Arts video game review

The Bergson family’s ancestral duty

‘Children of Morta’ is a beautifully cinematic addition to the rogue-like genre

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The player can interact with Bergson family members in their home and find out about their history.
Courtesy of 11 BIT STUDIOS

Children of Morta
Developed by Dead Mage
Published by 11 bit studios
Available on PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One

The clash between light and dark is an age-old tale in the realm of fantasy stories. In Children of Morta, the setting is Mount Morta and its surrounding wilderness, where the Bergson family reside. A deep, dark, slimy Corruption threatens to take over, holding the potential to plunge the world into an all-consuming abyss, and the only thing that stands in its way is the Bergson family, tasked with an ancestral duty to banish the Corruption by striking at its source in Mount Morta. But first, they must explore different regions of the land in order to find the keystones that will unlock the portal leading directly to the heart of the mountain.

Enter the player into the rogue-like gameplay of Children of Morta. Each region functions like a procedurally-generated dungeon crawling with countless enemies. On the first few tries, you will most certainly die within seconds, but as you get the chance to improve the characters and their abilities, the fights will become easier, and you’ll get the chance to explore more of the dungeons. With progress then comes more lore and stories of the world to delve into. The way this is done is probably one of my favorite parts of the game.

The first thing we learn is who the members of the Bergson clan are. There’s the playable characters: John, the warrior father; Linda, the wise eldest daughter; Kevin, the ambitious, hot-headed youngest son; Mark, the perfect eldest son; Lucy, the creative youngest daughter; and Joey, the hulk of a nephew. The non-playable characters are Mary, John’s wife; Uncle Ben, John’s older half-brother; Grandma Margaret, Ben and John’s mother and the family mystic and matriarch; and Grandpa Adam, the father of Ben and John who mysteriously disappeared while delving into one of the dangerous regions in the land. At first, it’s rather hard to keep up with all of the family members, but with the game’s cinematic storytelling, aided by the deep, gravelly voice of Ed Kelly, players find it easy to follow along with all of the lore as well as the developments in the family. We ponder when Mark will return from his journey to monkhood and help fulfill the duty of his family. We worry over Kevin’s insistence that he be allowed to help defend the others, despite his naive temper. We wonder what magical potential hides within the standoffish Lucy. Overall, the masterful narration combined with the game’s smooth writing weaves a story we can easily be immersed in. 

The one hindrance to the game is the difficulty of the dungeons. Even with my little sister’s help in the local co-op (which, by the way, is a welcome feature in a world saturated with online co-op only games), it took much longer than anticipated to break through the first part of the first dungeons, and even then, the grind to painstakingly make our way through the game just didn’t stop. The upgrades available to different members of the family seemed to take forever to reach, and it took several runs to amass the amount of gold needed to purchase Uncle Ben and Grandma Margaret’s innovations to help the family fight against the Corruption.

Despite the seemingly endless dungeon-crawling, the game is still enjoyable to play and even watch. The cutscenes are cinematic in their own right, and there is never a shortage of things to learn and discover with regard to the background and lore.