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Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Traptics
Release Date: March 16, 2017


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PC Review - 'Moribund'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 24, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Moribund offers local multiplayer mayhem for two to four players in a postapocalyptic setting.

The first time you see Moribund, you'll think of games like Towerfall Ascension. Many clamor for online arena battle games, but few would knock Towerfall for delivering a taut multiplayer experience that is easy to learn and hard to put down. It also helps that there's hidden depth to it, while the multitude of arenas and power-ups makes it seem like a game with endless replayability. Unfortunately, Moribund comes nowhere close to Towerfall or other arena battle games.

The basic premise is that of deathmatch, either in solo or team varieties. Score the required number of kills, and you'll win. Unless you get lucky enough to trigger a trap, your main weapon is a harpoon gun that kills with just one shot. Unfortunately, it takes about two seconds to warm up before the shot is fired, and that won't cut it for a game where everyone is trying to move around as quickly as possible. Everyone is also equipped with a spore gun, and once a person is hit with three spores, they get stuck to the environment, so others have the chance to take them out with their harpoon.

While there are power-ups in the game, they're modifiers for what you already have. Some modifiers are fine, such as faster spore refills, reduced warm-up time for the harpoon gun, and the exploding harpoon. However, the bouncing spores don't seem to function at all, as they provide no tangible difference between them and the regular variety. There aren't any other modifiers, so you can't trip up everyone with an offbeat power that you pick up on the field. Otherwise, you'll rely on the environment to provide different weapons of death, whether it's trigger-activated harpoon guns or laser-tripped flamethrowers.

The level design is fine in terms of trap and gun placement. They're all single-screen in design, so you can travel down a pit only to appear on top or go all the way to the right side to come out on the left. There are platforms of the still and moving variety, and there are nice touches in environmental effects, like oil on the ground for reduced traction and large webs that slow down your movement. The game boasts around 80 levels, but there are only eight environments. Give the game about half an hour, and you'll burn through all possible environments before things start repeating.

What really hurts the Moribund is the combat. The idea of trapping an opponent and then offing them is fine, but it is too slow in practice. When you think about some of the more popular arena battle titles like Towerfall Ascension or Duck Game, one thing they have in common are that matches can be quite fast, and players do everything in their power to make them slow down. Here, movement speed is good, but the harpoon wind-up time ruins everything. By the time it fires, trapped enemies can easily escape and get out of range. It also doesn't help that there doesn't seem to be much in the way of finesse to the fighting. There aren't any dodging or surprise defensive maneuvers to give the game any depth beyond what you initially see.

Aside from team and free-for-all Deathmatch modes, the game features 15 challenges for the solo player that range from races to defeating all of the foes in a level. The developers bill them as extremely difficult, and they are — for all the wrong reasons. Races begin unfairly, as the timer starts while you're looking at your portrait. Wall jumping doesn't feel swift, and the harpoon shots needed to take down wall pieces fire so slowly that it almost requires cheating to get close to the goal. Meanwhile, the enemy AI lacks balance, so it feels like you're playing against godlike bots. It is a miserable enough experience that many players will be better served by ignoring it altogether.

The presentation is borderline annoying. On the audio front, the music is bland, and the various taunts from the characters sound bored or try too hard to be edgy. The art style also tries to be edgy, with chains, explosions, grime and metal everywhere. The otherwise sterile appearance of the environments doesn't make the game look appealing, either in motion or in stills. While the character designs could have been interesting, their appearance on the field is truncated greatly due to their small stature. No matter who you choose, they all look the same, and their small size also reduces the impact of the dismemberments you cause. For all of the hype about the gore, it's rather tame since there's a very small amount of blood and no limbs.

In the end, Moribund would be decent if it were in a vacuum. The base gameplay is fine, but the execution feels very slow when compared to other similar titles. The level layouts may be numerous, but the actual stage themes feel limited, so you'll be able to go through them in no time. While it is appreciated to see some single-player challenges in an otherwise multiplayer-focused title, their numerous balance issues mean that no one will bother with them. With a presentation that's more off-putting than cool, it's difficult to recommend Moribund unless you've exhausted almost every other similar title in the genre.

Score: 5.5/10

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