Children of Morta is an 8-bit style action RPG developed by Dead Mage and published by 11bit Studios. There seems to be a bit of resurgence recently of the 8-bit graphic style, in theory allowing developers to focus on gameplay and story while using a few decades worth of knowledge as inspiration for the visuals. In the case of Children of Morta, they tend to focus quite a bit on the story, but maybe not so much on the gameplay.
The story sees you play as the heroic Bergson family, who all pull together to take on the oncoming corruption of the land. It starts you off playing as the father of the Bergson family; a sword and shield-wielding warrior. A brief tutorial also acts as an intro, setting up the events that start of the adventure. The combat controls are very simple to follow with one button to attack, one button to hold up the shield and one button to roll/evade. There are not combinations to the attack, and you can just hold down the button to keep on swinging. While initially simple, you will unlock more moves and powers as you progress through the game.
But I found though that CoM suffers a lot from what I call “Guitar Hero restriction”. By that I mean by that some people buy those type of games expecting to play their favourite tracks, not realising that a lot of them need to be unlocked by playing other tracks first. Even here, if you want to play with a second player you need to complete the tutorial/intro of the game to be able to unlock a chance for the second player to join in. But as with Guitar Hero – where some people may find it a chore to go through all the other songs just to get to the ones they want – CoM does a similar thing, but with extra gaming controls and benefits to unlock.
You might say that’s the same with any RPG you progress to unlock extra perks and bonuses which is true, but in this game, you are unlocking elements to make the game more balanced. When you first enter the dungeon, you find out pretty quickly that things are quite tough. The randomly generated levels flow quite nicely, but most of the map is linear and the enemy variety is quite limited. As the game plays like a hack ’n’ slash you barely take in the different enemies that come swarming at you and you just attack wildly at them. I am quite seasoned with this type of game and even I couldn’t make it out of the first part of the dungeon before I was slain.
But it was only after being slain did the interesting part of the game come to light. I was quite glad it did as if that was all to the game, I would have got bored of it extremely fast. When you are killed, rather than receive a game over you are teleported back to the family home. But upon doing so there seems to be a development every time you’re teleported back. On my first death I was treated to the fact the second player could then join in on taking on the dungeon. Then as you kill more enemies and gain the gold and exp that drop from their bodies, more things become available.
In true RPG style the EXP you gain levels you up, allowing you can pick from skills or perks that just benefit the character you are using or something that improves the whole family. The money you collect can be used to increase your armour, attack strength and speed amongst other things. Beyond killing the enemies in the dungeon, you also can also discover random artefacts which give you bonuses that last until you die in that run , that can help you get a little further in the dungeon. As you progress further in the dungeon you also unlock other features that influence the game; for example, the grandmother in the family eventually opens up the ability to use totems in the dungeons which provide temporary boosts to your character. Sometimes when you die and teleport back to the home you notice you can select certain members of the family which develop their story a little further, for example, the boy in the family wants to join in the fight and his uncle provides him with some blades that allow him to attack in a rogue-like fashion but his mother prevents him from joining in the fight for now….
But unfortunately, as I stated before the game is quite tough early on and you need keep trying to progress further in the dungeon each time you try. Even with all the things you unlock rather than it spicing up the game it just makes the game playable and a bit more balanced. Trying to complete the dungeon without any upgrades or unlocked bonuses is almost impossible and the fact certain things are unlocked when you die hints that you are not expected to be that successful. However, trying the same dungeon can become repetitive and really wears on the enjoyment of the game. As mentioned, the levels are random level generated, so whenever you take on the dungeon it is never the same layout twice. However, the enemies are the same and most of the scenery is the same, so it doesn’t change enough to make it that much of a new experience each time you try anew.
Children of Morta has a very compelling story and the way they use death in the game to help progress the story is refreshing. However, there is so much that you need to unlock in the game to try and balance the difficulty in your favour to even complete the first dungeon. This, in turn, ruins the experience by having to play the same dungeon over and over. It is a shame that the same level of effort that was put into the story line was not put into the gameplay, things becomes repetitive quite quickly.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.