I feel pretty safe in saying that children of morta is going to be one of the best indie games in the coming year. I was intrigued by the pixel art they were showing off from early in the year, as well as early design and animations around the combat so decided to throw a few dollars there way and thus have been treated to a little early access before it’s eventual release in the early new year.
What I have seen so far has amazed me. The sheer intricate and detailed nature of the backgrounds is truly astounding. Lush backdrops that slide behind the foreground and character. Beautiful and mysterious places that set the mood for your adventures. The environment you play around and interact with is just breathtaking as well, conjuring images of mysterious lost civilizations, corruption of evil, and forgotten civilizations. It’s an overall aesthetic that invites you to embrace the beauty while you wonder and contemplate the world around you. Perhaps my only complaint so far is that the ui during gameplay looks a little too clunky and out of place and does seem to detract from the amazing pixel art they’ve made, but it is a minor complaint.
Comparing it to other, well known and rightfully awarded indie titles like hyper light drifter is hard to compare as they show a design intent more influenced by a minimalistic and sheer future whilst this is like adventuring into the forgotten past. It embraces a design that feels more earthy and rich, it feels just a little more vibrant and alive because of that.
It is really quite hard to get across the richness of this pixel based tapestry they’ve created. Even the narrative direction is there to embrace and highlight the beauty of this environment whilst also unravelling the many stories within this land. The camera moves ever so slightly and soft narration begins as it shows you an element of the background, a rocky tapestry, and during the random events you may come across in the dungeons that continue this story of corruption and it’s effects on the world. It’s also incredibly just how effortless Children of Morta is able to intertwine it’s story and narrative throughout gameplay, which is rather rare for Roguelikes that are often hindered by their transient nature.
Now Children of Morta isn’t just a pretty screenshot either and boasts some really quite refined and fluid action combat guided by what appears to be, rather satisfying roguelike mechanics. You have several characters to play around with, some that you start with and others to unlock that each have their own style of play around a particular weapon set. As you play more with each you gain experience, levels and are able to unlock new skills and passives as well as upgrade the ones you have. There is even a minimal amount of crafting done through found and unlocked items that provide some decent ongoing buffs as well. It’s a design that is rather simple with only a few options but adds depth to your characters build and a decent sense of progression for your efforts through the dungeons.
I love each and every character I’ve played with so far too, which has only been the basic ones but each feel incredibly fluid with their attacks and the certain strategy around the hit and run tactics you employ against enemies. The skills are a joy to watch too because of their detailed and colourful animations. You have a basic attack that feels quite weighty with a slow animations and with the dodge and one other special attack to start it that completes the basics of a character – it’s enough and then the more you add the more exciting and chaotic the battles become. You try to keep track of your abilities and buffs, as well as cooldowns during combat to get the best effect while at the same time doing the dance of attrition around enemy packs. It’s a constant battle of when and what to use, how to move and being aware of your surroundings.
It’s rather difficult too with enemies hitting for a decent amount and your characters only having a rather small health pool. You need to watch enemies and dodge incoming attacks, and then counter with your own but it isn’t as simple as it sounds when you often get larger packs attacking you. There is a decent range of enemies in just the one area i’ve been in so far too that each require a change of tactics depending on what you’re doing. Charged up enemies as well with their own special abilities provide a decent challenge and then, within these dungeons are certain challenge rooms to beat that throw harder waves of enemies at you till completion. They are intense, but fun as the controls just work so fluidly and the animations are so impeccable timed.
The archer character that I’ve been enjoying so far is fun, usually has you stay back firing off your basic attack to take down enemies while dodging away but then – one of its first buffs is attack speed but it’s doesn’t last long and happens after killing a certain amount of enemies so it’s hard to track. Once its started you take the aggressive edge and dive into those dark corridors to kill as many as possible within that time. It’s a large difference between the usual play and each character I’ve played does have it’s own distinctions like that, changing up your style of play when certain skills and buffs are available.
There is a decent amount of variability during the general gameplay of delving through these dungeons too, not just because of the random nature of how these spaces are constructed each time but also because you are able to find various buffs and special abilities during your explorations. Various modifiers to your attacks like poison, multiple hits and knockbacks. Time based buffs to your character that give experience, stamina, damage. And then, hidden around these spaces are the shrines to unlock an ultimate ability with one at each shrine that you can swap between. All this creates a lot of variability to the experience of each and every dungeon run.
It really is a magnificent indie game as it is right now that rivals the best that have released this year and the many others I’ve played over the years. It’s still only in alpha at the moment as I received it much earlier due to a kickstarter pledge and based even on this early state I can say without a doubt it’s well worth your money. It’s beautiful, enchanting and absolutely exhilarating.