Children of Morta: The review
Children of Morta follows the Bergsons, a lineage of heroes whose house is literally built upon the catacombs of ancient dungeons. When an ancient corruption rises again, the Bergsons have to trawl the depths of the catacombs in which to obtain the guardians needed beat back the darkness. Children of Morta is a beautiful and storied roguelike, even if the narrative hook may be a bit rote. In order to review this game, I’ve been playing it pretty regularly the past few weeks, and my time with the Bergsons have actually been very enjoyable.
Unlike the trailer above, the game is entirely rendered in old-school 8-bit style, from gameplay to the time in the house and even the cutscenes. It’s a beautiful aesthetic style, well complemented the the atmospheric music. There’s no voice, but there is a narrator that describes all the comings and going in the Bergson family.
You start off with John and Linda Bergson. John is the patriarch of the family, and as the dependable dad goes with your traditional sword and board style. His shield allows him to block, and while relatively slow and not as agile as most of the rest, his defensive play may be attractive to some.
Linda is an archer and the eldest sister. Her ranged damage while shooting on the move gives her an amazing ability to kite opponents, a vastly different play style from her dad, and something I was much more successful with. Just be careful in close confines (like boss fights) and always have an escape plan.
Regardless of characters, Children of Morta is a traditional roguelike, with skills gained upon levelling, Divine Graces and Relics that provide bonus abilities limited to the dungeon run, and your usual array of minibosses that are buffed up versions of the usual mobs. While most of that is par for the course for a game like this, the Graces and Relics REALLY affect the way you tackle a specific run. I loved the Divine Relic that allowed me to heal every few minutes or so, as usually keeping your health topped up is integral to roguelikes.
As the game progresses, you unlock more members of the family, eventually opening six playable characters in total, with a mix of two slower fighters, two glass cannon melee types, and two ranged fighters. All characters have their own unlockable skill tree, and each family member plays sufficiently differently from each other that sometimes if I hit a brick wall in terms of a dungeon or boss that I can’t surmount, trying a different family member does kind of help think outside the box.
Another ways that Children of Morta encourage mixing up your play styles include permanent buffs for all players when a character reaches a specific level. While I naturally have preferred characters (Linda and Lucy), I ended up spending at least a few hours with all characters just to get some of the buffs, and I admit that helped me get used to a different playstyles.
Unfortunately, corruption fatigue is a lot more annoying. Your characters suffer from corruption fatigue if you use the same person for too long, which debuffs their maximum health. I would have much rather had a ‘well-rested’ health/damage buff for characters that spent time in the house than some sort of punishment for playing how you like to play.
I’ll also admit that the main story hook is not as interesting as the family drama and some of the side quests. After every dungeon run, you’re usually treated to a day-in-the-life-of-a-Bergson bit, like Kevin trying to convince his parents to let him dungeon run, or Lucy training to become a fire mage. Even some side-quests has some sort of impact in the home. For example, and early quest involves finding an orphaned pup, and after nursing him back to health, he joins the family as a new member. I would’ve loved more of this interaction, as I was a big fan of the characterization in Banner Saga, and I was really hoping for more of this sort of story beats, than your usual ‘darkness threatens to destroy the world forever’ type stuff.
Still, the core gameplay loop is very enjoyable, and I do enjoy returning after a long dungeon run to see more family interaction back at home. For anyone who enjoys roguelikes, Children of Morta is a pretty good way to spend some time after a long day at work smashing skeletons and curing corruption.
Children of Morta released on September 3 on PC, and will be released on October 15 for consoles (PS4, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch).