With the rise of digital downloads, it’s a lot easier for smaller developers to make something special. Be it Enter the Gungeon or Hotline Miami, these titles have a lot of charm while also trying different things. The same is true for Children of Morta, an action RPG with roguelike elements, that is easily elevated by the gorgeous pixel art. Given the potential, does it manage to achieve greatness or will it fall short due to lackluster ideas? Here’s our Children of Morta review.
There are essentially two stories going on in Children of Morta. One that chronicles your journey to combat the corruption and another that touches on the Bergson family struggle and history. Both stories progress at their own rate, with it ultimately depending on how you perform. Finishing objectives will progress the corruption story, whereas finishing optional events or failing gives players new information on the family.
When the story focuses on the malicious forces that plague the world, it’s less about the supernatural elements and more how this relates to the family itself. Children of Morta does a lot with very little, though it isn’t the most engaging story, at least initially. For instance, one of the earlier scenes shows Kevin, one of the kids, trying out some knifes, learning he is a natural, only for his mother to step in. Later he takes them, proves he is capable and gets to keep using them. If stuff like that sounds interesting, odds are you’ll enjoy it, whereas others can just skip it.
Between story segments is an odd mix of enjoyable and underwhelming gameplay. Despite being considered an action RPG, there are roguelike elements. Very little is explained, failure is a big part of progression, there are optional events, levels change and so forth. Where this stuff falls short is variety and the ability to stand out.
Most stages keep a consistent theme. If it’s a cave, it will look like a cave, regardless of your luck. Similar things can be said about play style. It doesn’t matter what modifiers you obtain, be it something that stuns enemies or can damage any foe dumb enough to touch you, characters play the exact same way. Sure, if you’re a melee character and have a stun skill, you might wait for that before striking or make some bold calls if something is giving you more experience, though most of these are just extras that don’t really change the experience. Even the modifiers that give you something in exchange for removing another thing has limited impact on the overall experience.
Thankfully, it’s a lot of fun to play. Every character has their own specific play style, so John is about blocking and punishing, Linda takes out hostile foes at a distance, Kevin is all about speed, and through these various characters you’ll find distinct advantages and disadvantages. Even if I think Linda is a bit more forgiving than the others, it ultimately comes down to your own skill and the situations you find yourself in.
Where Children of Morta starts to fall short is making all these elements seem important. Some of the upgrades are pretty small, like 1.5 additional attack or an additional speed point, making these elements more important long term than short. That being said, enough upgrades can also make certain seemingly impossible fights a lot more manageable. Even if the first boss, a spider that spawns additional spiders that spawns even more spiders is initially difficult due to add management, when you get to the tipping point of being able to one hit the tiny ones, it becomes super easy. Little things like that show the biggest changes in difficulty, though it also largely depends on the design. The second boss, a pair of monsters that jump and charge at you, are by contrast significantly easier to defeat because there is far less to pay attention to. Even with no upgrades they’re less difficult from a simple design aspect.
As you progress you’ll find certain runs are easier than others and sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Just having a corrupted enemy spawn at the wrong time or underestimating a serious foe is all it takes to fail, giving everything a little more bite than you’d expect. Still, you need to play smart if you want to make it out alive and see all the wonders that await.
Children of Morta Review Verdict
Children of Morta is basically everything you know about an action RPG, with random modifiers and level design. The blandness takes away from the dynamic nature, as does enemy placement, though most runs rely on making the most of whatever you got. And, if you’re just not that good, enough grinding can reduce the difficulty to a point where it becomes a lot more accessible. When you consider the charm, amount of content, variety and multiplayer elements, it’s a solid choice.
[Editor’s Note: Children of Morta was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]