Remember Moonlighter? I sure do; that game was fantastic. Running a shop was fun, bashing monsters to get their parts to sell at that shop was fun…it was just a good time all around. Naturally, when I heard the publishers of Moonlighter were set to release a similarly-themed followup action-RPG I was all over it. It’s taken a few more years than we all expected (and a different developer with Dead Mage), but patience as paid off as we know have Children of Morta, a co-op adventure that lacks Moonlighter’s shopkeeping but incorporates a well-spun story in its place.
For generations, the Bergson clan has been tasked with keeping Mount Morta and the surrounding areas safe. It takes more than just one Bergson to do that, though, especially when the local evil corruption starts to flare up again. Father John heads out with eldest daughter Linda initially, but sooner or later every family member will contribute to the fight in their own way.
Children of Morta is a roguelite dungeon crawler in the same vein as Diablo. It represents a significant step up in terms of combat design from Digital Sun’s previous game Moonlighter. Each of the many Bergsons has their own combat specialization and functions in a different way, from John’s basic sword-and-board style to Linda’s arrows to martial artist Mark to pyromancer Lucy.
They all feel wildly different to play, so you’re bound to hit on at least a couple favorites. That’s good, since each has their own skill tree (including bonuses they can offer to the rest of the family) and each can suffer from corruption sickness over time, reducing their stats and pushing you to play someone else. The latter can be a particular issue if you’re playing Children of Morta’s excellent local co-op mode, since you’ll be going through Bergsons twice as quickly. Along with this, you can upgrade our heroes’ stats to suit your needs through money found during your adventures.
Between dungeon crawls, you’ll take in the Bergsons’ family life. This is really the highlight of Children of Morta, since the beautiful pixel art, high-quality writing and excellent narrator make each scene a pleasure. The game isn’t skimpy with these scenes either, with a new one popping up practically every time you exit a dungeon through victory or death.
The aforementioned pixel art defines Children of Morta’s presentation. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m glad we’re back to the point where indie developers consider this style a craft rather than a requirement, as games like Children of Morta and Moonlighter have helped reinvigorate my love of the aesthetic. Second on the list of great things about this game’s presentation is that narrator, who is trying his damnedest to get you to care about this monster-stomping family. It’s not quite Bastion, but it’s on par with Darkest Dungeon.
It’s not perfect – the dungeon-crawling can admittedly get a little tedious, though having a co-op partner helps with that. The crew at Dead Mage clearly cared a lot about making a worthy followup to Digital Sun’s Moonlighter and that shows. Children of Morta looks fantastic, plays great despite not really having to in a world where pixel art is sometimes all an indie game needs, and is an enjoyable experience all around. Grab your nearest family member and take a trip to Mount Morta.