Children of Morta is an action RPG that is about shooting evil creatures as much as it is about family ties, bonding, and supporting each other through difficult times. It's a magnificent tale about love and loss, hope and despair, and the will to sacrifice yourself for your loved ones.
The Bergsons are a family living in Mount Morta and the guardians of the mystical mountain are now on the verge of destruction. They need to stick together and fight the forthcoming corruption, sacrificing themselves for the greater good. Their virtues and flaws will be highlighted as their kindness and brashness will shine while their future is at stake.
Children of Morta is a hack and slash two-player co-op action RPG with roguelite mechanics. It places you in control of nearly all members of the Bergson family, but it does so in a clever way. As the story unfolds, you’ll slowly unlock new siblings, paving the way for very different playstyles and an all-encompassing experience. This is a game where you are missing out by sticking to a single character through most of the adventure, but luckily there is a mechanic set in place to prevent you from doing so.
The corruption that is devouring the land is also consuming its inhabitants, the Bergson family included. The daring hero that you pick for a few dungeon runs is going to suffer from fatigue, with the corruption taking its toll. This is represented by a noticeable health bar decrease, something that can only be recovered by resting. Not the kind of turning off the game, nor sending the character to bed for a reinvigorating night's sleep type rest either. The afflicted heroes only rest when other member of the family take turns in the battle against the corruption. Each run will significantly decrease the corruption for the resting family members, making for a clever mechanic that encourages the use of different characters and their diverse gameplay styles.
Acting as the guardians of Mount Morta, the Bergsons never really die. They are teleported back to their home and safe haven right in the nick of time, but their progress is persistent, with the in-game currency morv and learned skills being saved, as it happens in Remnant: From the Ashes. Slowly but surely, each Bergson is leveling up, learning new skills, and collecting morv to use in upgrades.
Near the end of the story you’ll have all six playable Bergsons unlocked, but their journey starts with the patriarch, John, who is quickly joined by his older daughter, Linda. Father and daughter entering the fray together, painting a beautiful picture of unbreakable family ties and bonding in the darkest of times.
John is a wise man, the father of the household and a brave warrior himself. He is a melee character with a main attack that consists of brandishing his sword to destroy his foes. John’s secondary attack is summoning three swords to fall on his enemies, while raising his shield may decrease his movement speed, but greatly reduces the damage that he takes.
Linda, John’s brave daughter, is the first ranged character that you play in Children of Morta. Her love for playing the violin and everything artistic is only comparable to her mastery of the bow and arrow. The way that she moves while shooting arrows is invaluable, although this consumes precious stamina. For her second attack, Linda shoots an arrow to the sky that falls with great force in the spot that she had previously marked. Her first ability is a musical harmony that stuns every enemy caught in the circle.
Mark is the eldest son of the Bergsons and his weapon of choice are his fists of fury. He prefers to punch his enemies with full strength, Bruce Lee-style, displaying remarkable energy. However, his proximity with the enemies makes him an easier target than ranged characters such as Linda or Lucy. A magical whip serves as a secondary attack, while summoning a magical staff is the ability that he uses to knockback his enemies.
Kevin is a young kid that is eager to get into battle and help his family. When he finally shows that he has what it takes, his trusty daggers will slice and dice many of those creatures siding with the corruption. For his secondary attack, he throws daggers in all directions, while his special ability is vanishing in the shadows.
Lucy is the youngest Bergson, for a short spell, and a fiery little kid who can’t wait to help. She learned to master fire and shoots fireballs from her hands, making her the second ranged character in the family, right after Linda. Lucy is unable to move while shooting, but her fireballs shoot in a crescendo that becomes devastating with a few upgrades. A tornado that pulls enemies and damages them is her secondary attack, while her main ability is creating a useful decoy that tricks enemies for a short time.
Joey is the final member of the Bergsons to join the battle. This colossal boy is uncle Ben’s only son and handles a massive hammer with unremitting power. A huge hammer smash is his second attack, while his dash is so powerful that it damages enemies in his path.
The Bergsons have a powerful attack that is activated when the rage bar is filled. Linda shoots her arrows at a dizzying speed, while Lucy enters a supernatural state where she flies and shoots a devastating beam.
Each one of the Children of Morta has a specific skill tree with several abilities, some of them commonly shared by all family members. Skills can be upgraded, and in Ben’s workshop you can increase many family traits such as health, critical or speed, while the Book of Rea is where other abilities such as Rune durability and XP gain are improved, always at the cost of some precious morv. One thing is certain; the Bergsons will finish their story as accomplished and remarkable warriors, much different from their enthusiastic but naïve selves at the start of the adventure.
Not unlike other dungeon crawlers such as Pagan Online, Children of Morta becomes extremely difficult if you select a melee character. Despite their diverse set of skills, it’s hard to progress when you are surrounded by ranged enemies, avoiding projectiles from all angles and trying to take them down, one at a time. Boss battles become infuriatingly difficult, nigh-on impossible to beat when you must get close to deal damage.
However, Children of Morta truly shines in its two-player co-op mode. It’s only local co-op for now, but online play is planned as a post-launch update. Mixing the styles of two relatives opens many possibilities, with Linda and Joey making for a furious duo, or the youngsters Lucy and Kevin proving that age doesn’t matter when ferocity runs in the family.
The procedurally generated dungeons add extra replayability to Children of Morta. Exploring every corner of the map is crucial, since obelisks provide great boosts to your character. These will come in handy when fighting the area’s boss. Your demise will save your character’s progress, but you must start the run from the beginning, something that usually takes between 30 minutes to a full hour. Randomized objectives add another layer to the gameplay, with special rooms where you are tasked with discovering the correct order of four squares, playing Pong of the gods, or saving some traveler or creature from the grasp of the corruption. A cute wolf pup will be your first rescue, but sadly he won’t join you in battle.
Boss battles are initially daunting though you’ll rise to the challenge as soon as you learn their patterns, but this is no Dark Souls, despite the initial clashes verging on the side of difficult. A proper use of your skills and runes will make even the most taxing battle bearable, but don’t underestimate the importance of playing as Lucy or Linda, for some much welcomed ranged damage.
Children of Morta’s roguelite gameplay is fairly standard, but extremely enjoyable. Everything feels right about it, with smooth controls and playable characters that require a different approach. Through its solid core mechanics and conventional gameplay, the game manages to be addictive and hard enough to encourage various dungeon runs, while constancy keeping you on the lookout for secret objectives and additional story segments. Raising each Bergson’s experience level is an enticing task, perfect for obsessive completionists.
The procedurally randomized dungeons make it feel fresh even after a few failed runs, keeping things unpredictable and rewarding. Co-op is the best way to appreciate Children of Morta, but this is a game that works almost flawlessly as a solo action-adventure as well.
While there isn’t anything remarkably original about Children of Morta’s dungeon gameplay, it’s the way that it is presented that makes it feel innovative and out of the ordinary. Choosing a family as the basis for a gripping story about an ominous evil and the need to exceed yourself is a wonderful pitch that is rarely seen in video games.
It’s the way that the Bergsons house comes to life between each incursion that lends the game a poignant and heartwarming touch. Each new cutscene feels essential, touching, building on the rich relationship between family members and their unremitting kindness in the darkest of times.
Learning Curve: 8/10
Children of Morta handles character progression in a brilliant way that is intrinsically tied to the story line. Each character is gradually introduced into the fray, comfortably setting you up for their diverse play styles and new skill sets. Apart from some new enemies, there isn’t anything drastically different about each of the three main regions, so you should get the hang of the game in less than an hour.
Graphics / Sound: 9/10
Children of Morta features some stunning pixel art. Simply labeling it as retro is a misjudgment, because this is more of an aesthetic choice, and less of an homage to past systems. Each Bergson has a distinctive and bright personality that is incredibly shaped via the ingenious use of a small pixel count.
It’s impossible not to notice how Linda gently strokes her hair, or the way that Lucy has a great time piggybacking on Joey. Kevin is seen in his room improving his dexterity and mastery of the vanishing arts, while the family cat has fun playing around with a ball of yarn. There are several cutscenes building on the rich personalities of the Bergsons.
The adventure is enhanced with the use of subtle but amazing tracks. Some of them are somber and brooding, while others have a charming Arabian Nights mystical feel to them.
But it’s the narrator of the Bergsons’ odyssey that steals the spotlight. The wise, Gandalf-sounding man narrates each cut scene in the family grounds, as well as other major events during incursions, adding a distinct movie-like flavor to the plot. The Bergsons don’t feature voice acting, leaving that task to the gifted narrator.
Value for Money: 8/10
If you take your time to explore every dungeon and do some repeat runs to level up your main characters, your journey in Children of Morta will nearly take you 20 hours to beat. However, the game isn’t over when it reaches its epic conclusion, as you can return to the different worlds and increase your character’s experience if you so wish.
Children of Morta is an outstanding action-adventure that benefits from the added concept of family ties. Without the Bergsons, it would be an above average but unremarkable little hack and slash game. With a family for you to relate to, this is a journey where every character has significance, where every family member feels real and valuable to the whole.
With lovely pixel art that brings more personality to the Bergson family than other games boasting thousands of polygons per character, it’s extremely rewarding to watch each family member musing over their fate inside the house and witnessing their exciting family reunions. The tried-and-tested gameplay serves its purpose, with the local co-op doubling the fun, and the tough boss battles are one of the highlights of this unmissable journey through the lives of an extraordinary family.
Eclectic cast of Bergsons
Impressive pixel art
Amazing, heartfelt storytelling
Weighty, enjoyable combat
Randomized dungeons and objectives
- Apart from the aesthetics, the regions aren’t much diverse