Children of Morta, developed by Dead Mage and published by 11 Bit Studios in 2019, is a story-driven action RPG with roguelite elements peppered in, and a wide cast of playable characters. While I typically shy away from games similar to Children of Morta with top-down combat and procedurally generated dungeons, I found this game to be both challenging and charming in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
Children of Morta’s storyline is centered around the Bergson family and their ancestral duty to protect Mount Morta. They have lived there for generations, but recently, a dark and mysterious corruption is spreading across the mountain, overtaking the animals, plants, and even the land itself. In an attempt to stop the spread, the Bergsons find themselves traveling through an assortment of dangerous landscapes, fighting baddies ranging from manageable skeletons and goblins to infinitely more imposing bosses.Throughout this, the family experiences their own changes and challenges beyond that faced in combat. They navigate every hurdle with a touchingly realistic humanity that stayed with me long after I set down my controller.
As Children of Morta contains such a family-centered story, it only makes sense that the playable characters are Bergsons themselves, with the exception of one recently added character. There are various melee, ranged, and even mage and mage adjacent characters to play. My favorite is Linda, the oldest daughter of the Bergson family, who allows for some pretty impressive kiting and synergizes well with many of the melee characters in the game. Through exploring the dungeons and progressing in the story, one can level up the characters to give them more abilities that will aid them in combat. Be careful favoring one character– they will eventually become afflicted with corruption, which will lower their base HP. This essentially is an innovative way to encourage you to play other characters in the roster.
When it comes to the dungeons, Children of Morta does an excellent job of making sure they remain fresh and exciting regardless of how many times you find yourself in a similar one. They are tough at first, and even the most seasoned RPG veteran might find themselves needing to start over multiple times, at least in the beginning. This is okay, and in some ways, even necessary. You still are able to level up and retain that level so the next time you brave the dungeon, you are more prepared. This is one of the aspects of Children of Morta that prevents it from being considered a true roguelike. Children of Morta offers local co-op play in which you and a partner can traverse the dungeons together. The co-op is well done, and very helpful in tougher stages when you can help by resurrecting one another. Sometimes two is better than one!
While in the dungeons, you will discover not only a whole host of enemies, but items that will temporarily offer you buffs, cut scenes that offer minor side quests, and even traps. At the end of the dungeon, you’ll find yourself in a boss battle. These range from surprisingly easy to gut-wrenchingly difficult. I found myself replaying a dungeon five times solely because of the boss battle’s difficulty level. Outside of the dungeon, you can purchase upgrades from Grandma Margaret and Uncle Ben. These purchases can make your dungeon raiding life infinitely easier, so I’d definitely recommend giving them a glance.
The Children of Morta aesthetic, while perhaps not for everyone, was one I found deeply enjoyable and befitting of the overall tone of the game. The densely pixelated landscapes impart a sense of mysticism that beautifully supports the storyline and gameplay. The animations are beautiful and fluid, and its clear a lot of love was put into the artistic elements of the game. The cutscenes between dungeon runs are narrated beautifully by Ed Kelly in a voice that struck me as eerily reminiscent of Vincent Price.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable dungeon crawler with a beautiful story that can appeal to even those who may avoid similar games, Children of Morta might be worth a try. If you’ve played before, it may be worth revisiting to try out the new character who was added just last month! I could also see this game being a perfect introduction to the genre, especially if you have friends to play with.
Children of Morta is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac, and PC. You can buy it for $21.99 from Steam, the Microsoft Store, Playstation Store, and the Nintendo eShop.