Children of Morta is Dead Mage’s latest project; one looking to tackle real world problems in a fantastical setting. Set in a mystical land, Children of Morta centers around the Bergsons and their quest to fight corruption and restore peace to their homeland. Fight as a variety of heroes on this journey to save the lands from evil while learning more about what makes the family so special.
The Bergsons are the beating heart of Children of Morta in nearly every aspect. Although the story is about an ancient evil taking over sacred lands, they are the driving force from start to finish. The true narrative is that of the constantly unraveling lore of the Bergsons. As you progress, you’ll learn more about the rich history of this bloodline, and find yourself intertwined in their affairs. I enjoyed practically every moment of the story that focused on the Bergsons and their relationships. The story surrounding them isn't necessarily a weak one, but it does fall into common tropes seen in fantasy tales. It would've been neat to see the game find more ways to subvert expectations.
I found myself really taking to the Bergson family. Each of them are very distinct and different in terms of personality, behavior, and perspective. Although there’s a lot to divide the Bergsons apart, they find a way to come together and stand as one.
Adventuring your way
The variety amongst the different members of the Bergson clan are spotlighted in the gameplay. This big family doubles as a diverse roster of heroes with different playstyles to bring to the table. You begin with John, the shield wielding swordsman to start your adventure. After hacking and slashing through some lower level enemies, you’ll unlock his daughter, Linda. From here, you can have another player join up and enter co-op. As you progress, you’ll gradually unlock more members of the Bergsons as playable characters.
From close sword combat, to ranged archery attacks, to casting magic spells - Children of Morta offers several unique ways to play. I felt most comfortable using the bow and arrow, so I spent the majority of my playtime as Linda. The more you play with a character, the more experience and levels they will gain. Each level up will grant a skill point that can be allotted to different abilities and powers. These can be increases to speed and attack damage, or brand new moves to use in battle. If you want to keep a few members of the Bergsons in fighting shape, you’ll need to rotate them out and balance their playtime. You can also make visits to Uncle Ben and Grandma Margaret, who will upgrade gear and grant skill boosts for the family.
There are also different items and charms that can be found in caves and dungeons that provide boosts and status effects for the player. For example, a potion that can be used to restore HP, or a choker that increases your odds to evade attacks. There’s a limit to how many items and charms you can hold, and there were often moments where I sat there pondering which items I would have to leave behind. There’s even a merchant that can be found who’s willing to sell some rare items for the right price.
All of the dungeons, forests, and temples you’ll explore in Children of Morta are procedurally generated. This may make some wary as to the integrity of the level design work here, and that would be a fair concern to have. When levels aren’t designed manually, they can sometimes feel clunky and shoddily put together. I’m relieved that this isn’t the case in Children of Morta. Although the levels are procedurally generated, they still have a sense of consistency and cohesiveness to them. There's a good distribution of loot, enemies, puzzles, and alternate pathways.
Sight and sound
Children of Morta is designed using hand-painted pixel art and frame by frame animations. The work here is beautifully done and makes for some gorgeous visuals. This is especially evident with the characters themselves. Even with the 2D art style, Dead Mage manages to give each member of the Bergsons their own clear-cut design that makes them stand out and easily distinguishable from the others.
The choice to go frame by frame with the animations also makes the world feel more alive. It’s the little details, such as Linda’s hair bouncing side to side as she sprints and flips through a cave, or the leaves rustling in a tree that give Children of Morta a refreshing sense of life. The sound design is another key feature that makes this action RPG feel so lively. From my first few minutes playing, I was immediately taken by the attention to detail with all of the environmental sound effects. Sounds like John’s sword slicing through the air when I miss an enemy or the soft sounds of boots stepping through dirt being prime examples.
Reaching the summit
Children of Morta is an excellently designed action RPG that hosts some well refined dungeon crawling elements. The story is a classic tale of good versus evil, but there’s some original ideas and lessons about the concept of family and togetherness just below the surface. There’s no shortage of variety here either, as Children of Morta has a colorful roster of characters that are each unique from one another, and plenty of items to add an extra layer of strategy to your journeys. Children of Morta is an absolute joy of an experience whether you choose to go alone, or with a friend.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Children of Morta is now available on PC and will be coming to PS4, XB1, and Nintendo Switch on October 15.
Children of Morta
- Wide range of play styles
- Fleshed out characters and relationships
- Well designed levels
- Gorgeous hand-drawn art style
- Detailed sound design
- Story falls into cliche tropes