A lot of families have their certain regular activities or traditions that help them bond in various ways. Sunday dinners, road trips, movie night, et cetera. And for the Bergson family, that activity would be guarding over Mount Morta and personally fending off the horrendous creatures emerging from a mysterious corruption on it that they have to stop. The family that slays together, stays together am I right? Lame puns and possible Venture Brothers references aside, this is the setup for Children of Morta, a roguelike hack-and-slash game from 11 bit Studios and developer Dead Mage that puts the emphasis on family, and in doing so, may end up with one of the best games in the genre.
Let’s get straight to the obvious bit that you can figure out from looking at any footage or screenshots of the game, namely that Children of Morta is frigging gorgeous. This is hi-bit pixel artwork and retro-inspired aesthetics at some of its finest, with hand-painted sprites and incredible, fluid animations making even the smallest moments a joy to behold. Of course, the smallest moments are a bit rare, seeing as how the main cavernous dungeons in the game quickly fill up with enemies rather quickly, which are then struck back with regular blows and impressive special attacks as well. It all just looks so dynamic and lively in action, creating some highly impressive visuals with a lot of work clearly put into them.
Thankfully, the gameplay has had just as much work put into it as well. It does seem a bit simple at first, with the basics being the standard dual stick gameplay, having access to light attacks, special attacks, dashes, et cetera, along with procedurally generated areas to explore filled with items to collect such as various runes that grant you special advantages a la The Binding of Isaac, and occasional unique challenges to uncover. But it all still works perfectly here, with everything playing out like a dream, slashing away at enemies with ease while they still put up a meaty challenge. But the unique twist is in the Bergsons themselves, as each one from the father to the youngest daughter is a playable character with their own unique traits, play styles, weapons, and special abilities, inviting you to find one that suits your preference.
However, odds are you’ll want to play as all of the Bergsons at one point or another. See, with each journey you take into the mountain to fight off the corruption and its variety of monsters, you find yourself heading back to the clan’s cozy household at the end, where you can look in on each member and see how your current progress is affecting them, win or lose (as well as being able to upgrade workshops and craft various items). Each member of the family has their own personal struggles to deal with and stories to uncover, encouraging you to give them all a shot at some point or another in order to learn more about the Bergsons and their world. Typically, a lot of games in this genre tend to prioritize the action first, but Children of Morta nicely gives equal emphasis to the narrative and the characters as well, helping to give it a unique edge.
With superb gameplay, astonishing graphics and a unique integration of family dynamics, Children of Morta is one to look out for. An action-packed dungeon crawler with a set of impressive stories to tell that’s guaranteed to delight fans of the genre (or any gamers in general, really), this is one get-together that beats the hell out of the average Sunday dinner. But make sure to still set a place for the game when it comes out in the near future for PC, PS4 and XB1.