“Children of Morta” is a rogue-like dungeon crawler that has a heavy emphasis on progression, combat and family.
Developed by the low profile Dead Mage studio, “Children of Morta” is a top-down rogue-like hack-and-slash game that has really gripped me for a couple of days. I decided that, since I beat the base game, I should give it a review.
For both its story and gameplay mechanics, “Children of Morta” has a strong emphasis on its characters, i.e. the Bergson family. Each family member has a unique set of skills and abilities that play into the others’ characters. The resources of the game, stamina, health and ability are all used by the family in different ways. There is a monk who uses their agility to, instead of dodging, attack, emphasizing an incredibly aggressive style of play. The stamina meter is used for how long a person can use a shield, a mana pool or as another health bar.
The more interesting aspect is the usage of each character’s traits. Each character has a set of traits that are unlocked by progressing through their own ability trees. Each one of the traits is carried through to every family member. If you get a trait that increases your damage, then all of the other characters in the game get that damage bonus.
It’s a very interesting system that strongly encourages a player to try out and play through the other characters in the game. Some traits even involve bringing in that particular character into the run for a second to do something really quick. Either way, that doesn’t mean that all of these kinds of mechanics are welcome.
When I said that the game “encourages” you to play every character, I of course mean play them all or be shot at dawn. Another mechanic is corruption. If you have been using a single character for “too long,” that character will then begin to grow weaker to the point where they are unplayable for a considerable period of time. Mechanically, it lowers the character’s maximum health which will recover once you begin to use other characters. It often can take a while for the corruption to dissipate.
However, all of that said, the story of “Children of Morta” is good… up to a point. The family does feel authentic with there being a lot of turmoil in the relationship between the members and the discovery of a grave secret that is very much related to the burden of family. That said, it’s all told through a single narrator, which can feel rather distant in comparison to the very personal story.
It does a lot of telling instead of showing, probably because the narration of the game is so fundamental to the experience that it would be difficult to remove it. I would have much preferred that each family member talked and the narrator was used more sparingly, maybe only for smaller moments. As it stands, it feels intrusive and inorganic.
Regardless, I did finish the game. Oddly enough, all the different mechanics and family members were enough to really spice up the combat to the point that I consider it worth your time playing. I do like the smaller mechanical finesse that you can do. There is a way to, if you want to be really optimal, attack twice as fast than you normally can. Small things like that, plus the interesting story are really what kept me coming back to this game. However, once that was all over, I reflected on all the things I didn’t quite enjoy as much and viewed this game as I could have. It was a pleasant experience that, unfortunately through certain chokeholds and creative decisions (the pixel art is great but the narrator is used a tad too much for my liking), is not my favorite game.
Edward Park is a fourth-year Secondary Education (English) major. EP909756@wcupa.edu