How do you make your pixelated rogue-lite game stand out? Children of Morta has an interesting answer. While you're cleaving your way through hundreds of corrupted baddies in the title's randomly generated dungeons, it frequently hits you with moments of story. The combination of random levels with a set narrative might sound unusual, but it works surprisingly well.
You play as several members of the Bergson family, each with their own combat styles and abilities. Whether you take sword-wielding John, archer Linda, or martial arts master Mark into the fray, you're constantly rewarded with each run. The game is challenging, but persistent RPG elements and upgrades mean you always come back that little bit stronger. What's interesting is that, as each warrior levels up, certain benefits will be attributed to the whole family. This emphasis on the collective effort, and not just one "special" hero, is a nice change.
As we said, this theme runs through the dungeons too. You'll come across special rooms where you'll meet your relatives, and when you return to the house, the narrator will nearly always have something to tell you. There are also puzzles, side missions, and other types of special rooms to find, so exploring becomes a risk/reward of finding all these "set" areas and more loot versus fighting off even more hordes of baddies. Progress might feel slow at first, but once you've upgraded everyone, things start to move a little faster. Local co-op helps as well, and further cements the collaborative nature of the game.
It's not perfect; load times are lengthy, text is painfully small, and there are some unusual graphical glitches here and there. However, Children of Morta is overall a great success, and manages to forge a unique identity.