An Appealing Action RPG
Children of Morta is a game that I first got my hands on earlier this year at a press event. I spent about five minutes with it before I realized how dangerous it was to a Diablo veteran like me. This is a roguelite that hits all the right buttons. Now it's time to get into our Children of Morta review, and I can confidently say that my suspicions were correct: it's chock full of compelling ARPG gameplay.
This brand-new title, developed by Dead Mage and published by 11 bit studios, tells the tale of a family who has fought against the forces of darkness seemingly forever. Your charge is to lead them to victory against a seemingly unassailable evil. Their path is fraught with danger and tragedy. It's up to you to give this family a fighting chance.
Children of Morta Review | All In The Family
Central to Children of Morta's is the Bergson family, a clan who has been combating the Corruption for countless generations. Every few hundred years, the Corruption descends from Mount Morta and wreaks havoc on the land. Their only choice is to awaken the three gods and goddesses trapped in their respective realms in the hopes that they can beat it back into submission.
One might make an immediate comparison to the Belmont family. That's not necessarily wrong. They do, after all, have a family name starting with B and fight bad guys over several generations. In my eyes, that's where the similarities end. Unlike the clan of Castlevania fame, the Bergsons put every available man and woman into the field.
Your adventure begins with access to John Bergson (the dad) and Linda Bergson (his eldest daughter). Younger kids Kevin and Lucy want to fight, but their mother doesn't want to let them fight. They each join the fray in their own way; Kevin decides to "borrow" daggers that his Uncle Ben made and go off on an adventure, while the fire mage Lucy is properly trained by their grandmother and escorted through one of the levels by another character. They are also joined by the martial artist Mark and the burly brawler Joey.
Each Bergson has their own skill tree to work through (and yes, you can reset your spec with an item). One of the most interesting bits involves special passives that unlock for free every four levels. These apply to everyone in the family (including the character that unlocks it) and can save you from death at the last minute, add health regeneration, or increase your power in some other notable way. This gives players an incentive to play every character at least a little.
This versatility comes at a cost. The Bergsons get "Corruption Fatigue", lowering their health temporarily until they rest. It is pretty much impossible to play through the game with just one character. Thankfully, each of the six characters fits into one of three archetypes (tanky brawler, fast rogue, and ranged combatant), allowing you to stay in your comfort zone by switching between the two when necessary.
Ultimately, you get six Bergsons at your disposal, each of whom has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Not every fighter is good for every situation, and most of them don't really come into their own until you've leveled them up a bit and unlocked critical skills.
Children of Morta Review | An Astounding Arsenal
Each of the six characters has their own abilities, but that's not all you have at your disposal. Players can pick up three different sorts of power-ups, and these can immensely increase your power. Divine Graces, Divine Relics, and Charms will all become a critical part of your runs in the various dungeons, and which ones you randomly uncover could very well determine the difference between success and failure. There are also Runes which can modify your abilities and Obelisks which give you temporary buffs.
Divine Relics are the most noteworthy of the three. These items give you an active power that's active for one run. These range from a healing potion and a protective shield to some kind of magical attack. Later on, you get the ability to wield two of these simultaneously.
Divine Graces are a little different. These are passive buffs that will more often than not give you a clear positive without any downside. These items can add poison damage, fire damage, or life steal to your attacks. One of the rarest (and most valuable) will save you from death, consuming itself in the process and effectively serving as an extra life.
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What does one do with all that gol- er, "Morv" that you earn in your runs? The only sensible choice: upgrade your entire family's abilities and equipment.
The Charms, though, are perhaps the most interesting in terms of these buffing mechanics. These function much like Divine Graces in that they often provide a passive effect, but some of these effects are temporary or even one-time use. A Charm could heal you for a chunk of health and disappear or it could permanently alter the way you play that run; for example, the Ring of Regeneration gives you passive health regeneration but lowers the healing from potions that drop from enemies and pots.
Runes are yet another modification mechanic that change up one of the three abilities each character has. These runes have durability and expire after full use. You can save them, but only if you unlock a special merchant with masterful repair skills.
Obelisks are even more transitory, effectively acting like shrines in Diablo. Activate one, and you'll get one of several temporary buffs that will add a damaging aura, increase one of your stats, improve your experience gain, or simply restore you back to full health.
The combination of one of six different characters, Divine Relics, Divine Graces, Charms, Runes, and Obelisks all ultimately combine together into a wide variety of gameplay that does the roguelite genre well. No two runs will genuinely be the same, even if you pick the same character and play the same exact level.
Children of Morta Review | Two Bergsons Are Better Than One
It would have been a bit silly not to have some measure of multiplayer gameplay considering that there are six fighting members of the Bergson family. Thankfully, Dead Mage took the time to implement two-player co-op. This mode plays very smoothly on the local level with no major issues.
The versatility of compatible controllers is particularly impressive. I played Children of Morta like I would play any other ARPG: with a keyboard and mouse. My friend, however, prefers an Xbox 360 controller for most games. I plugged his controller into my PC and he was able to hop in right at the start of a run. We ran through several levels with me on the keyboard and mouse and him on the controller with absolutely no issues save for a tiny problem with tooltips giving a prompt in keyboard inputs for him instead of controller inputs. Other than that, it ran as smooth as butter and — more importantly — it was a heck of a lot of fun to play this game with a friend.
Children of Morta Review | Novel Narratives
The other five Bergsons don't just sit at home while one of them is out fighting, mind. One thing was evident in my Children of Morta review — Dead Mage does a fantastic job of making it feel like the whole family is chipping in to help. Nothing shows this off best than several random events where you'll find another random family member. They can be exploring an artifact, defending an objective, or requesting help to save innocent civilians or recover a hoard of treasure.
This highlights the interesting way that the story of Children of Morta unfolds. Yes, there are cutscenes in-between your runs in the dungeons; the story will often progress whether you win or lose through little vignettes back at the Bergson family home. Sometimes, an event you complete in a dungeon resolves through one of these cutscenes, and many of these can chain together.
You'll also experience story events through gameplay. As I said above, Lucy Bergson (the youngest of the six) needs to complete her training by running through an actual dungeon — and you're the one that helps her. She follows behind you for one floor of a dungeon when the appropriate time has come. Upon successful completion, she's available as a character.
The interactions between the family are heartwarming, funny, and sad at times. They will do anything for one another, and they have no compunction about heading into danger to protect their kin. Even if you don't play co-op, you'll occasionally have a Bergson turn up to help in some way and it makes all the sense in the world. Why wouldn‘t you bring out more than one of your elite warriors when you’re fighting a world-ending cataclysm? I’m genuinely surprised that more games haven’t had the sense to do this by now.
Children of Morta Review | Awesome Art and Mesmerizing Music
One of the best things about Children of Morta, bar none, is the lovely pixel art. Now, there are some out there who might think that pixel art is a bit played out these days. Often viewed as easier to accomplish on a technical level, there's still something to the aesthetic. Bob Ross' paintings may be easier than most, but I'll be damned if they ain't beautiful.
The Bergsons, their home, and the world's environments pack an astonishing amount of detail onto the screen. It gives off the sense that the developers placed each and every pixel with the utmost care. The characters, when animated, seem impressively evocative considering the comparatively low resolution the artists had to work with.
And the music, oh goodness, the music. I can only describe it as Diablo-esque with a hint of an Arabian flair. It's like taking your favorite dish, adding some spices, and coming up with something altogether new and interesting. I never tire of it.
To me, Children of Morta is one of those rare games that can provide something for players new to the genre and grizzled ARPG veterans alike. It's easy enough to pick up, but it can be brutally challenging if you don't make the best out of every advantage. It is never unfair. You always have a fighting chance.
I spent 24 hours with Children of Morta for my review. While I beat the main story, I'm sure I haven't explored every nook and cranny. What I can say wholeheartedly and enthusiastically is that Children of Morta is a game that's well worth your time and your hard-earned dollars. I unabashedly loved it, and I can't wait to hop back into the wonderful world of the Bergsons.
TechRaptor reviewed Children of Morta on PC via Steam with a copy provided by 11 bit studios. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
- Compelling ARPG Roguelite Gameplay
- Items Add Variety To Every Run
- A Wonderfully Written Story
- Beautiful Pixel Art
- Some Characters Feel Weak At First
- Grinding May Be Needed For Upgrades
- Only 2 Players In Co-Op