Preview: The Morrigan – A Stylish Dungeon Crawler Needing Finesse

Fantasy dungeon crawling experiences can offer some of the most immersive virtual reality (VR) gaming, sword and shield in hand, exploring ancient ruins and vanquishing evil foes. Titles like The Mage’s Tale, Left-Hand Path, and The Witching Tower all offer their own unique takes on the genre and now The Pixel Mine has entered the playing field with The Morrigan.

Currently, in Steam Early Access, The Morrigan tells the tale of an ancient Celtic Queen (The Morrigan) who makes a deal with a desperate king, sacrificing his (unborn) daughter’s freedom. Years pass and the girl ascends the throne, only for The Morrigan to call in her debt. And now it’s up to you to fight through the evil queen’s castle and save the innocent queen.

With such a classic good vs evil story, you need some classic gameplay and The Morrigan certainly has that. At its hear The Morrigan is a hack and slash adventure, allowing you to wield a sword and shield, or dual wield two swords if an attacking strategy is preferred over defensive. Or for those who like to keep their distance a bow is also on offer with unlimited arrows so there’s no need to worry about wasting shots.

Primarily, most players will likely go for the melee approach, with the currently available level mix of tight compact hallways and wide open crumbling room’s ideal for swords, axes and other close quarter’s weaponry. Unfortunately, melee combat can be haphazard at points. Parrying works beautifully, being able to block attacks easily with the added advantage of putting opponents on the back foot occasionally. The problem comes when attacking, as The Morrigan won’t stand for short rubbish swipes with the sword. Instead, swings need to be big and robust, putting in plenty of power, and when contact is made a little red number appears indicating the damage done. However, enemies don’t always register contact with a weapon – when a sword strikes their head for example – meaning some battles can almost be pot luck, quickly changing from epic adventure to impossible chore.

The bow is far better at the moment, with VRFocus primarily using it to the six levels available. It doesn’t have the polish of In Death but it’s more dependable than the melee weapons which is a shame.

As for the rest of The Morrigan, it’s a fairly decent dungeon crawler. The Pixel Mine has created a wonderful art style that makes certain scenes and locations look rather epic, even though it has a simple polygon design. As well as the fighting there are several puzzles dotted around to mix up the gameplay. These really aren’t overly complicated, generally involving lighting torches or finding keys.

One important factor The Morrigan ­has got right is movement. Supporting both smooth location motion and teleportation, both can be used at the same time – particular areas still require teleportation to traverse – allowing for a comfortable experience that can be further tweaked in the settings. One little grievance, when walking backwards to put space between you and an enemy movement is really slow.

The Pixel Mine has a promising title on its hands with The Morrigan. Positives include visual design, movement and comfort. On the improvement side, the weak link is definitely the melee combat. Once this has been fine-tuned and more content has been added, The Morrigan could well be added to the list of must play VR dungeon crawlers.

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