Game Review: Children of Morta

Release date: 2019
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2022

A story-driven rogue-lite, with twin-stick shooter and hack and slash elements, Children of Morta was developed by Dead Mage and published by 11 Bit Studios. Released in 2019, players take control of members of the Bergson family as they fight their way through semi-randomised areas to confront The Corruption, a decay that first appears as sludge given life, slithering creatures, small and vile. Every character has their own combat abilities, and levelling up provides bonuses to every other playable character.

+ every member of the Bergson family — unnamed here not for spoilers, but just that unlocking them yourself is so much fun — plays differently. I was genuinely surprised and impressed at how the strategy to using each character differed, even when comparing the ‘ranged’ characters to each other. The smaller differences between characters is what makes them special; for example, one ranged character can move while firing, and one cannot, but the one cannot will get more powerful the longer they are continuously attacking. Every time I unlocked a new character, I thought to myself they were my new favourite, and every time I returned to a previous character, I felt the same
+ tying the above and below point together is the idea that each family member provides a boost to all others when reaching certain levels. This very naturally promotes playing as as the Bergsons, even if you do find yourself with an overwhelming favourite. For example, one character might do great damage, but fall to too few enemy strikes. Levelling up another character to provide an armour boost to the whole family makes that first character more viable, and upgrading them will give an attack boost to the others. As mentioned, every time I felt I had a favourite character, another would be balanced to be just as good in a different way
+ this is a story game at heart. When compared to many other rogue-lite or twin-stick “shooters”, this game stands out head and shoulders above the rest. The core story is just incredible, and I grew attached to every family member as their own stories unfold between missions. There are some incredibly emotional and sometimes very confronting semi-randomised side quests, one of which in particular caught me on a really poor day and I meant I had to stop playing to compose myself
+ the Bergson family house is just beautiful. The gorgeous art style show every character in the Bergsons house doing their own thing between missions, whether that be training with their weapon of choice or having a well deserved nap. The way this hub evolves as characters are unlocked, trinkets are discovered in missions and the story progresses absolutely enthralled me with every addition
+ the whole game is narrated by one voice, Beau Marie, in a sort of Bastion or Stanley Parable kind of way. The emotion this voice can bring out in some situations is fantastic, and never overstays it’s welcome

– the game really gets easier as it goes on, because you’ll unlock various skills or upgrade your health pool or damage output. This sort of works against the “overwhelming story” being presented. There’s no easy fix for this when it comes to video games, but this is a situation where it really stands out

> There are some really clever achievements, alongside the more ‘video gamey’ ones (‘Do an action X number of times.’) I got a kick out of a few in particular

Should you play this game: This was a random download from Xbox Game Pass, and I cannot stress how much I loved it. Not many games draw me into the world and especially the characters like this one did, and I can safely say this is a must play.

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