Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is a point-and-click adventure in the most traditional sense. Players navigate environments comprised of static images by scouting every nook and cranny for useful objects and clues. This is a love letter to classic PC gaming. Morningstar is not about fancy graphics or complex gameplay mechanics, instead it’s embellished with imagination and creativity. Its underwhelming presentation doesn’t make the best first impression, but Morningstar is the kind of experience that becomes more immersive and intriguing as the adventure progresses.
Players take role of Powell, an astronaut whose ship crash lands on a desolate, alien planet. With the pilot dead, and another crew member heavily injured on the other line of the radio, Powell has to find a way to repair the ship and escape Deadrock’s strange gravity well. Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is eerie and atmospheric. The sense of hopelessness and isolation is portrayed beautifully, with a superb orchestral soundtrack setting the stage during the game’s intro.
"This is a love letter to classic PC gaming. Morningstar is not about fancy graphics or complex gameplay mechanics, instead it’s embellished with imagination and creativity."
Even though the entirety of Morningstar is played via still images, there’s a lot of interactivity and aesthetic diversity. Each scene contains a complex puzzle. Scouting for necessary objects and clues becomes increasingly more difficult with each new area, and there’s a sense of satisfaction when all pieces fall into place, and you’re finally allowed to proceed. Morningstar's biggest challenge lies in its item crafting. At first, it’s a matter of combining object A with object B to create a needed tool, but soon you’re asked to combine half a dozen scraps in specific order, which admittedly also results in frustration.
Items are created by dragging objects on top of each other. In most cases, for example, you can drag object A on top of object B, or vice versa. However, things get tricky when B has to be dragged on top of A, and there are several pieces that need combining. Instead of relying on logical solutions, it becomes a matter of trial and error. Luckily, this doesn’t happen too often, and most solutions make sense after a bit of tinkering.
"Despite its problems, Morningstar’s pacing, great narrative and sense of mystery make it an immersive and memorable experience."
Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is a low-budget title, and it shows. The still images look like amateurish student projects, and the voice acting is poor. The voice actors don’t seem invested in their characters (especially Powell), and they sound like they’re reading a script with a gun is pointed at their head. However, it’s that presentational coarseness that gives Morningstar its charm and personality. The ominous scenery is effective because of the visual crudity. Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock feels like a great old sci-fi film, where bad special effects evoke a sense of nostalgia. It’s like the Doctor Who of point-and-click adventure games.
Despite its problems, Morningstar’s pacing, great narrative and sense of mystery make it an immersive and memorable experience. The hard, and oftentimes frustrating puzzles, are genuinely creative and satisfying. Deadrock is a terrifying and mysterious place, and even though it’s presented via mediocre renders, the fundamental design and atmosphere are impressive enough to make it feel like a real place. If you’re itching for a truly classic PC adventure, Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is undoubtedly worth checking out.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC