Children of Morta is a game based on a family. Mechanically, it’s a satisfying dungeon crawler that will crush your bad guys, take your characters to the next level and unlock better skills so you can take on an array of increasingly difficult bosses. But it’s a compelling game about what it means to be part of a family, and being surrounded by your loved ones can make you a better, more influential person. This is our Children of Morta Review.
Children of Morta Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, Mac OS
- Developer: Dead Mage
- Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
- Genres: Action role-playing game, Roguelike
- Release Date: September 3, 2019
Children of Morta Review: Official Trailer Video
Children of Morta Review: Gameplay
The Bergson family, six of whom you can play, are made up of warriors, mages, and inventors who are all tasked with stopping corruption – which began to spread across their homeland at the opening of the game. Their home sits atop a shrine, and to fight against the evil forces of the demonic Ou, they must travel through portals and conquer dungeons to awaken three spirits able to guard against corruption.
It’s a clichéd fantasy setup, but Children of Morta makes the most of its tropics by making sure you invest in the Bergson’s and their plight. Between dungeon rides, you’ll be treated to cutscenes and family vignettes communicating with each other, and get to know the beats of their lives and what they do if they don’t endure dungeons. You began with two playable characters, family patriarch John and his eldest daughter Linda, but the other four are introduced in the opening half of the game.
Gameplay in Children of Morta involves making your way through hordes of enemies to reach the boss of each dungeon, thoroughly exploring and collecting as many temporary boosts along the way as possible. Each character has three primary abilities that they unlock as they level up: an attack that can be used regularly, a special attack with a cooldown, and a more defensive ability (although some of these can still do damage).
The fight isn’t necessarily super deep, but it’s a lot of fun thanks to some very satisfying animations and the strategic capabilities that become available as you progress. Multi-level dungeons are regenerated every time you enter, so finding the entrance to the next level always requires some exploration. Occasionally I found myself getting frustrated when the path to the exit was pervasive, but this also kept the game fresh when some dungeons took a long time to clear.
There is an imbalance between the number of melee and ranged characters – four melee to two ranged characters, which is unfortunate as playing the ranged characters significantly changes the rhythm of the game through a slower, more thoughtful playstyle encouraging and having just two of them feels like a missed opportunity. I found out that Linda was the character I most succeeded in beating bosses because so many bosses are ready to punish you for getting too close. I would have liked another option, then she and Lucy, the youngest daughter of the family.
You should also change characters regularly, as any family member who is used too often in a row suffers from corruption fatigue, reducing their overall health until given time to recover. Each family member can also unlock new skills that will benefit any other family member when they reach a higher level, and following skills in their skill trees can be beneficial. I initially fired John because he was too slow, but found his shield and wide swing bow extremely useful later in the game and was ultimately happy that the game encouraged me to use each character and discover their strengths.
The plot’s focus on the family, combined with the great art and beautiful animation, makes it easy to love the Bergson’s. Lucy is so full of energy that she jumps in the middle of her run animation, while the eldest son Mark’s Naruto-like run perfectly complements his martial arts fighting style. Such charming accents are everywhere, and they give the characters more personality. You feel that those unique qualities also come through in combat; there are few things more satisfying than seeing Kevin shine with rage and tearing through a massive crowd of enemies.
However, it takes a long while before the grind starts to wear you out. The battle is meaty and intense, and the pull to get stronger is so compelling that dealing with crowds and collecting all the gold they spill can hold your attention for hours. In the end, there is a sharp increase in difficulty. Still, I could always identify what went well – what battles I had avoided, what charms I had used, how I thought about my character’s relative strengths and weaknesses to the boss – and adjust my strategies accordingly to keep doing well. The grind helped me become a better player, rather than merely acting as a level gate.
There are special buffs that are active only for that session, and you have a much better chance of defeating the boss if you go in after thoroughly exploring and starting up the dungeon. There are many different types of buff you can unlock, some temporarily, some permanently; I found myself doing much better against bosses when I went in with many of them active. You can find the various items and objects that make you more powerful in any dungeon, or you can buy them from retailers that pop up, and I found myself getting excited when I saw the right combination. It’s a great feeling to take on a boss who hit you multiple times, now armed with a combination that you think will give you an advantage.
You also have the option to play the entire game in co-op, and the game balance differs depending on whether you are alone or not. However, I found myself preferring to play solo – it’s annoying for a friend to talk about cutscenes, and scaling the difficulty makes co-op more complicated.
In our Children of Morta review, the whimsical art style and fun stories tell what would otherwise have been a fun, roguelike dungeon crawler and significantly elevate it. Taking out enemies and eventually triumphing over bosses is fun, but what brought me back, again and again, was the connection I felt with the Bergson’s, and my genuine desire to help them curb corruption. After all, it’s a lot easier to deal with dungeons full of monsters if you have a family to come home to.
Children of Morta is a compelling game about what it means to be part of a family, and being surrounded by your loved ones can make you a better, more influential person.