Children of Morta review | Family ties

Come for the carnage, stay for the mountain views in the gorgeous fantasy roguelike, Children of Morta. Our review…


As much as rogue-lite sensibilities have permeated the medium this past decade, even spreading to genres they had no business approaching (looking at you, Bloodborne Chalice Dungeons), there’s one thing this eminently versatile approach to game design has never managed – or cared – to deliver: a traditional narrative, the type that comes with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Dead Mage’s latest action RPG addresses the issue by inserting story fragments randomly across playthroughs. These take the form of hidden journal entries, encounters with far-reaching consequences, and short interludes triggered after certain conditions have been met. A simple solution, only made possible because, unlike others of its ilk, Children of Morta is not interested in a long-term relationship: you’ll see everything it has to offer within 20 hours.

You’ll spend most of that time switching between different Bergson family members to explore the environs of their stunning ancestral home, seeking counsel from reclusive deities, and battling creatures sent into a murderous frenzy by the mysterious Corruption that has been slowly poisoning the land.

Each tightly focused excursion (runs rarely take more than 30 minutes) uncovers valuable secrets and unlocks further progress but, more importantly, allows you to expand the diverse skill set of your growing cast.

Prior to that, Children of Morta fails to impress. Early combat entails little more than the repetitive clickety-clack of left mouse-button attacks broken only by the occasional dodge, an attrition battle waged against your patience, rather than a test of skill.

Persevere, however, and each character blossoms into a distinct and engaging fighter with an array of abilities that transform skirmishes into exciting real-time puzzles. Typical sword-and-sorcery templates abound in the Bergson family roster: Kevin, the stealthy, rapidly striking assassin; Joey the hulking blacksmith that can withstand massive amounts of damage; and young Lucy, the fireball-hurling elementalist whose attacks become increasingly vicious the longer she stands still.

Gradually, the game’s secret rhythm reveals itself, a mesmerising oscillation between methodical scavenging and bursts of sudden chaos demanding full awareness of your chosen champion’s strengths and weaknesses.

Surprisingly, it’s neither the tiresome early grind nor the subsequent glorious bloodshed that stays with you, but a sense of warmth generated by pixel art at its most expressive and one of the most enchanting hubs ever seen in video games.

Framed by the luscious greens of an unkempt garden and the royal-gown purples of its sunsets, every inch of the Bergson mansion is lovingly cramped with history-laden paraphernalia: the stacked tomes of a bookworm, the vials and decanters of an alchemist, the iridescent fauna lazily trawling the depths of a lavish aquarium.

It’s the home of a real family; a place where John and Mary will cast off their parental worries and break into dance, or a sumptuous feast will bring everyone together, away from the encroaching darkness. Children of Morta conceals the number-crunching and makes you care more about these people than your next permanent upgrade.


While the writing itself is fairly standard fantasy fare, Ed Kelly’s exceptional voiceover work elevates the text and imbues those tired generic tropes with emotional resonance. Outside of Supergiant Games’ groundbreaking output, rarely has a narrator managed to generate such restrained yet genuine pathos with their performance.

Verdict: 79%

A gorgeous, warm, and engaging action roguelike that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Genre: Action RPG /Roguelike
Format: PC (tested) / Mac / PS4 / XBO / Switch
Developer: Dead Mage
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Price: £18.49
Release: Out now

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