Lim

Alane Lim is a materials science graduate student and writer based in Chicago, IL. She has been published in science, satire, and entertainment writing, the latter focusing on character and show analyses.

Her interests include indie games, Archie comics, and sci-fi/fantasy books.

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