Children of Morta PC Review

Children of Morta's excellent combat and gorgeous pixel art are only surpassed by how genuinely human its cast of characters feels.

By Woozie, Posted 02 Sep 2019

Children of Morta is an ARPG with rogue-lite elements that begins following the Bergson family just as a malevolent force known as the Corruption returns to devour their world. It tells not only the tale of the family’s reunion to uphold its ancestral duty and face evil, but also the individual stories that each member’s life hides. Although Children of Morta’s dungeon delving doesn’t necessarily innovate, the amount of polish on show coupled with a number of interesting ideas more than end up pulling their weight in the long run.

You play as one of six characters in Children of Morta. Although embodying familiar class archetypes, every Bergson stands out in their own way, playing quite differently. The first character you get to try is John, head of the family and bulkier sword ‘n’ board fighter who can block attacks and summon a flurry of magical swords from the sky. His daughter Linda, on the other hand, is a nimbler ranged bow user whose stamina depletes when firing while moving. Kevin, his younger son, excels at agile strikes with his dual knives, gaining frenzy as he deals damage which, in turn, makes him attack faster. Mark is an adept of unarmed combat and automatically targets enemies at short range, dashing towards them when striking while, although small, Lucy wields devastating fire magic at the cost of not being able to move while attacking. The more she attacks, the quicker her attacks become, however, prompting additional homing projectiles to appear. Where the other Bergsons, save for maybe John, use speed to their advantage, Joey is a slower brawler that deals higher damage using his two-handed hammer. His is a fighting style that needs the most time to master, as the windows in which he’s open to attacks are wider.

Children of Morta, PC, Review, Screenshot

Although they level up individually, catching up is done fairly quickly by tackling later levels if you’re willing to sacrifice a few runs. The title gives you multiple reasons why you’d want to try out different characters. One of them is the Corruption Fatigue mechanic that takes a chunk off a character’s total health if you’ve been using them repeatedly until they rest. Luckily, combat is one of Children of Morta’s strongest points, successfully encouraging the use of even those characters that might not have a playstyle you’d generally go for. Although it’s not overly complex, involving the use of three-or-so attacks, movement and timed dodges, its quick flow, and punchy feedback make overcoming corrupted wildlife, evasive thieves and monstrous amalgamations of Corruption feel great from start to finish. Add to that a number of randomized items that can either provide various passive buffs, like flame-imbued attacks or increased critical chance, alongside new, strong cooldown-based abilities, and there’s a good amount of variety to look forward to.

As each Bergson levels up, they earn skill points that you can spend in skill trees with a couple of different upgrade paths. While you can’t quite fashion builds as vast as those in pure ARPGs, you can choose whether to work on certain passive bonuses, like giving John more armor or having Linda’s consecutive attacks deal more damage while she stands still, or add and enhance their active abilities. At the moment, trying out the few available leveling paths alongside Children of Morta’s co-op mode are the main incentives to start the game over after beating it. Interestingly enough, as the Bergsons grow stronger, they unlock passive and active bonuses for the other family members, going as far as quickly intervening in their runs, which strengthens the feeling that you are, in fact, going against the Corruption as a family.

Children of Morta, PC, Review, Screenshot

Children of Morta does an excellent job of intertwining the family members’ individual stories with their battle against the Corruption. Instead of forcefully shoving love and family in as an excuse for pushing forward, their motivations, alongside details about each family member and their desires, are given after each run in their home in an interlude-like fashion. The cutscenes showing two lovers dancing, a family sharing dinner or a child eager to jump into their fighting boots and contribute to their family’s ancestral duty, alongside the great narration that reveals their unspoken feelings, prove very effective at making the Bergsons – as a whole and individually – feel like actual people. The fact that you can click on them in between missions to read extra thoughts is another small detail that adds to this.

Exploring the game’s procedurally generated and vanquishing their denizens levels rewards experience, items, and side quest objectives if you choose to take the risk of facing more enemies. You can also find various events that add to the story or open up gameplay or shops. For a while, there’s a tangible sense of taking small steps forward. That being said, the level design is Children of Morta’s weakest feature. Although visually it features one of the most gorgeous and vivid uses of pixel art I’ve seen so far, the layouts of the levels begin to repeat a little bit too much, too soon. As you have to play one level until you beat it, bumping into particularly difficult monster combinations or having trouble with a boss can hamper the experience quite a bit. While the pool of enemies and traps you encounter does grow with each new level, facing you with a variety of different attack patterns to learn and look out for, getting stuck for a prolonged time means that you’ll see a lot of the same things and area layouts as progress grinds to a halt. Although levels sometimes spice things up with a mini-game of fantasy pong or an arena that rewards an item upon completing its horde mode challenge, I did wish I could just beeline towards the boss on quite a few occasions and would have done so were items not important.

Children of Morta, PC, Review, Screenshot

Part of this, I think, stems from the fact that Children of Morta walks the line between ARPG and rogue-lite without decidedly stepping into either territory. The upgrades, global traits, and character skills give a tangible sense of progression. The workshop and Book of Rea in the house that provide global upgrades to your characters’ health, armor, dodge chance, money found, and more act as soft progression mechanics that also provide a contribution to the feeling that you’re pushing forward towards your goal. But with frequent death baked into the game’s DNA, it could have done not only with more balancing – the second act’s bosses take much longer to kill than the first act’s; the same goes for the third – and more varied level tilesets.

As much as hitting a hurdle in Children of Morta can lead to navigating repetitive levels and not feeling like you’re getting anywhere, for the most part, it manages to successfully marry its ARPG core with its rogue-lite elements. The game’s constant trickle of new enemies, traps, side-quests, and unlockable abilities offer more than enough to look forward to as you unravel its story. Children of Morta’s snappy combat makes fights feel great and its characters shine both on their own and as a family. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that, as good of an ARPG as it is, the game’s biggest achievement is just how genuinely human its cast feels and how palpable the fact that an entire family is doing battle against evil becomes the more you play.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): 11 bit studios
Developer(s): Dead Mage
Genres: Action, Rogue-lite
Themes: Dungeon Crawling, Fantasy
Release Date: 2019-09-03

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