Children of Morta in the test: roguelite with an emotional story? Not everyone can do that

Author: Florian Zandt
Date: 2019-09-02 10:00:00
Roguelites and action role-playing games often suffer from a poor backstory. Children of Morta strikes a different note - and also does a lot right playfully.

Life in a multigenerational household can be quite exhausting. While grandma stirs the pots in her soup kitchen, the uncle pounds loudly in his workshop. The children fight over the newest toys, and father and mother really just want to enjoy a little alone time.

At least the Bergsons are well prepared for that. Because instead of normal hobbies, the family members devote themselves to training with a sword or bow, trying their hand at fistfighting or learning magic spells. This is also necessary to overcome the rot . This is an ancient power that turns living beings into monsters and threatens to devour everything.

The ghosts that I called

You now have to take control of the members of the family and, from an isometric point of view, carve through enchantingly beautiful , procedurally generated pixel dungeons between caves, desert cities and forests. The goal: to free three nature spirits and with their help hunt down the chief villain Ou, who made himself comfortable on the eponymous mountain Morta. So far, so well known. But Children of Morta's strengths are in the details.

At the beginning, the game works like a roguelite according to Scheme F. You first take control of father John, who strikes around with sword and shield and is supposed to check that a shrine is okay. What is immediately noticeable: The somewhat sedate control , which could react a little more precisely in hectic moments. And there are enough of them in Children of Morta.

Not only are the different types of opponents from simple snakes to invisible assassins to powerful boss opponents extremely diverse, they are always in the majority. A nice gimmick: The traps scattered around the game world like exploding plants also harm your opponents. So those who use their surroundings definitely make life easier for themselves.

Nevertheless, it is often difficult to really enjoy the excellently illuminated and extremely detailed game world as well as the buttery smooth animations - especially when the random number generator has again spat too many powerful opponents in one heap. Then the run that has just started is often over faster than you would like, thanks to just one level of difficulty.

Together we are strong

As it should be for a roguelite, this is not too tragic, because the character progress is carried over from run to run. Killing enemies gives you skill points that you can invest in the strength of your secondary attack, among other things. For example, John can rain magic sword projectiles from the sky.

Each skill point invested also increases your skill level, your level as it were. The special thing about it: At certain points, you unlock passive skills that affect the entire family, for example a bonus to evasion or life energy. With this mechanic, Children of Morta encourages you to play the other characters as well. You unlock them in the course of the emotional story , which offers you amazingly deep insights into the lives of the characters in the family estate between the runs.

A lack of self-esteem, the dichotomy between a peaceful life and necessary violence, lost sons returning home: in every cutscene, which is accompanied by an excellent narrator with a sonorous baritone, you learn more about the family history and forge closer ties with the protagonists. Sometimes this immersion is broken by small logic errors - which we do not want to go into in detail here for spoiler reasons.

The agony of choice

The characters are not only characterized by their own personality, but also by different playing styles. John, for example, is a good all-rounder, while the youngest son Kevin builds up attack speed with every hit of his daggers, which however subsides after a few seconds of inactivity. Daughter Lucy can only throw her fireballs from standing up, but with each firing they become more powerful and fly faster.

And cousin Joey is so massive that he causes damage even if he dodges. All of this explains the game to you in crisp tooltips. On paper, that sounds like well-balanced pros and cons. In practice, the more agile characters like Lucy and Kevin often have an advantage in the large opponents. A little more fine-tuning would have done well here .

It is similar with the divine favors (passive buffs such as more damage with low life energy) and divine relics (particularly powerful abilities with long cooldown) that you can collect on your adventures for the respective run. The right composition gives you an advantage in combat, but if you are unlucky, the random generation makes your current run impossible because you get the wrong buffs and the opponents still do not decrease.

If you bless the time, you will be served another small interlude from everyday family life in the Bergsons' house and are allowed to improve attributes such as life energy and the chance of evasion for the gold stolen from opponents. However, due to the short loading times and the brisk game flow, these downtimes do not matter. Especially because there is something new to discover every time you go through it.

Whether you are helping the astrologer and his son, conquering arenas with opponent wave challenges or scrolling through the diaries of your ancestors: Children of Morta manages in a remarkable way to bring its wonderful, wonderfully animated game world to life with little stories on every corner. And these little stories are what make this action RPG so special .