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Children of Morta has all the ingredients to be the next great roguelike

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Grandma Margaret has just gotta keep mixing!

The term "roguelike" has been bastardized a bit and can cause some confusion at times, but I think most people can think of a few traits that always persist. Permadeath, randomized level design and possibly powerups, and tough difficulty are the "Big Three" when it comes to making assumptions about what a "roguelike" is in 2016. The idea of being like Rogue is long-gone, much to the chagrin of roguelike purists everywhere.

Now, when you think of classic roguelikes, what comes to mind? Probably (hopefully) games like Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and more recently, Enter the Gungeon. Maybe you are big into the FPS roguelikes like Tower of Guns. Barony, or Eldritch. All of those games share the traits I mentioned before and are standouts in an all too crowded field. 

Well, it looks like one more game is going to enter the roguelike hall of fame, and that's Children of Morta.

There are a few things in Children of Morta that really hooked me. The first is the idea behind the game - a narrative-driven roguelike. The story sets up Bergson family, who are the guardians of Mount Morta. As you could expect, bad things start to happen and it's up to them to fight bad guys and save the day!

The beauty here is how the narrative evolves. While playing, you'll come across scenes seemingly at random that help to advance the plot; they're usually tucked away in some random room of the dungeon. Some will give more detail about the "corruption" that is taking over the mountain, others are more like little side-stories that add to the world building. The narrator comes in during these events and helps cohesively blend the story and the gameplay bits.

Too often do games, especially roguelikes, have their story and gameplay at odds with each other. Maybe not thematically, but more often than not the story is forgotten when going down endless dungeons or dying ad nauseum. These small little side-stories help add to the feeling of a cohesive whole and don't let the player forget that there's a reason they are down here fighting. The story moments I've encountered have ranged from "okay, neat" to "holy crap that was emotional." Needless to say, I'm excited to experience more!

The Bergson family themselves act as the playable characters. Only three were available to me in this demo, but plenty more are clearly included in the game. My favorite part of the game so far is coming back to the house (mansion? manor?) after a run and seeing everyone just being themselves in the house. You can see Kevin, the quick and nimble rogue character, flipping around objects and being sneaky; everyone just oozes personality if you take the time to watch them.

There are even occasional cutscenes when returning to the house, which are always amazing. For example, once it was someone's birthday! The whole family was together and celebrating, despite the current circumstance with the monsters and such. Children of Morta has perfectly captured the "family" feel of the game. These are people I want to spend more time with.

Scroll through these GIFs and prepare to be amazed.

Oh, and I should probably talk about gameplay, because it's just as good. It starts off a bit slow as it lets players get accustomed to the mechanics. Each character has a level-up tree that will make this more complex by adding in special attacks, but to start out each character just has a basic attack. The three playable characters filled familiar roles: the wide-arcing sword and shield guy, the ranged bow lady, and the nimbly-bimbly rogue boy. 

My favorite thing about the gameplay is its difficulty. It is perfect. Too often to roguelikes start out too easy, which makes subsequent runs tedious in the early stages. Children of Morta hit the difficulty spike right on the damn head, with easy-to-understand enemy patterns mixed in with some devious behaviors and unique monsters. Unique monsters are akin to those you'd find in the Diablo series (or any ARPG, really) and have some unique modifier attached to them.

These unique monsters will have a special icon over their head and be harder to take down, in addition to their extra attribute. That extra attribute might be something like spawning pools of poison around them or creating ice explosions nearby. The best part about this is that you'll see the poison pools or ice explosions before seeing the monster. It creates a foreboding "oh shit" moment as you hack and slash your way through normal baddies.

While leveling up characters through the skill tree acts as a permanent increase to their power, there are temporary and random powerups strewn through the dungeon, similar to many other roguelikes. Sometimes enemies will drop runes, which will alter how a skill works, but there's also character upgrades that can be found on altars randomly. These help to ensure that playthroughs differ, though there didn't seem to be much variety in this early stage.

I haven't even mentioned the art! Luckily, I think it speaks for itself. The game is beautiful, and seeing it in motion is absolutely breathtaking. This is definitely a case where the art elevates everything, instead of simply being sericeable. All that family personality I gushed about shines through in large part due to the artwork and animations. Kudos to the entire visual team at Dead Mage Studios, you are all amazing.

So yeah, if you're a fan of roguelikes, keep a very close eye on Children of Morta. It's going to be a special one.

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Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've persona... more + disclosures


 


 


Also on destructoid: Children of Morta   (6)   From our database:

  • I have a really good feeling about Children of Morta - Jordan Devore
  • Children of Morta has all the ingredients to be the next great roguelike - Patrick Hancock
  • Children of Morta announces stretch goals - Robert Summa
  • Children of Morta Kickstarter launches today, looks phenomenal - Rob Morrow
  • Children of Morta looks real, real good - Steven Hansen
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    Filed under... #Action #Indie #PAX #PC #Roguelike

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