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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: Sept. 3, 2019

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PC Review - 'Children of Morta'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 3, 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.

Buy Children of Morta

Children of Morta tells the story of the Bergsons, a family of heroes who live together in a simple house and lead happy lives — at least until a corruption seeps over the land and turns everything it touches into hideous monsters. The Bergsons have a magic crystal and even greater magical powers, and that combination means they can venture into the corruption-infested areas of the world to save it.

A Bastion-style narrator chronicles the family's adventure, and the story gets you engaged with the characters and world. You get lots of little details, and the insanely charming sprite work combines with the voice-overs to expand upon a tale that looks quite light on paper. The little moments make the otherwise simple characters come alive. While Morta's gameplay is fun, I found myself most excited about the next quiet interlude with the cast. It won't break any molds, but Morta does exactly what it sets out to do: make you care about the Bergsons.


At its core, Children of Morta is a Diablo-style roguelike. You enter a randomly generated dungeon and slay your way through hordes of enemies while collecting gold and trinkets and earning EXP. Combat is largely twin-stick shooter/slasher style, with cooldown-based skills and a few character-specific tweaks. It will probably feel familiar to people who know the genre, but that's not a bad thing. One nice feature is that it offers local co-op, so you can bring multiple characters into the dungeons at one time.

Morta is a roguelike, but it's not hugely punishing. Dying (or finishing a segment of dungeon) causes you to lose any trinkets you collected. Trinkets often offer nice bonuses, but they're randomized and far from necessary, so you're encouraged to not depend on them. Aside from that and having to restart the dungeon segment, there isn't a huge punishment for dying. You return to the house with the gold you collected. Death isn't always a bad thing; sometimes, you need to die for the subplots to advance, unlocking new features or playable characters.

The Bergsons are a busy family, and each member tends to fill a distinct niche. You have a long-distance archer, a peppy fire mage, a dashing monk, a stealthy rogue, and a shield-bearing tank. The nice thing is that each one plays significantly different from the others. John, the patriarch and the aforementioned tank, has a shield to block attacks and a long broadsword. He's great at holding chokeholds but poor if he gets surrounded. Kevin the rogue, on the other hand, deals tons of damage and can buzz-saw through enemies and turn invisible. On the other hand, he's far more fragile than John and more likely to die at the hand of snipers.


Characters gain power in a few ways. One is by upgrading at the house, and the upgrades carry over to all characters. The upgrades are mostly stat boosts, but some, like the passive chance to dodge enemy hits, pay off huge dividends pretty quickly. Characters also gain skill points as they level up, allowing access to special moves, "rage" attacks, and powerful passive skills. Linda the archer gains the ability to deal more damage the more she attacks without moving, and she has a powerful AoE stun that lets her escape when surrounded. These skills are very powerful and one of the things carried over between runs.

For a variety of reasons, it's not wise to pick a favorite Bergson and play nobody else. As they level up, each Bergson unlocks passive buffs that apply to the entire family. That means if you don't devote at least a little time to the other characters, you'll miss out on some cheap and easy buffs. Another is that leveling up under-leveled characters gets way faster as you progress. Taking a level 1 character into a later dungeon will get them to level 10 in a single run. Since characters share all stat upgrades, this is also easier than it sounds. Finally, characters who are overused will get corruption fatigue and have reduced maximum health until they get some time to rest.

This system works really well. It strongly rewards players for swapping between different characters and trying out their play styles. Since you're being rewarded with buffs and bonus abilities even on failed runs, it lacks the feel of "I have to play the character I dislike" because you'll always have multiple Bergsons available. Even characters whose play styles mesh poorly with your own can empower the character you do like.


My biggest issue with the combat is largely that ranged capability seems to trump all else. I had the easiest time playing with Bergsons who fought from a distance by default, and I had the toughest time with melee fighters who were theoretically tanks. At the end of the day, I would use the tanky Bergsons until they died before I inevitably cleared a dungeon with one of the ranged ones. It feels more natural when you're playing with a tank character in multiplayer, as it allows the ranged fighters (who get damage bonuses for attacking without moving) to ramp up their damage with less risk. If you're going it alone, though, distance saves more lives than armor. I also found the melee combat to be more awkward and crowded, so it was less fun.

For me, the most appealing part of Children of Morta is the visuals. This is one area where the screenshots don't do the game justice. The sprite work is amazing, with tons of unique, interesting and well-animated sprites that give the characters a lot of life. Sometimes it's Bergsons dancing together, practicing combat, or eating dinner, but it always feels natural, smooth and well-executed. The cut scenes are a genuine delight for this reason, and I found myself entranced by many of them. The other visuals are nice and distinctive, and while I have trouble telling apart the enemies, the core animations are weighty and satisfying. If you're a fan of sprite work, Children of Morta is worth playing on its own.

Children of Morta is charming, engaging and fun. It's absolutely worth playing if you're a fan of the genre, and the Bergsons are one of the best family units in gaming. The world and characters draw you in, and the simple but engaging roguelike gameplay keeps you there. It doesn't break any molds, but it doesn't try to. Instead, the title focuses on offering what it has with a mirror polish. It has some problems and can feel repetitive at times, but any sense of weariness is lost the next time a beautiful cut scene begins.

Score: 8.5/10



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