Children of Morta Catch-all

Hey everyone. Children of Morta has a free preview on Steam for the next 72 hours.

I had the privilege of getting some time with a preview build a few weeks back. This is, at the minimum, a very fun game with cool design. But if its narrative promises bear out, it'll be a classic.

The pixel art graphics are gorgeous, and they'll hit some nostalgia buttons - which synthesizes perfectly with a narrative focused on family dynamics. Speaking as someone who came from a messed up family, I can very easily see this game being profoundly resonant. The designers seem keen on subverting tropes (it is one of the reasons they delayed - to sharpen the story elements) and I'm eager to see how it all comes together. In the meantime, it is worth picking up for this preview period if you have any curiosity.

Enjoy!

Looks great, thanks for the heads up!

I don't know where you work, but you need to move into Sales this very afternoon.

I had this in the back of my mind; I love pixel-art indies to balance out the Spider-Man/God of War AAA titles.
If the game allows for sparse 30-40 minutes of play, I might actually play this and just add it to my shameful pile of never-installed!

I found that runs typically took about twenty minutes, so it definitely works for the type of play style where you snag what you can.

In terms of the gameplay, I was impressed by how different each character felt. The first two characters you get are a sword & board tank and an archer. Playing as the archer, it felt like the game was a twin-stick shooter. The tank, meanwhile, reminded me of playing OG Zelda. There is co-op play, so this is definitely a day one purchase in my house. The loop is basically doing runs, leveling up, and then coming back home and getting a narrative slice of life to go along with some noodling around with power-ups. (The uncle character is a blacksmith, the grandmother is an alchemist, and you can invest loot in improvements.) There are lots of little progression incentives along the way. Individual characters have unique perks, there are family perks/buffs, and the homestead can be improved. The game seems deceptively simple at first but it really opens up as you move through it.

The thing that's got me excited though is the storytelling possibilities within this ecosystem they've created. There's a danger here, I could very much see a world where this ends up falling flat if the hit tropes and standard narrative markers without subverting or exploring them, but the fact that they delayed the release to get this aspect of the game right is promising to me - as are the things I heard from the reps when I got to demo it.

All of that said, the game is thematically cogent in a way that's profoundly exciting to me. When UI, graphic/sound design, and narrative are all reinforcing each other and digging at a specific theme there's a chance for some real alchemy.

I just tried it out for 30 minutes, to the point of my first dungeon run ending. It's good. Will play more.

This is really, really good! I´ve stopped playing after about an hours play, not wanting to spoil myself, but I am eagerly awaiting this ones release. Thanks for the heads up on the demo!

I Kickstarted this ages and ages ago back when I still kickstarted things, so I'm very much looking forward to it finally being released. Not sure if my kickstarting it would entitle me to a Switch code or not as that's definitely my preferred format nowadays, but we'll see I guess.

Totally in with this game, played the first 20-30min and loved the story telling of the narrator, and intrigue. The characters and art look marvelous, a wonderful peace of game. It release till september... Didnt keep playing, I'll wait till release to get full game finished, right now it looks like it is finished, but I'll wait.

Wow, really dug playing this for a bit. I don't want to delve too far into the game but the art, story, etc really left a positive impression on me. They really outdid themselves.

I started playing at 11.00pm and it's now 3.37am.
I don't know what other praise I can give this game that wasn't conveyed in my 1st sentence.

Harpo, thanks again for the recommendation on this superb game.
It really hits all the right notes.

I feel like a frickin dingleberry. Trying out the demo of this and somehow I turned on a mode where everything is dark and there's a right D-pad "tooltip" in the corner of the screen. I can't for the life of me figure out how to turn this off?

Middcore wrote:

I feel like a frickin dingleberry. Trying out the demo of this and somehow I turned on a mode where everything is dark and there's a right D-pad "tooltip" in the corner of the screen. I can't for the life of me figure out how to turn this off?

Sorry I don’t have a solution but wanted to pop in and say I had a good laugh with the dingleberry comment

Thanks for the heads up, ya'll. I just spent a good 3 hours finishing the demo this afternoon. I will definitely be picking this up at release. It feels great to play. I was impressed by how differently the two characters played, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other 4 playable characters are like on release.

I wasn't expecting to care much for the narrative elements, but that side quest where I saved the puppy got me. I like what they're trying to do with family dynamics too.

On the negative front, I was a little put off by the pace of the longer narrative segments. The narrator speaks soooooo sloooooowly, and there doesn't seem to be any way to speed up the dialogue. The option to skip dialogue is there, but I don't want to do that. I just want it to be a little snappier.

Dead Mage is answering questions about CoM live on Twitch for Gamasutra.

Update - This is currently rerunning if you missed it.

Out Sept 3rd on PC, ides of October on everything else.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

Out Sept 3rd on PC, ides of October on everything else.

Nice. I'm undecided on waiting for the Switch version or grabbing it early on PC, but I'll likely pick this up day 1.

The embargo is up! So I'm going to try to get some streaming in this week. My handle here matches my Twitch handle. It looks like everything has come together in a profoundly beautiful way.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

The embargo is up! So I'm going to try to get some streaming in this week. My handle here matches my Twitch handle. It looks like everything has come together in a profoundly beautiful way.

Awesome! Can't wait for this title!

I’ve had a little bit of time to check it out and the extra months they took have paid off. It is so polished and gameplay loop is super, super addictive.

I can’t yet speak to how the narrative pans out. The structure for the storytelling is neat, but the characters all fit very tried and true archetypes (moody son, worried mother, stoic father, responsible eldest daughter, wise grandmother, etc.) There are some signs that it that it wants to subvert and play with all of this though, and the design and game play are so good that it doesn’t bother me.

So this released on Steam today and I’m stuck at work, counting the hours until I can get home and click the “install” button. Anyone else in on this?

I'm interested but extremely skeptical that I'll enjoy the roguelike and hack & slash elements. I'm pretty burnt out on that style of game right now. This seems to have excellent hooks and a tonne of style, though.

I’ve had fifteen hours with it and I think there’s stuff here even if you are burnt out on rogue-lites.

One thing that sets this game apart from others in the genre is the story. The pacing of narrative allows for some real gut punch slow burn reveals. This is the only roguelike game I can think of where I have distinct impressions of all the characters and I know their names and a bunch about them.

I’m curious which family members are working best for which people. Spoiler, all PC names revealed below.

Spoiler:

Linda is my MVP. I’m about midgame. Lucy is also dynamite and super fun. Kevin and Mark have also given me some great runs. I’m struggling with Jon though. All my runs with him fall super flat real fast. Joey is also hard - I like the faster characters - but he’s got some interesting tricks. The timing is just tricky because his rhythm is so different from everyone else’s.

I've put about 2 hours into the game so far, and really digging it. The character skill tree is great, and I love the addition of familial perks -- gives exactly the encouragement needed to try playing characters that aren't your favorite. And speaking of...

Spoiler:

I don't like John very much. I think he's kind of a boring character to play, at least with only the first tier of skills unlocked. I love Linda. She's very fun even with no skills; I like having to balance backpedaling with shooting in order to maintain enough energy (and the skills help with this). I thought for sure Linda was going to be the best this game had to offer... but then I unlocked Kevin, and wow! what a fun lad he is. I had tried fighting the first boss a few times as Linda to no avail, but on my very first run with Kevin I cleared through and beat the boss, basically with no trouble at all.

I can't speak on the other characters yet.

So I just hit a plot beat that’s quite trope-y.

I’m going to see what they do with it - when I got to demo it a few months back they specifically sited making the narrative less cliche/trope-y as one of the reasons for release delay.

UPDATE: The resolution of the event was more interesting than I thought it would be. I'm definitely eager to play all the way through so I have more clarity on how they navigate this stuff.

In the meantime, I chose Jon - my lowest level character - for a challenge and had to figure out how to use him. In failing the challenge a bunch of times, he leveled up quite a bit. What I'm finding with him (and with the other "slower" character) is that they get really interesting to play once you've opened up stuff higher in their skill tree. I can also see Jon being an absolute beast in coop when paired with a ranged attack character. This is definitely a game that requires you utilizing every tool you have. You can't brute force with just primary attacks - you really need to unlock and deploy every weapon in your arsenal at the right time. Some characters have a real slim margin of error on this front -- and not the ones that we'd classify as "glass cannons." For anyone struggling with Jon, I had a ton of success once I figured out that he's entirely about geography. If he is facing enemies from just one direction, he's almost OP. With him you need to find spots to put your back against a wall. Hang out in a corner and go to town.

Okay, so I finished this up. Some thoughts, but first a quick caveat: I think it is absolutely worth playing. The design, the gameplay, and the ambitions of the narrative more than make up for the numerous missed opportunities and disappointing/reductive plot elements. Spoilers below.

Spoiler:

There are some very lovely things that are set up early on that don't bear out. The conflict with Kevin, the development of Lucy, and the sudden appearance of Joey -- Ben's son he didn't know he had because his alcoholism drove his partner away -- all work as narrative markers to indicate that this is about a messy family full of flawed people who all see each other and choose to love each other despite everything. THAT game -- the one that really focuses on messed up humans making bad decisions and stumbling towards love and appreciation of each other -- would be an all time great game.

Unfortunately, once Act II rolls around, the narrative focuses away from the family dynamics towards the greater mythology of the world. And so much of it is trope-y: the wife is kidnapped at one point. Joey's mother is fridged offscreen. The evil god is really just a jealous, heartbroken guy who couldn't handle rejection. I have to say I'm disappointed on that level mostly because so much of everything else works so well. The world mythology isn't particularly unique or inventive. It has a nice steampunk layer to it that slowly reveals itself and is beautifully designed, but the special sauce of the game was the family and in the end it doesn't do anything with that.

It is also a profoundly heteronormative game that absolutely didn't have to be and is certainly lesser for being so. There was one moment where I thought they were setting up a romantic relationship between Mark and Joey that would have been incestuous but also super interesting. Unfortunately, they don't do anything with it. There's a scene where the two start to develop a friendly rivalry and... that's it. There's also a few lost diversity opportunities in terms of the Bergsons. Even if you choose to have the family be white, Joey presents an opportunity to change that up.

CoM's chief achievement, IMO, is that it does manage to make you care about the characters in a way that completely transcends its genre influences (roguelikes, Diablo, etc.)

I'm head over heals in love with this game. I picked it up initially as a game to play on my little Surface tablet when I'm on the road a bunch for work at the end of this month, but man, I don't think it's going to last that long!

The mechanical things they do in this game are incredible. I normally play a rougelike (DeadCells, Rouge Legacy) for 10-15 hours and then bounce off hard because at some point I just see the RNG-ness of it and don't feel like I'm materially progressing and can tell I need another 20-30 hours to mechanically upskill so I can tackle the harder stuff (I reached the end boss on my third ever Dead Cells run because I randomly stumbled into two different level skips, got crushed by the boss and haven't played much more since). But THIS GAME has such a meaningful RPG progression system to it. The money I'm putting into stat increases seems to really matter (so far dumped a tonne into the money and XP boosts because I'm hoping they'll just organically pay for themselves over time). I really like some of the "downtime" mechanics they put in for characters too, it thematically "fits" and it's just a beautiful, well designed, package. I was worried in my first 2 hours of playing that the "grindiness" would get to me, but I'm really enjoying leveling and unlocking new characters.

Now to defeat that boss!

It took me about twenty hours. The hardest section for me was right around unlocking all of the family members. Getting everyone off the ground and figuring out how to play everyone was a nice challenge. Once it all clicked for me I started getting levels on my first try. They were hard, mind you, but my in game stat upgrades and the jump in player skill made the second half of the game fly by.

There's a lot of replayability and the moment to moment game play was fun throughout.