Originally, after being impressed at GDC 2019, I was going to play Children of Morta on PC, but it turned out my old laptop was barely able to run it, so I decided to wait for the Nintendo Switch version instead since I would have the option to play it anywhere. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch version took the longest time to release and by the time it did I was busy with many other Fall 2019 games as well as life in general, but I was sure I would get around to it as soon as I could. I played a small portion of it and it seemed like another roguelite that I would enjoy, which was not surprising since 11 bit studios also published my favorite indie roguelite of 2018 as well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get back to it until recently, and despite having seen some positive reception earlier in the year, I truly had no idea what I had been missing out on.
The family in Children of Morta, known as the Bergsons, consists of Margaret, the elderly grandmother, John, the father, Mary, the mother, Ben, the uncle and shopkeeper, and their children: the elder sister, Linda, the younger brother, Kevin, the younger sister , Lucy, the elder but missing brother, Mark, and the brawling cousin, Joey. Their mission is to investigate the source of the corruption that has been infecting the mountain that they’re sworn to protect and to put an end to it. Only some of the members of the family are actually playable, while the others provide support and help the story move forward.
Before discussing gameplay, I feel it’s vital to discuss the visuals featured in Children of Morta. While this pixelated style isn’t necessarily new, particularly for indie games, I feel that the developers were able to make the environments vivid in a way that helps differentiate Children of Morta from its contemporaries. Of course, this isn’t always evident and depends on what you’re looking at, but I was impressed by the way some of the vibrant scenery is able to shine through the game’s melancholy tone.
Each character has their own set of abilities, which are unlocked as the story continues. You start as John and learn more about abilities and upgrades as you venture further into the mountain. What’s interesting is once you’ve died during a run, it doesn’t impede the progress of the story, continuing in between runs until you have reached a certain point, waiting until you have completed the area you are in. In addition to John, Linda and Kevin can both be unlocked before reaching the first boss, which allows you to vary your play style.
As characters level up from defeating enemies, they gain skill points that allow them to unlock new abilities that aid them in battle. Once they’ve gained a few levels, they also gain support skills that benefit the family as a whole, giving more of a reason to switch between characters instead of solely relying on one. For me personally, switching characters seemed to be the most beneficial move since I would be able to unlock more support skills allowing me to play as the characters I like more, although I feel like some characters strengths make up for the weaknesses of others, so the co-op mode might make playing through even better. There’s also allegedly a corruption mechanic to ensure you switch between characters every so often, but I haven’t encountered it yet, possibly because I’m still in the earlier part of the adventure.
While traversing through an area, money is often gained from defeating enemies and smashing pots. This money can help the Bergsons upgrade their armor, attack strength, movement speed, and more at their Uncle’s shop. Money isn’t the only useful material that can be found, however, as various items are spread throughout each area and give the Bergson’s different buffs such as increased endurance, speed, and fortune. There are also a few small companions that can be found who can aid the Bergsons by providing extra damage or restoring health.
It took me some time to get around to it, but I have no doubt that Children of Morta is probably the best indie rogue-lite of 2019. The visuals, varied gameplay, and optional co-op help provide more replay value than many other games I’ve seen or played recently. If you enjoy roguelites and like having the option to play cooperatively with another person, then you owe it to yourself to try Children of Morta.
A copy was provided by the publisher.