Children of Morta PC review: Roguelike dungeon crawling done right

Children of Morta is a masterfully designed title that will keep you engaged for hours on end, and you'll be smiling the whole way through.

(Image: © 11 bit studios)

In recent times, roguelike role-playing games (RPGs) have become incredibly popular. The allure of an experience that challenges players to come back from every defeat, more experienced every time, until they overcome the challenge that lies in front of them is strong. Unfortunately, it can often feel like these titles miss the mark in execution, either failing to achieve the fundamentals or trying out new ideas that clash with the design philosophy of roguelike games. Children of Morta, a new title from developer Dead Mage, doesn't fall into this trap. Instead, it offers an experience that both nails the core idea of what a roguelike is while also finding clever ways to make the game feel like something new and fresh.

What you'll love about Children of Morta

While it isn't the best part about the game, the thing that surprised me the most about Children of Morta was how good the story was. The plot is typically an area that most roguelike games don't offer much substance for, but that's not the case here. Children of Morta is a tale about a family, known as the Bergsons, working together to overcome a supernatural force known as the Corruption that threatens their world. The concept is extremely simplistic, but the execution of it is what makes it so unique. The challenge that the Corruption poses to them is massive. And the way that you see the family members support one another through this struggle between gameplay segments really sells the idea that these people love each other. It's nothing incredibly complex, but it's still done exceptionally well nonetheless.

Children of Morta's gameplay is absolutely sublime.

The most substantial part of Children of Morta is its gameplay. The core roguelike structure of "go in the dungeon, get as far as possible, die, and come back stronger" is the foundation of the experience, and each aspect of it is phenomenal. Exploring dungeons is an engaging and challenging experience thanks to the randomly-generated layouts and varied enemy types. And each of the Bergsons offer a unique playstyle, ensuring you'll have a character you enjoy playing no matter what style you prefer. One, for example, goes into battle with sword and shield; another opts for quick dual daggers instead, and a third methodically snipes foes with her bow. Each playable character also has a unique skill tree to progress through, further allowing you to customize your build. With the gold you collect during your travels, you can upgrade universal stats shared between all of the characters, too, including health, attack damage, critical hit chance, and the like. These help ensure that you won't be too weak if you try to take a new character you haven't tried into a late-game dungeon. Ultimately, roguelikes rarely offer this much variety, and it makes Children of Morta stand out.

Lastly, the presentation and performance of Children of Morta is fantastic. The pixel art style is very charming, and the environments are gorgeous. The game has everything from dense forests to spider-infested caverns and everything between, and all of it is beautifully brought to life with a rich and vivid color palette. What impressed me the most, though, were the game's extremely fluid animations. The game's music is incredible, too, and thankfully, the game runs perfectly without any issues.

What you'll love less about Children of Morta

The only small gripe I have with Children of Morta is that there are a select few parts of the game that feel a little unfair. One of the boss fights towards the beginning of the game is obnoxious, and some of the enemy encounters that can occur in the dungeons occasionally feel cheap too. Overall, though, these moments are few and far between, and you'll be able to get through them without a crazy amount of hassle.

Should you buy Children of Morta?

Children of Morta is one of the best roguelike games I've played, and I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of the best ones ever made, period. Aside from the rare cheap moment, everything about Children of Morta, from the story to the gameplay to the presentation, is simply incredible.

Unless you simply don't like roguelike games, you should absolutely pick yourself up Children of Morta and experience it for yourself. You won't regret a second of your time with it.

Children of Morta is available now on PC for $18. It is expected to arrive on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch on October 15, 2019.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.