Review: Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock – Escape the Planet!

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is a point-and-click adventure set in space from Red Herring Labs (the FTP flash games MorningstarHeatherdale, and Nick Toldy). It’s being published by Phoenix Online Publishing, who have brought us The Silver LiningFace NoirLost CivilizationThe Last DoorQuest for InfamyMoebiusHeroes & LegendsCognition, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary, and Supreme League of PatriotsMorningstar originally existed in the form of a free flash game from 2009. This new version expands upon the original with new puzzles, scenes, and environments. The graphics and interface have also been updated.

Watch the trailer:

Plot

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“Crash-landed on a desolate, alien planet, what should’ve been a routine work-for-hire job for Powell has become a deadly mission to save the merchant vessel Morningstar and her crew. With one man dead and the captain gravely injured, Powell is on his own to repair the ship and find a way to escape the strange gravity well of the empty planet they’ve landed on. And if the situation weren’t dire enough, the only signs of life on the planet are the remains of a much larger and better equipped ship and her crew, all dead, and not by natural means. What–or who–brought down these ships and is killing their crews? For what reason? And can Powell find a way off-planet before he shares the same fate?”

Saying anything beyond that would be a spoiler, but the world building that’s here is really nice. There’s a lot of intriguing sci-fi weirdness going on, and I was really interested in some answers. Unfortunately, the game provides little explanation of the events within it – it teases you, but because of the short length of the game, the conclusion is largely unsatisfying. I never got attached to either Powell or Captain Novak. I do think it was a bit interesting that we never saw either person’s face; they can be whoever you want.

Graphics and Sound

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Graphics are static screens for the most part; there are a few screens with moving parts. It’s Myst-like in this way. The illustrations are quite nice, especially when compared with the free version. The remastering of the cinematics was absolutely worth it – there’s a lot of excellent space imagery. The music is also excellent, but Powell’s voice actor is extremely bland; I skipped a lot of his dialogue because he was so flat and unemotive. Novak’s voice actor isn’t much better, but seems to be trying a bit harder than Powell’s.

Gameplay

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Gameplay takes cues from both Myst and more recent point-and-click adventure games. Your goal is always clear – repair your ship and get off the planet – and I only found myself frustrated once. There are a lot of clues to point you in the right direction, including an in-game hint system (you can radio Novak at any time. Most of the hints he gives you are great, but sometimes a bit obtuse). You move from screen to screen, picking up inventory items and solving puzzles with them. There’s sometimes a bit of backtracking involved, but thanks to your fast travel map, this is never annoying. Some of the puzzles took a bit of creative thinking on my part, but they’re all pretty logical. Sometimes there are even hints in the descriptions of the inventory items, which is cool.

Morningstar won’t take you long to finish. It took me one hour and 41 minutes to complete the game. There are 16 Steam achievements (all story-based), and trading cards are included.

Final Thoughts

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An interesting, short adventure game that doesn’t quite live up to its potential. I was left wanting more after finishing it, especially with all of the interesting world building that was happening. It ends right as everything is getting interesting! The high price point for a short game might deter some as well.

Score: B-

You can get Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock for $9.99 via Steam, the Humble Store, and the Phoenix Online Store. Visit Red Herring Labs on their site and Facebook. Check out Phoenix Online Studios on their site, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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