Hands-on Preview: Children of Morta

I had a chance to sit down with the E3 demo of Children of Morta (Developed by Dead Mage Inc. and coming out for Switch, XB1, PS4, and PC in 2019). It’s a top-down rogue-like hack & slash along the same veins as Diablo or Torchlight, with an emphasis on story.

You play as the Bergsons, a family tasked with being the guardians of the eponymous mountain Morta, which has fallen under a mysterious corruption turning the inhabitants into monsters. Each time you fail (and being an indy rogue-light, failing often is expected), you’re given glimpses into their history and daily lives. Each level of the ziggurat (The only level present in the demo) also has a room where some lore about the corrupted monsters or the civilization that used to live there can be seen. And of course actually finishing the level has its own storyline as well. There’s even items to find and people to rescue, all of which can offer their own additions at the end of a run as well.

Then there’s the game mechanics themselves. Like most modern indie roguelikes, each run doesn’t happen in a vacuum. After each run you keep the gold, XP, and some third resource I was unable to figure out how to obtain, used to upgrade your stats, abilities, and house respectively. There’s a strong emphasis on the family as a unit. The stat and facility upgrades affect all the family members equally, and leveling abilities increases a bar that gives passive stat benefits and even the ability to hop in and directly support other family members when certain conditions are met.

There seems to be an emphasis to focusing on the now rather than playing it safe, which extends to the rest of the game as well. At least with the two available characters in the demo, going on the offensive and speeding through a level tended to get better results than retreating to choke points and trying to take things slow like I would in other games in the genre. The more streamlined loot system doesn’t hurt, with everything either being for the base back home, or limited-time buffs. It manages to be a fairly fast paced take on a typically slow genre.

Of course, in the end this is a demo and this preview is equal parts experience and hope. I only saw two out of the seven characters, a fair amount of customization was out of my reach, I had just the one level, and there were still a number of graphical bugs present. The core that I was given appears solid, but time will tell how the finished product winds up. I look forward to giving a full review of the game when it launches in 2019.