When corruption grasps the land of Rea and the creatures of darkness run amok and unchecked, the Bergson family take up arms, as their ancestors before them did, to protect all that they love and cherish in 11Bit Studios’ Children of Morta.
Children of Morta is an action RPG filled to the brim with procedurally generated maps and enemy placements. These two factors immediately remove any chance of repetition in your adventure and, at each turn, 11Bit don’t hesitate to take the opportunity to weave in the story of The Bergson’s trials through the use of a narrator. This simple element really drives home the bonds and relationships between the characters as well as, the effects of corruption, or the plight of those they encounter. I’ve played for hours and have yet to grow tired of the narrator’s voice, whether it’s quips and comments about things happening on screen, new quests occurring or even just the story segments back at the family home.
Mixing classic action RPG gameplay with roguelike mechanics, the Bergson’s are initially tasked by the family elder in seeking out three spirits, each of which can help them in understanding more about the corruption and how to drive it back. Playing solo or in a couch co-op only pair you initially only have access to John and Helen, the protective warrior father and his headstrong daughter whose skill as an archer is unsurpassed in the family.
Both characters have their own attacks, skills and perks styled on classic RPG classes. John; as a warrior; relies on the brute strength of his broadsword and his ability to block incoming attacks with his tower shield. Heavier than his daughter he struggles to evade but the shield makes up for it. Helen on the other hand is light, agile and attacks at range with the bow. Able to fire whilst moving, she instead relies on keeping enemies at a distance for success.
As you push on further, or fail trying, The Bergson’s tale progresses. Driven forward by small cutscenes delivered between breaks in the action, new family members are introduced or new problems are raised in the families home to be solved on your next run. Completing these tasks grants the player access to new ways to empower the Bergson’s as a whole or may offer a new family member to take up the fight against the darkness.
Like most aRPGs, Children of Morta relies on class progression via experience and leveling. Every level gained rewards the player with a skill point which can be invested in a number of defensive and offensive skills. At predetermined levels of investment traits are unlocked which offer an inherited perk across the family, these range from increased critical chance to a base defense increase pushing you to further branch out into other styles of play.
Children of Morta opts for the ever more popular pixel art style but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s simplistic, it’s definitely one of the most detail heavy pixel art games seen recently. Corruption drips from enemies, attacks have telegraphed power up animations and the background activity in general is impressive from flickering lights to animals/monsters stirring up bodies of water.
The music is crystal clear and takes the form of a folk inspired soundtrack supplemented by a range of weapon, enemy and environmental effects to further draw you in and immerse you in the quest.
Rather than a loot system based on weaponry and armour, Children of Morta revolves around investment of its currency Morv. Looking a lot like gold, Morv is dropped by defeated enemies and can be used back at the house. Spending it at Uncle Ben’s workshop increases basic stats such as attack power, armour/ health, speed and critical damage. Alternatively spending it in the Book of Rea upgrades peripheral bonuses like experience or Morv multipliers. Leveling any of the options in either place affects the entire family and the cost of the next level in that statistic increases on an exponential basis.
Charms and Divine relics are found within the dungeons to further mix up your offensive and defensive strategies. Randomly placed, these items are specific to that particular run and are removed upon death or defeating that particular areas boss. Offering damage increases, health recovery, defensive buffs and other effects these supplemental attributes can make or break a run making luck an unfortunate requirement of some dungeons.
The narrator isn’t kidding when he waxes lyrical about the Mother’s fear for her family in an intermission or when you find a local travelling caravan decimated in the caves, he knows Children of Morta is difficult and is warning you what’s coming. It rewards perseverance in the face of adversity in a time where people can pay to win and are sometimes treated with snowflake like delicacy. It’s much easier with two players although not everyone has a capable local partner to join them.
Children of Morta weaves a beautiful story of love, sacrifice and victory against insurmountable odds that shines brightest when it utilises its excellent narrative approach to drive home its message, the bonds of blood run deep and where one alone can fall, together the family make each other stronger.