The Children of Morta is a promising and extremely challenging roguelike title that pushes the player forward in a top-down style that will challenge players more than what they would expect whether they with friends or alone. Whatever the case is with this game, we’re pretty darn sure Nightwish’s song Bless the Child inspired the game.
+Absolutely beautiful and stylized art styles used
+Visits the retro game experience perfectly
+Each character feels absolutely unique from one to the other
+Gameplay is very straight forward and easy to learn
+Character growth feels as if it has added weight to progression.
+Same couch multiplayer
-Can be overwhelmingly difficult to some.
When it comes to roguelikes and rogue-lites. I’ll be the first to admit. I enjoy a good co-op title, one where I can go online or share the couch with someone else. Lately, I’ve been doing what I can to play games with others from afar if I can or online if I must amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
For me, the go-to titles are usually roguelikes and rogue-lites or ARPG titles that allow me to delve into any and every dungeon I can. While my review for Children of Morta should have been out sooner than it was, I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to rush my way through this one. It’s not because the game isn’t good, it’s spectacular actually, but rather because I didn’t want to feel as if I consumed too much too quickly.
In many ways, I’ve come to appreciate the various members of the Bergson clan, I’ve enjoyed their battle against an evil corruption and their love for their family. Alas, here we are though, having enjoyed the game to its finality and of course, what the story has had to offer.
Children of Morta takes a lot of risks and every single one of them pays off in the end
Unlike most games, you don’t see something dedicate itself to what it hopes to accomplish. You find games that will change their pacing, switch to a different narrative format, or even a different story element altogether. For Dead Mage, that’s not the option here and their title, Children of Morta is set up on the rare premise of using family to build a rather powerful narrative.
For the most part, Children of Morta’s family set-up works pretty well; it does stumble a little, to begin with as you only have access to a few characters who aren’t the strongest of the bunch – we’re looking at you, John – and you’ll need to grind early dungeons in order to unlock others, but once things get going there’s a lot to enjoy here, even if the narrative is a little simplistic and the whole thing is over a bit quicker than we might have expected.
The story is simple, the Bergson family live in a multi-level home, one set just above the doorways to distant lands in the world they call their home. They are a talented bunch with John, the father, being a sword and shield-wielding warrior, their son Joseph, a hammer-wielding brute who uses damage taken to boost his damage out the boot, their daughter Linda a powerful archer who uses her bow to take out large groups of enemies and many other members of the family who will make an appearance over the course of your adventures.
The story, while some may seemingly find it shallow, is rather deep and meaningful. It’s a fight of good against evil, light against dark, and all the odds being stacked against our potential heroes. It’s actually rather well rounded, challenging, and believe it or not – it’ll give you a run for your money while working your way into the later portions of Children of Morta.
While we’ve only even put a few minor scratches at the surface, Children of Morta runs much deeper, which is part of what makes the game unique as it is.
Children of Morta is a well thought out experience for those looking for a solid roguelike title
A general experience you can expect from a game such as this is two things: Multiple characters with classes of their own and a specified playstyle that players will need to adjust to. Each dungeon you explore is multi-leveled, they come with their own unique threats, and the experience itself is rather challenging from beginning to end.
Combat is a key element as well, allowing players to choose what Bergson they prefer, leveling them up, and moving deeper into each of the randomly generated dungeons each time through. The only thing that the dungeons may or may not have in common is the enemies you fight, potential loot drops that come in the shapes of charms, runes, or activated relics.
Morv, the in-game currency much akin to gold, is also a central focus, which allows you to purchase universal upgrades for the Bergson family through the Book of Rhea or the Blacksmith shop. Different upgrades can do different things such as upgrade your damage, critical chance, critical damage and even the health of the Bergson family. You can even increase their XP earned per kill, the amount of Morv they obtain or their capabilities as fine-tuned explorers.
Each dungeon will have multiple levels, leading to that one being completed before moving onto another portion of the area. Unlike titles such as Diablo or Warhammer: Chaosbane, you won’t be traveling from town to town, but rather, accessing portals that take you to each area.
Once you complete an areas dungeons, you’ll move onto the final dungeon segment which usually includes a final boss and each final boss putting your capabilities you learned from that section to the test. Once you complete that final boss, you awaken an entity, which helps push your narrative forward in rather meaningful ways.
Now, you might be wondering, how does combat actually work since we’ve discussed the general gameplay loop of Children of Morta. Let’s discuss that next.
Children of Morta’s gameplay loop is fun, but its combat, even moreso
One of the elements that REALLY shines in Children of Morta is how unique each of the characters is. For example, John excels at being a sword and shield brawler. He’s able to take enemies out in large groups, using his shield and stamina to weather through oncoming attacks. He can get abilities that will allow his shield to be even more useful, stunning enemies with it as he deems necessary before dropping his guard and raining magical swords from the skies into those same hordes of enemies.
Then you have Linda, the archer, who can dispatch large groups of enemies from afar, using her agility to dart around, avoiding oncoming damage while taking advantage of her ranged single-target attacks and AOE capabilities. Then there’s Joseph, the hammer wielding brute, who would sooner smash an enemy into oblivion before moving into larger crowds.
Joseph excels where the others don’t. That’s the nice part about them. Each one experiences combat differently, they all play differently and each of them shines brighter than the others as quickly as the rest. Joseph for example, is my go-to character. His ability to pull in large groups, using his triangle to smash his hammer into the ground, and then take damage to increase his own damage output is a thoughtful as well as tactical gameplay element.
Since combat is tough and you can’t underestimate your foes, it’s important that dungeons are fully celared one end from he other. Joseph can get upgrades to his abilities and basic attack that will allow him to set enemies on fire, make his slams even bigger, and even make it so he has a chance to restore health based on damage dealt.
He can also rush through enemies, dealing damage as he blows right past them, setting up for a powerful attack on a group. His healthpool is also larger, allowing you to plan out each and every encounter to the best of your ability. Got an activated charm you want to use to increase his damage dealt at the cost of his ability to dodge or charge? Go for it.
Want to activate one of your relics? Do it. You can get ones that range from enemy leeching vortexes to totems that will distract your foes. You can also get one that summons a dragon from the ground, causing massive AoE damage for a few seconds or so. You can even find boons that will continue to stack, making it so you are constantly being upgraded as you go.
However, these boons, relics, etc, are lost over time; whether it is death or clearing the dungeon altogether. You can, however, always find a vendor depending on your luck. Those vendors, you can buy boons, relics, and healing items to make your Bergson as healthy as an ox.
Children of Morta does have, well, a couple of flaws we need to discuss
While I did say the story itself is fantastic, which it is, there are a few issues with it. For one, if you aren’t one for a single narrator, you’re out of luck here. He’s good though, very good, and he adds quite a bit of sense of death to the overall experience. But the story itself, could be a bit hammy, or over the top from time to time. I know, it’s okay, but it does take away from the narrator giving each of the characters their own unique identity, unless you are one for storybook-esque tales.
As this does play out like a fairy tale, do expect it to experience like one too. Another issue comes in the shape of performance. On our PlayStation 4 and our PlayStation 4 Pro, we did run into, well, rather frequent framerate hiccups. This could be due to several factors, which include procedurally generated maps as you go (if that’s the case) or the fact that there is sometimes just too much going on at once and Children of Morta being hammered by its constant loading of things in the background.
During one of my incursions, I felt myself staggering, even being somehow punished as Kevin, the rogue of the family, which eventually lead to my death as I zipped around the screen, using his high-stamina capabilities to my benefit. This even happened once with my main, Joseph, which led to me having a weakness through character fatigue, which is earned through a character dying a time too many and has to either be purified or healed through the course of multiple dungeon dives.
Even with that being said, load times, at times, were irritating on a standard PS4, even with a 7200RPM HDD. We even had moments where we were unsure if the game was going to hardlock or not. Those of you who were hoping for a loot grinder, this isn’t going to be there, which to some is a downfall, but to some, it’s a nice and refreshing experience.
Yep, we gotta talk about the audiovisual designs in Children of Morta
Now, as this is a rogue-lite title, for the most part, we do have to take a second to appreciate the games art style. It’s beautiful, excellent really, as Dead Mage has noticeably paid some homage to the games of yesteryear and a recent trend leading to heavily pixelated titles.
We’ve seen games doing this a lot recently. Titles such as Crypt of the Necrodancer, Ion Maiden, DUSK, AMID EVIL, WRATH: Aeon of Ruin and several others are capitalizing on this approach as of late. The reason it stands out though, Dead Mage didn’t do what the others did, but rather, they saw a bigger picture.
What if they painted an entire world in as much pixel art as they can? What if they fine tuned it so deep that even the soundtrack BLED this experience outside of the fact it’s not midi tunes or chiptunes at all? Well, they did it and let me tell you, it was a risk well deserved as their game DOES have a unique experience of its own. Every character design is unique, each one having their own identity, and somehow, it adds to the uniqueness Children of Morta has to offer.
Especially since we’ve played through the game almost two times total thanks to the Inn of the Rising Sun update, which added in new game+ benefits, and let us carry on our experiences into another save file, while still adding in plenty of challenge to be had.
The most impressive peace of this all? This is a Kickstarter success story you never thought you’d hear about.
The Conclusion – The story has only begun for the Bergson family
Now, as someone who has begun to really take a liking for the rogue-lite genre, I was unsure how I felt about another Kickstarter title. Most of the games are just, “we’re done and we’re moving onto another project,” experiences, however, that’s not the case here and Dead Mage wanted to make it perfectly clear that they aren’t quite done.
They even recently released an all-new character who uses slows and stuns to her advantage. She even helps build a much larger world for the Bergsons to experience. The game continues to offer refreshingly new challenges with every update, every system seems to get upgrades when they get the chance and the team doesn’t really seem to be getting any ideas of slowing down.
Children of Morta
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Dead Mage
Publisher: 11 bit Studios
Release Date: Available Now
Whether it’s the name its carving out for itself as a rogue-lite title or not, this beautiful-looking game is one that is joining titles such as Hyper Light Drifter, Dead Cells, Rogue Legacy, and Slay the Spire rather quickly. This is one that isn’t holding back and due to the wide array of platforms that it is available on, it’s hard to not acknowledge the potential Dead Mage has to offer and if they stay the course, this could be the biggest success story yet.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook where he interacts with his followers quite a bit!