Children of Morta is a really unique game. It masterfully combines randomly generated levels with an intriguing set narrative, something which we don't really see in rogue-lite games.
Corruption has spread out and is affecting everything in the world and it is up to the game protagonists, the Bergsons, to venture into the dungeons and release some powerful entities which can put an end to the spread of this corruption. There are 6 different characters, each with his or her unique weapon and abilities, you can play as.
The setup for each run is textbook roguelite. You select the character, select the level you want to start and game on. Each level contains 2 or 3 randomly generated dungeons culminating with a boss in the last dungeon. The more enemies you slash down, the more experience you will earn which in turn allows you to progress through a unique skill tree for each character. Where it gets interesting is that every couple of levels you will unlock a helpful skill or passive buff which benefits all of the Bergsons. This is one way the game encourages you to play with a different character each time. The other way comes as a corruption fatigue, meaning that if you use a character too many times in a row, they will get a debuff which lowers their health.
As you move through the dungeons, you will get to fight different enemy types some will rush and try to gang up on you, some will shoot or cast magic from afar, some champion ones will cast toxic puddles around you or meteors which will freeze you in place. What I am trying to say is that it never gets boring.
To counter all of these obstacles, the Bergsons have different and unique abilities. John, for example, is a close-medium range character equipped with a shield and sword so you use the shield to defend while you attack with your sword causing light damage but at the cost of stamina or you can just slash enemies with your sword for bigger damage but you will be unprotected. He can also cast 3 or more swords that fall down and damage enemies around him. As you level up, you can also unlock John's ultimate ability, and the same goes for all characters, which in his case makes him invulnerable and buffs the attack speed and damage. These skills you unlock are permanent upgrades to the characters and carry over on successive runs.
Other than the character abilities and skills to help you clear the dungeons, in a rogue-lite fashion, there are a ton of active, passive and consumable items along with other timed buffs you can pick up on a run which will make your run a tad easier.
John is only one of the six (as far as I know) characters. Then you have Linda which shoots arrows so long-range, Kevin with twin daggers for really close range, etc. Each of them plays differently and you need to adjust how your playstyle otherwise you will not survive. And this is the weird part of the game.
On PS4 the game uses twin-stick shooter type controls meaning that with the left analog you move and you attack with the right. This is completely fine for the long range characters, but for the close ranged ones it feels weird like it might put you off when you start to play the game kind of weird. But the more you play, the more at home you will feel and that weirdness will start to go away.
That's all for the usual rogue-lite stuff, let's talk about the narrative and why it elevates Children of Morta beyond just another rogue-lite game. After each run, cutscenes will play out narrated by a smooth sounding narrator with details of what is happening with the world, the Bergsons and depending on how you fared in the last run or if you found a story item, that also will affect the cutscene. The Bergsons are well, a real family. They interact with each other just like real families do, they laugh together, they eat dinner together, the plan stuff together and they argue with each other.
The Bergsons home serves as a hub world where you can start runs and upgrade the character stat, but you will also see it change as you unlock the other characters or complete the in-run side missions. Yes, in a run you will randomly encounter side missions that expand the world and lore of the game but also, as mentioned above, affect the cutscenes and the home. You might need to save a wolf cub from the corruption and in following runs, you might collect materials to craft a health potion for the cub or to build a home for him in the Bergons ground. Or you might help reunite a child with his mother. Things like this are really appreciated not only cause they break up the pace by introducing something else than just kill everything and move to the next floor, but also expand the lore and world of the game.
And everything is elevated by the wonderful presentation. The pixel art in Children of Morta is one of the best, if not the best, I've ever seen in a game. Everything looks gorgeous and the character animations just flow into one another with grace never breaking the immersion from the beautifully atmospheric world.
I am really happy I got a chance to enjoy Children of Morta. It's just wonderful. And while it may be weird and slow at first, once you invest a few runs in, you will not stop playing it. Thanks for reading!
Children of Morta is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. A PS4 review copy was provided by the PR team.