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Children of Morta

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Developer: Dead Mage
Release Date: Oct. 15, 2019


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Children of Morta'

by Cody Medellin on June 21, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Children of Morta is a story-driven hack-and-slash roguelike game that involves players in the adventures of the Bergson family.

Pre-order Children of Morta

From now through Friday, June 21, Dead Mage and 11bit Studios are letting the public try out a demo of Children of Morta. From what we can tell, it provides a slice of the game that's similar to what the Kickstarter backers have accessed for a while. If you were already interested in the title, then grab the demo. If you want a little more background on the game, read on.

After an intro sequence where you learn that the land is in danger from an unknown force, you take control of one of the members of the Bergson family. Your initial job is to investigate what has caused the spirit of the land to go silent. Once you discover that the great tree has fallen and that corpses are being turned into monsters, your new mission is to discover the cause. It feels like standard fantasy stuff, but what grabs you immediately is how it doesn't feel like pure medieval fantasy. Take a walk outside, and you'll see that there are floating shards of land and multiple planets in the skyline. The runes near the tree produce a bright electric glow, and the same goes for the hidden passageway to the room that holds your family's crystal.

Children of Morta feels like some of the later Final Fantasy titles in the way it mixes classic swords and magic with sci-fi elements. It's also reminiscent of Bastion due to the presence of a narrator who speaks about the situation and some of the thoughts of each character.

The core gameplay resembles that of a hack-and-slash title or a dungeon-crawler with a more controller-friendly setup. Your main character always has a basic sword and shield along with a dash, but unlike most modern titles, there's no stamina meter to worry about. The sword combos get the job done, and the shield use is effective at blocking most things, especially since you can perform a damaging shield bash, but there's a meter for this, so you're punished for holding up your shield all the time.

As expected, leveling up grans some new abilities, like leaving behind some fire damage when you slash an enemy or adding thorns to your shield so that blocked attacks still provide damage. As a bonus, you can opt to go for an archer instead of a swordsman, and you can also engage in some two-player co-op action. While it isn't exactly drop-in/drop-out co-op, you can decide whether to team up or go solo before each dungeon run.

Children of Morta is also a roguelike in a few ways. Each run through a level has a random layout, and you lose some of the elements picked up in a dungeon when you die. The good news is that each iteration of the dungeon comes packed with a bunch of secret prize rooms and a decent amount of loot, so you won't feel like you happened upon a bad layout. The game is also rather forgiving in terms of what you lose, as you still get to keep coins and XP when you die. You could grind your way through levels and do some power-leveling in the process, and the level designs and solid combat system will keep you entertained along the way.

Everything said about the game so far is compelling and familiar, but the game's hook is what occurs between each dungeon run. Instead of sending you back to your house to upgrade your gear and start another run, you're treated to some cut scenes that give the family an update about what's going on. Some of the scenes are mandatory, usually occurring the first few times you die in a dungeon, but others are optional if you choose to search around the house, and they provide insight about the family itself. It seems like a small thing, but considering how the story centers on the family rather than the calamity happening to the land, the move works well in making every family member important, even if you choose to not play as them later on. In a roundabout way, it also makes you want to fail a run in a new area a few times just to see the next cut scene.

In addition to the narrator's smooth voice, the rest of the presentation will wow you. The game leans heavily on the more modern pixel style for its characters and enemies, but the style still works in delivering smooth animations and detailed models. The environments really get a boost, as the densely packed pixels make everything look picturesque, while the lighting effects add more visual flair to beautiful scenes. There may not be enough here to push the hardware, but what you have is beautiful nonetheless.

The demo for Children of Morta is enough to convince most people that this can be a really great game once it finally releases this summer. The combat is crisp, and the randomized levels always brings about a new mystery that you feel compelled to solve. However, the moments between each death give the game more character than most roguelikes due to the evolving family dynamic that you get to see. Whatever you do, be sure to grab the demo. If you miss it, hope that the release of the full game doesn't get delayed again.

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