Hallowed Be Thy Game: Take Up Arms Against Corruption in Children of Morta


(Editor’s note: Let’s face it — most metalheads are a buncha nerds. To that end, Hallowed Be Thy Game is a weekly feature here on MetalSucks where we’ll highlight some of the metal-as-fuck board/video/tabletop role playing games we’re playing or have played in the past.)

One of the great philosophers of our time, Stitch, once saidohana means family; family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” It’s this tenet that is at the heart of Dead Mage’s action RPG/roguelite indie wonder, Children of Morta. Heavy emphasis goes on “heart” as this game has a ton of it, so much that it’s captivated me multiple times since release back in 2019.

You take control of the Bergson family, tasked with protecting the mountain of Morta in the land of Rea, but end up protecting each other just as much to ensure as many of your clan come out on the other side of fighting back a terrible corruption overtaking the land. It engulfs and manipulates all that it touches, producing many monsters that pollute your home and threaten the well-being of you and everyone around you. Everyone must pull their weight in order to survive and save Morta, and each other.

The core of Children of Morta is simple and effective: it’s a dungeon crawling action RPG with skill trees, multiple classes/characters to level and master, character buffs, all with some grit and challenge at the core. The “dungeons” are all isolated and sequential procedurally generated maps so one run will be far different from the last when it comes to enemy placement, hazards encountered, as well as general map layout. You don’t have to worry about navigating a large, open world or the bloat (or blandness) that usually comes with them. 

It also allows the game’s style to sink its fangs into you. Children of Morta is a highly stylized game. Retro, yes, but lovingly detailed and colorful beyond the confines of your traditional 8-, 16-, or even 32-bit games of yore. Even the most straightforward of environments like sandblasted desert cities or dank caverns avoid becoming drab or artistically lazy because everything has a pop and vibrancy to it, even as a cold, dark corruption takes over before your eyes.

The true hook of the game – well, one of two – is the variety of characters you can play as who all have their own special abilities and talents. The Bergson family is diverse. John is the patriarchal anchor, a warrior using a standard sword and shield to do battle. Linda, John’s eldest child, is a dutiful archer with some nice agility who cares deeply for the rest of the family. Lucy, my favorite and youngest kid of John, is the quirky glass cannon pyromancer just learning to get the hang of her powerful abilities. Lastly, Joey, John’s half-nephew, is an all-out brawler with a fierce hammer – the tank of the family for sure. There’s other characters, especially if you buy the Ancient Spirits DLC, but I won’t spoil those.

The second hook is just how involved the story is. Between each run through a dungeon, you’re treated to wonderfully narrated cutscenes and mini-stories that show the Bergsons reflecting on what has transpired, contemplating next moves in the war against the corruption invading Morta, interacting with each other, and ensuring each other is up to the increasingly demanding task. It’s harrowing and emotional; some of the story beats are true gut punches that change the stakes for the family and challenge them to face death with only uncertainty waiting for them on the other side.

Before you embark on a mission, you see the Bergsons living life as best they can in their large home, working in workshops, resting in their highly unique rooms, gathered at a grand table to touch base with each other, and more. They’re all delightfully nuanced with personality, and the growth they all go through during the main story changes them forever.

The music for Children of Morta calls forth a grand folk sound that greatly complements the tone and setting of the game. It’s melancholic, yet ambitiously classic, really capturing the sense of scale and history that comes with the worldbuilding. It’s akin to some of my favorite folk-adjacent metal bands like Orphaned Land, Tzompantli, Nechochwen, or newcomer Blackbraid who all use scale and regional folk instrumentation in similar yet different ways. In fact, the whole plot of protecting your homeland and the vast, spiritual nature that surrounds it beckons loose comparison to the very real plight of Native protectors as they fight endlessly to defend waterways and sacred lands the world over from pollution, industrialization, and hostile colonization.

This is just a taste of what Children of Morta has to offer. I could go on and on, but if your interest piqued from this article, it’s best to seek it out on your platform of choice and dive in. The game has very high replayability, a moving story, engaging and varied gameplay that suits many styles, and is distinctively, primally metal – because what is more metal than banding together with those close to you to beat back a scourge plaguing the land? It’s the stuff of legends, and you can experience it now.

Children of Morta is playable in pretty much any way you could imagine: on PC via Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store; PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. I’d recommend the Complete Edition which comes bundled with the Paws and Claws DLC which adds cute and exotic animals to interact with in the new Animal Shelter, and the Ancient Spirits DLC which adds a playable character along with various equipable charms, relics, and graces.

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