MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock

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MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock
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MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock
Adventure, Point and Click
PC
Review based on Steam version
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Developer: Red Herring Labs
Release Date: February 17th, 2015

MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock is one of the latest point-and-click adventures to hit the PC/Steam marketplace. However, this independent title is one that may very well sneak under many a fan of the genre’s radar. It was developed by the relatively new studio Red Herring Labs (Nocran Space), which was then picked up for distribution through Phoenix Online Studios. The game itself is touted as being in the category of “Atmospheric First Person”, placing you in a nightmarish struggle to escape an alien planet in one piece. It also happens to be a remastered version of the older PC title MorningStar. But does this updated entry stand as a good modern take on the style, or is it nothing more than recycled cliche’s that are far from enjoyable?

This story follows one of the ship’s crew mates named Powell. He and the captain are the only survivors of a simple mission, having crashed on the alien planet referred to as Deadrock. You are tasked to not only help your superior officer, but also repair the engines in order to escape. Of course, you don’t have everything you need on board, and soon you are forced to explore the planet, as well as the remains of another downed ship and deceased crew. However, the more you explore, the more the mysterious stone heads scattered about become an ominous sign that you are not alone.

MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock

The game mechanics are just about as traditional as the story itself. Other than fantastically developed and rendered cut scenes for the opening and closing, much of visuals are images that only move when you interact in a way that would affect them, such as removing or opening a door, causing a device to explode, or simply picking an item up to keep in your inventory. The puzzles require you to find the right item, often in order for you to progress like going outside or to replace necessary fluids to help you survive the long trip back home, as well as require a number of things you will need to put together in order to solve said puzzle or create some crude replacement part when necesary. Sometimes these combinations are a bit cryptic, but you can always call your injured higher up on the radio and get a hint as to what to do next.

On top of that, it’s nearly impossible to miss investigating every little object you can interact with. Much like calling for assistance, this does detract from some of the difficulty in the game, which only comes in one mode: Casual. But, by the time you finish, you’ll realize this wasn’t meant to be that perplexing. There are some times, however, when you can overlook things like codes or patterns later on thanks to clues that don’t really point you in the right direction. This is a major issue later on (one that made me spend an hour running between three different rooms cursing up a storm as to why the planetary sequences wouldn’t do anything to the main device in the ship), though it has been kind of fixed thanks to updates that hit around the time of launch. These improvements mostly factor into the keyboard you enter the sequences in, making it a little easier to do so, as well as removing the coding on the left side of the screen during the aforementioned cinematics (something that appeared in the game prior to release).

MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock

And then there’s the voice acting, which is as standard as everything else in this game. The cast literally sounds like they are just reading off cue cards, rarely adding an emotion outside of sarcasm, especially when insulting one another in a manner that seems only jovial due to the dire circumstances at hand. Powell will narrate basically every move you make, so the hum drum approach does grow tiring after a while, especially when you end up a bit stumped as to what to to do next. This is, sadly, the only real punishment for abusing the easy item system. You can try combining items or placing them anywhere at any time, as long as you’re willing to hear the same bland dialogue over and over if it doesn’t work. Other than that, there seems to be no major repercussions that I have experienced.

MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock

But, what it all comes down is if the game itself is fun, and, yes, it is. A lot of the charm from the original is still captured here, even with the new shine the modern darker visuals bring to the table. MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock doesn’t set out to be anything but an enjoyable, casual point-and-click Adventure game that you don’t need to put a lot of effort into, or worry about forgetting something important other than certain sequences later on. The only major gripe is that the mystery of those stone heads aren’t really explored outside of logs you discover. A few more cinematic scenes also would have been nice to have, though their absence doesn’t really impact the title negatively. But, everything functions just as it should, and there’s just enough going on to keep the player engaged for the roughly two hours that this little quest ends up being. MorningStar: Descent to Deadrock won’t really appeal to the seasoned veterans of the style looking for a more serious experience like the Tex Murphy games or The Dig, but this simpler and refined offering is a great way for nowcomers to the style to get their feet wet before moving on to some of the more challenging titles out there. Regardless of your experience level, this is a game worth checking out, though you might want to wait until it goes on sale given the length.


Overall Score: 6/10
Digital review copy of this title provided by Phoenix Online Publishing.