by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
Standing out from the crowd
Roguelikes are a dime a dozen, with a lucky few managing to stand atop the heap and make themselves known to the world at large. Often, these games have unique mechanics or an interesting design that sets them apart from their rivals, such as the ancestors in Rogue Legacy or the disturbing world in Binding of Isaac. In the case of Children of Morta, developed by Dead Mage and set for release sometime in the future, it is its focus on narrative and detailed art style that makes it stand out from the competition.
Children of Morta focuses on the Bergson family, a clan that has guarded the Mount Morta, a mystical mountain, for generations. It has recently become corrupted, with foul creatures emerging from it for some diabolical purpose. As is tradition, it is up to the members of the Bergson clan to fight back against the evil and uncover what is happening to the land they have been charged with protecting.
While simple in premise, the game goes all out in drawing you into the world and making you care about what happens to those in it. A narrator intones, with superb inflection, the events that you uncover over the course of the game. Exploration allows you to uncover scenes that deliver both backstory and advance the overall plot of the story. Returning to the family home for rest will occasionally result in a cutscene of the family celebrating a birthday or undergoing other activities. Brief as my time with the game was, I can’t wait to see more.
For those who have played similar games in the genre, Children of Morta follows a similar setup. Players control a character, of which there are six to choose from and are switchable throughout the game, through procedurally generated environments and defeating a host of monsters, upgrading your stats and equipment along the way. Death sends you back to the Bergson’s family home, though you do not lose character progression if you die, instead only losing the temporary but powerful buffs you encounter in the wilds.
In my playthrough of the game I had the opportunity to control three characters, who broadly fit the archetypes of a warrior, rogue and archer. Linda, the archer, was my personal favorite, with her ranged attacks placing her miles ahead of her fellow family members in my opinion. She, like all characters, has access to several different abilities beyond her basic attack, which are unlockable and upgradeable as she levels up. Characters can also uncover schematics in their travels, which can be created into equipment that will never be lost upon death.
The combat itself was not particularly challenging in most cases, as the controls are simple to understand and easy to master, with most enemies and fights taking little time to complete. One of the features that did provide some challenge were the random monsters who would have an upgrade symbol over their head, indicating that they would be tougher than normal enemies and would have a special attack up their sleeves. It reminded me of a similar system found in the Diablo series, and these enemies proved enough of a challenge that I fell to them several times while playing the game.
I often find games that utilize pixel graphics use them as a crutch, to make up for a lack of budget or perhaps because it is so commonly used, creating a rather bland aesthetic that does tie in well with the game itself and screams little else beyond being pixelated. I am happy to say that this is not the case with Children of Morta, which uses pixels to create a solemn atmosphere that moves it apart from other games in the genre. It is lushly animated, with backgrounds and characters moving quite beautifully, which adds to the game’s overall charm.
It is still under development, though it looks positively great at its current stage. Children of Morta is looking to be a wonderful roguelike that stands out from its competitors, and I look forward to seeing it develop further.