Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock Review – A Worthy Journey

Adventure video games are thankfully making a strong comeback to the industry. More and more adventure titles are popping up here and there to challenge the player’s problem solving skills through puzzles and investigation, while weaving stories of drama, suspense, and even horror themes. During the 90’s era where the market was flooded with great titles like Full Throttle, Sam & Max, Broken Sword and many more, adventure gaming was the genre to go to when the player wanted challenge through mind-bending puzzles and an elaborate, dramatic storyline.

Now there has been a re-emergence of the genre thanks to companies like Telltale Games which use new gaming mechanics to provide a more modern adventure experience. Other developers have created new adventure games which still uses the age-old mechanic of classic adventure titles: the point and click. Either way, developers are still able to show that even an age-old genre like adventure has still got what it takes to present players with an enjoyable and engrossing gaming experience.

One game that sticks to the roots of old-school adventure gaming is Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock. Initially a free-to-play adventure game from developers Red Herring Labs made in Adobe Flash, Morningstar has been remade in collaboration with Red Herring Labs and Phoenix Online Publishing. With new graphics, new puzzles and an intense and eerie atmosphere, can this game provide a complex and intriguing adventure game that will harden your will and challenge your mind?

Powell and his crew are on a routine engineering mission until their plane crashes on the infamous, barren desert planet Deadrock resulting in almost everyone getting killed. Powell and his captain,Novak, are the only survivors and they suspect that there is more to their crash than a simple systems failure. Together, they must improvise and explore to find out the reason behind the crash and get off Deadrock alive.

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Morningstar is billed as a first person adventure game. It begins with you and your companion Novak surviving the crash and soon you’ll be looking around trying to figure out what to do and where to go. You’ll traverse through the wreckage of your ship and eventually outside the ship hovering your mouse looking for objects to interact with. Nothing is highlighted until you find it with your mouse, so you’ll need to keep your eyes open for anything that might prove useful. You’ll also be venturing outside to the desert and solve puzzles to progress further through the game and unlocking more of the story. Novak can give you hints on what to do next if you are ever stuck but he only ever gives one hint so it’s still up to you to discover your way around the puzzles.

You’re able to combine items that you’ve acquired to create a brand new item which is required to solve the many puzzles in the game. Only subtle hints within each item’s description serve as clues to combine the correct items together so careful attention is required to create the correct item and use it as a solution. The story elaborates more as you explore outside of the ship solving puzzles leading to clues from events passed, slowly piecing together the truth of what’s going on. The lonesome and haunting yet oddly serene atmosphere emits a sense of both unease and calm, similar to the game Myst except the environment here is more hostile and eerie. Scenes where bodies of your fellow astronauts are scattered across the landscape can be very unsettling. The landscape is a barren desert so it’s able to invoke a sense of disorientation and fear even if the path is clear to your next goal. The more you progress, the stranger the environment becomes giving you more incentive to get off Deadrock as soon as possible.

The visuals are a vast improvement over its flash animated counterpart (which for a flash game didn’t look bad itself). Everything has been rendered using computer generated imagery giving the game a more modern, updated look with very pleasing results. Scenery, models and special effects are presented in high fidelity thanks to the new graphics. There are some animations which produce particle effects like sparks and explosions which during the brief moment when they occur add a dynamic and exciting moment to the event. The voice acting is rather flat and monotone, but the dialogue itself is very witty and conversations between Novak and Powell can produce a giggle or two. The buzzing of electrical wires, wind through deserted corridors, humming of machinery coupled together with the haunting, paced soundtrack creates an encompassing, chilling ambience to the alien environment more sense of dead and helplessness.

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There’s much to like about Morningstar if you’re an adventure fan. The game looks good, it’s very atmospheric and the puzzles are fairly challenging. It’s also able to strike a nostalgic nerve through classic adventure gaming mechanics. However, the fact that it implements older gaming mechanics can prove to be a major flaw as well, along with other flaws that this game brings to the field.

The problem that these old kinds of adventure games share is the amount of mouse-clicking you’ll be doing. You’re clicking on everything in the scenery, everything in your inventory, clicking in directions to move, clicking to randomly find solutions to puzzles and it all becomes very jarring after a while because you’ll constantly hear your mouse going click click click. Admittedly it is a rather too old-fashioned adventure game. While the classic form of this genre can still very much hold its own today, gaming mechanics today have moved on to provide more fluid more interactive adventure experiences which shows that the classic mechanics of adventure are beginning to show their age.

The game is very, very short. It can be clocked in an hour or two. Less depending on your problem solving skills. Even with the new puzzles it’s almost the same length as the flash version so don’t expect the intrigue and suspense to last when it’s over before you know it. The game is good while it lasts but unfortunately it doesn’t last as long as you’d like it to.

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Moringstar: Descent to Deadrock is another welcome addition to adventure gaming. It stays true to the classic “point-n-click” style gameplay which long time fans of the genre will appreciate. This game is more like a “director’s cut” of the original than a re-imagining and the game is indeed very short, however this is still able to give adventure fans, especial fans of the classic kinds of adventure games with atmosphere, suspense and puzzling challenge. If you’re a fan of adventure games and especially the older kinds, grab Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock.

This review was based on a digital review copy of Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock for the PC provided by Phoenix Online Publishing.

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