Almost everyone is comparing Mortal Shell with Dark Souls. And that’s not just because the game is clearly inspired by Dark Souls, but also that such games can be quickly understood by comparison. Mortal Shell can be stated as just a small fraction of Dark Souls, which justifies its price ($30). But that’s not all that Mortal Shell has to offer. Cold Symmetry has tried really hard to bring in a twist in the gameplay to make it stand out from others. Having invested a lot many hours exploring the game and finally completing it, here’s what I think about Mortal Shell.
The beginning of Mortal Shell is a little slow, but that’s how souls-likes are. But the more you go on playing and the more you explore, the more you will get into the majestic-poisonous world of Mortal Shell. You begin as a faceless and voiceless Foundling (as described in the game), who by some magic can get into the remains of the dead. These are what termed as shells, and hence the name Mortal Shell. That’s one twist of the game that has not been offered yet by other similar games.
The game has four shells to offer each having its own unique abilities. All these shells are scattered across the in-game world. While some of them are easily accessible the others are hard to acquire. You have to select the best fit for you based on your gaming style. If you prefer a dodging style, Tiel would make the best fit for you. He’s got a large stamina bar but can be taken down with only a few hits. My personal favorite is Solomon with well-balanced health and stamina. The other two shells in the game are Harros and Eredrim. Harros is the first shell you will find with balanced stats but a little slower. Eredrim has a health bar longer than his weapon with stamina that can drain pretty quickly.
The game has two chances to offer, again something that is not very common. When your health is low, your Foundling form comes out of the shell. But that’s not the end. You have another chance to get back into the game, but without taking a hit. If you manage to do so, your health and stamina bar will be refilled to its fullest. But when you die the second time, it’s over.
The first building that you’ll find in the game is the Fallgrim Tower, which is sort of your base hub. The three areas or as called temples in the game are interconnected through Fallgrim. You will also find a few NPCs in the Fallgrim Tower. Sester Genessa, out of all these NPCs, will be the one you will mostly interact with. On the top of the Tower, you will find the old-prisoner of the game. He will give you your core mission for the game, which will be to bring a gland each from the three temples. These glands will rescue him and yourself from the Mortal Shell world. Beat all the enemies on your path and bring the three glands to get out of this demonic-world.
The Mortal Shell world is filled with all sorts of horrific enemies. There are three main bosses, Crucix the Twiceborn, Imrod the Unrepentant, and Tarsus the First, one each for the three temples. Although these enemies might be tough to defeat (which they should be in souls-like), they are not if you have the right shell. This is where some of the souls-like fans like myself would lose a little bit of interest. At the same time what makes it challenging to beat bosses is your health. Healing items are hard to farm in Mortal Shell, which does not allow you to heal often. Also, the boss’ health bar can go back up. So overall it can be a brutal game and you need to work hard to get your way around the bosses and win the game.
The method to kill these main bosses is similar to that of defeating the others, dodge, wait, parry, and then punish. Repeat this cycle a few times and it is going to be easy to kill these main bosses. The best shell to equip while fighting the bosses would be Eredrim who can take a toll of attacks because of its huge health bar.
Combat in Mortal Shell is pretty much similar to other souls-like, dodging, parrying, and attacking. However, there’s another twist of spice included here (I will talk about this in a bit), which helps the game stand out from others. There are a total of four weapons out there in the game. Again, similar to the shells, all these weapons have their unique set of features and abilities. Parrying in the game is only allowed when the old prisoner from the Fallgrim Tower gifts you the Tarnished Seal emblem. You can perform Parry by hitting F on PC, L1 on PS4, and LB on Xbox One.
Now coming back to the twist of spice that we talked about, Mortal Shell does not allow to block. Instead, it allows to harden, which is sort of blocking in Mortal Shell style. Harden turns you into a hard statue that can take any amount of damage. The cooldown time to Harden is low and hence it can be used frequently while fighting tougher enemies. If you get the rhythm of dodging, parrying, hardening, and attacking, conquering Mortal Shell won’t be a tough job.
Soundtrack And Visuals
The soundtrack of the gameplay will give you a mix of some great and poor experience. The overall soundtrack is good but the groaning sounds throughout the game can be disturbing. At some places, we would feel like these sounds are coming from beneath or above us, and at times they would sound just next to us.
The visual part of Mortal Shell is excellent, with a bang on animation and graphics, partially because of the Unreal Engine 4. Environments of all the three temples and the areas nearby have been designed well with a great color scheme. The main character, enemies, and all the NPCs are also stunning.
Die-hard fans of souls like games won’t be satisfied with Mortal Shell. One of the biggest reasons for this would be its short gameplay. Apart from this, there are also limited NPCs in the game making it a bit slower. These are a few points that can hold back gamers from staying long into the game.
On the contrary, the challenging game modes, excellent visuals, and few twists that set Mortal Shell apart will keep up with the expectations of players. Overall Mortal Shell is a fun game to play for regular gamers. But for casual gamers, it might look a lot more challenging and boring. The game, however, is in its initial stage of release and we still have to see whether Mortal Shell is able to create a large enough loyal fan base for itself.