Raising a family can often be a difficult proposition, even at the best of times. But trying to raise a family of guardian warriors while a wicked evil flows down from the Mountain of Morta, defiling the land, corrupting the wildlife and spawning demonic bloodthirsty monsters? Gifted a Sanctuary by the goddess Rea herself, the Bergsons answer the call of duty and take up arms against the Corruption, all while trying to maintain the normalcy of day to day family life. Tasked with freeing the three spirits in order to cleanse the land, the Bergsons gather together to stand against the rising evil and make it home in time for dinner.
Children of Morta is an action-RPG roguelike that centers around the Bergson family as they take on the evil Corruption. Their manor-like house serves as the main hub that you will return to after each dungeon (or whenever you die, which will be quite frequently). Here you can watch the Bergsons in various states of repose or hard at work training and learning. On occasion there will also be brief events that can be viewed. The story and all the events are described via an excellent narrator, similar to titles like Bastion. On top of the gorgeously detailed pixel visual style and enchanting soundtrack, it gives Children of Morta a storybook vibe. While at the house, you can spend Morv (the in-game currency) to make stat upgrades at Ben’s workshop that affect all Bergsons. Sharing is caring, after all. This progression system replaces the traditional RPG need of buying weapons and equipment to improve your characters.
There are a ton of things you could come across during your runs to boost your Bergson. Obelisks can be found and interacted with to give a time-limited boost for things such as increased experience or money drops. Divine Graces, Divine Relics, Charms, and Runes can be found throughout the areas by opening chests, defeating powerful monsters, or by special rooms that may contain puzzles or special challenges. Divine Grace items grant you a passive stat bonus, whereas a Divine Relic is mapped to your hotbar and acts just like a skill with a cooldown between each use. Charms are single-use consumable items that offer a variety of benefits, but often to the detriment of one of your skills or stats. A good example is the ring that grants you health regeneration while reducing health gained from orbs. The runes add an extra effect to your primary attack and skills but deteriorates with each use until broken. Later on you can also rescue a merchant who may randomly appear in the dungeons and sell you stuff. Upon death or exiting the dungeon, you lose all these benefits.
Of course, one of the most effective ways to get stronger and build a beefier Bergson is to buff up on battle experience. Leveling up grants one skill point. Each Bergson has their own skill tree, which is not that different from any other game that uses that customization option. What makes it unique are the family trait skills. When a family trait is unlocked by spending the required amount, it grants the whole family some type of bonus. One trait of John’s increases the max health of every character, while one of his higher-level traits is an ability called Father’s Protection. When a character receives fatal damage, he jumps out to shield them from it once, then there is a 3 minute cooldown before the next use. It’s a great mechanic for reinforcing the family theme while giving you another reason to play and level up every Bergson.
Let’s have a closer look at the Bergson family. Each of the six Bergsons has their own unique array of skills and playstyle. John is the head of the family and your first playable character. He is quite the formidable warrior, wielding his large sword and shield he can hit multiple enemies at once and use his shield to block incoming damage. He is one of the slower characters but his strength and durability make up for it. You unlock the rest of the family as you make progress. I like the way they are slowly introduced into the gameplay. Some members are not available because they are away from home when the corruption strikes, while in the case of the two younger Bergsons they have yet to prove themselves capable of handling combat.
Kevin is a dual dagger-wielding assassin-type character. He’s built for speed and evasion, so he can’t take much of a beating before going down. Lucy and Linda are the two long-ranged fighters in the group. Linda is an archer; her abilities focus on hitting enemies at a distance and pushing them away when close range. It costs stamina for her to shoot and move at the same time, so managing that is a vital strategy. Lucy’s primary attack is shooting fireballs, but she is completely immobile while doing it. She has an ability that helps mitigate damage by producing a damage absorbing shield for every 8 seconds she remains untouched, but it doesn’t matter much when you get mobbed by a group of quick enemies.
Last but not least: Mark and Joey. Joey is the last to join you and he is also my least favorite to use. He has high health and damage, plus his attacks are good for staggering back enemies that run at you. Problem is, he uses this giant warhammer and it takes him a good amount of time just to ground his stance and start swinging. This makes it very frustrating to use him in later levels with tons of enemies that either move too fast, teleport, or attack from a distance. Not to mention avoiding traps. Mark turned out to be my favorite of all the Bergsons. He’s quick, nimble and he uses martial arts that can swoop in and hit monsters from a short distance, plus he has a handy whip special that can pull in and stun an enemy group. Not only is his health, speed, and damage good, but one of his passive abilities reduces incoming damage as he lands hits.
So while not all Bergsons are created equal, they each bring something unique to the table with their various playstyles and abilities. When I’m playing alone I usually stick to John, Linda or Mark. Whenever you die or return to the manor, there is a chance that the character you were using will suffer from corruption fatigue, effectively reducing their max HP by a percentage. This is a smart mechanic, giving you a big incentive to use other Bergsons or else suffer a serious disadvantage. I found that characters like Lucy and Joey are much better suited to a support role while playing with a friend in local co-op mode where they have the support of another Bergson to help even out their weaknesses.
What the game basically boils down to is enter an area; kick monster butt while exploring each sublevel for the doorway to the next one; beat the boss; return to the manor to gear up and be treated to events; repeat step one. While that over-simplified explanation may sound boring, Children of Morta is anything but. The addictive action made me want to jump back in for one more dungeon run each time I died, while the emotionally moving narrative gave me something to think about when I wasn’t busy cutting down the corrupt hordes. There really isn’t much to complain about here, aside from maybe either tweaking the health orb drop rates or adding some type of limited checkpoint system. Either way, Children of Morta is a must-play.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 9.5/10
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