The Backlog: Family matters in ‘Children of Morta’

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“Children of Morta” is a story-driven action RPG roguelike that sets itself apart from other games in the genre with its strong narrative and beautiful art style.  

When an ancient evil awakens, “Children of Morta” follows the story of a family of heroes, the Bergsons, who take it upon themselves to save the land they call home and cleanse it of the encroaching corruption that threatens to claim everything they love.  

Developed by Dead Mage and published by 11 Bit Studios, the game’s biggest strength is its storyline. Right from the start, the game pulls you in with its fully-voiced narration and introductions of the many main characters. Being a roguelike, it’s no surprise that dying is part of the game, allowing you to become increasingly stronger with each failed run through the dungeon. The game has a steady plot progression, regardless of whether or not the player succeeds or fails in clearing the current dungeon. For example, upon returning to the Bergsons’ home, you may be greeted with a cutscene that introduces a new playable character or a brief snippet into the everyday life of someone in the family. While adventuring through the dungeon, you may come across random encounters. Perhaps it’ll be a specific character in need, like a wolf cub who will later join the Bergsons, or a wandering caravan whose wagon broke down and needs wood to help repair it.  

“Children of Morta” layers its in-depth story, something that is rare for so many games in the roguelike genre, over mediocre combat but overall satisfying gameplay. The combat system is as simple as mashing a button to attack, and deciding whether to backtrack to kite enemies or press a button to dodge attacks. Aside from lukewarm combat, the overall gameplay is much more in-depth, since each member of the family has their own unique abilities, skills to level into and play styles that force players to adapt to each run. For example John, the patriarch of the family, is a melee warrior who can block attacks from enemies with his shield. His special ability allows him to rain down lightning from the sky unto his foes. On the other hand, there’s Lucy, the youngest in the family and the mage, who can blast foes away with her fire magic and leave behind decoys to distract enemies. 

Keeping with the theme of family, leveling up characters to certain points in their skill tree unlock special abilities that become available to all members of the family, making them stronger and encouraging players to use different characters every run. Aside from this, there’s also a fatigue mechanic that decreases a family member’s starting stats and applies when they are used to venture through the dungeon too many times in a row.  

“Children of Morta” is a grind-heavy game, given the nature of the roguelike genre. This may turn off players from playing it through to the end, but it should keep you entertained for many hours on end, making it worth its $22 value on Steam. Although “Children of Morta” features some lackluster combat, its impressive narrative and beautifully-animated pixel art elevate the game to a whole new level, making it a memorable entry into the genre. 

Rating: 4/5 

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