A game of Morphblade typically takes me around five minutes. Steam tells me I’ve spent 178 hours playing it (so far). That’s ten hours more than I’ve spent playing XCOM plus XCOM2. What is it about this game that has made me play it more than two thousand times? And what is a ‘roguelike mapbuilding puzzler’ anyway?
The first thing I noticed when I first played Morphblade is that it doesn’t have a ‘New Game’ screen. You fire it up, and you’re playing it. Like a lot of my favorite games, there’s not much to it at the beginning.
The trick to it is this: when you clear a wave of enemies, you get to claim a hex and put a symbol on it. And if you use the same hex to kill enemies a whole bunch of times, you get to upgrade it. Those upgrades accumulate, and the enemy waves get more complex until you make enough mistakes to get yourself into a situation like this:
And then you die.
In this situation, there are two things you can click on: the little X in the top-right corner of the window, and the rather prominent “Restart” button. And… OK. The game says that 19 waves is ‘Good’. But I’m sure I could have done better. Maybe I could have built a teleporter on the left side of the map? Or maybe I should have used the double-movement ability of the triangle space to get out of the corner area instead of getting myself trapped.
And anyway, I have five more minutes before the download finishes on the game I said I was going to review, and what’s the harm if I actually do well next time and it takes just a little longer? The restart button calls…
And we’re back where we started. Although the hexes that it’s possible to unlock are in a slightly different shape, and the hexes I’m being offered aren’t the same either.
Just don’t make the mistake of going on the forums thinking that you’re good at this game, just because the word at the bottom-left switched to ‘impossible’ and you were feeling pleased with having done 54 waves. Because the people who are serious about this game who know how to get to 400, and they do it by using a very specific set of tactics. Myself, I prefer a somewhat more varied playstyle, even though it doesn’t get such high numbers.
Besides, if my games lasted longer, I couldn’t pretend it was only going to take five minutes to play one more game. And then the surprised look on my face two hours later would be impossible to justify.
- Puzzle solvers
- Game reviewers who promised they’d get something written today, but are trying to get the campaign finished before they review the one they were planning to write, and they’re really close but they need just a little more time before feel comfortable writing it up. Honest.