Mortal Shell is an indie game, in the Souls-like Genre. Developed by Cold Symmetry for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
In the world of Mortal Shell, you play as a frail being, who is tasked with saving the land. How? Well, by taking over Shells. The game is very light on story. In tune with the genre it’s in, most of the story is told through lore in the world. You find this lore, on rocks, and by hitting your weapons on walls. I’m not kidding. The game has “hidden lore”, that is only found when you hit specific walls or statues, with your weapon, and then it appears.
Unfortunately for me, I literally had no idea what was going on. Besides the basic “hey, hero. You’re back from the dead. Go save the land!”. The reason for this? The font on the game is so small. I sit roughly 12 feet from my television. My big, massive television, and I couldn’t read anything in the game, unless I stood up, and pushed my nose against it. What were the lore drops about? No idea! Who’s this person? Your guess is as good as mine. Is this partly my own fault that i couldnt read the lore? Sure. I could’ve stood up everytime I found something. But, no thanks.
Luckily, the gameplay half makes up for everything wrong with not knowing the world or story. The game is fast, yet slow. Simple, yet complex. In most games of the genre, you have your normal move set. Attack, heavy attack, block, dodge. Now this, has a party system, where if you take the time to learn it, can really help you out. You can heal, from successful parries, or do massive damage to your enemy, by putting an explosive on them, or do a mass amount of damage to people around you. All of these are unlocked from beating bosses, so it gives you a nice change of pace, on how you want to play. Now unfortunately all these things are used by having “resolve”. This are consumable bars of energy, that are gained from dealing damage to enemies. So if you need health from a parry, but have no resolve, you’re out of luck. It brings a sense of danger, and urgency. But also, some frustration.
The blocking mechanic has been a little mixed up in this game as well. For the better, but yet not. Instead of a traditional block move, you “harden” instead. So, you turn to stone, so long as you hold L2. When enemies hit you, your stone status breaks, and the enemy staggers, so you can either dodge away, or get more damage in. Eventually you’re juggling this for offense and defense. Waiting for an enemy to hit you, so you can finish it off quick, and move on. Or maybe you’re in the middle of a combo, and the enemy is about to strike. So you harden, and they hit you, they get staggered, and your next attack automatically finishes hitting them, after you go back to normal. Then you can make your daring escape, until you can harden again, then go back on offense. It took a while to realize how multifunctional it truly is, but when it clicked, I was off to the races!
Now, I said earlier, that you take over “shells” as you progress. Now these are basically the games classes. They all work the same way, but they have different “skill sets”. Where as one gains resolve really quick, so it relies on skills and parrying a lot, one may rely on gaining a buff on every kill, that increases their damage. So there is a different way to play the game, depending on how you want to play. Unfortunately, there’s no traditional leveling up system. So you don’t increase your health, or damage output, or defense. So it’s all reliant on you learning the game, and getting better over time.
The game looks and sounds amazing. It’s so well polished. There’s not that many visual effects, but when there is, they all look great. From a fiery forge, to an ice mountain, with pathways carved out in the ice. You can stand still, and hear the grumbles and groans of nearby enemies. I played with headphones the whole time, and the enemy noises weren’t just everywhere. If I was standing at a fork in the road, I could hear where the enemies were. The groaning of enemies in my right ear, with silence on the left. The strikes and slams of hammers and sword. The way you hear a bell ring all throughout the hub area, as it gets louder, the closer you get. It was all made with such care, and passion, that it made me feel engrossed into it all, and I was always waiting to hear, where enemies were, before I set off.
Now, as with any game of the genre, it’s quite replayable. With every new run, becoming progressively harder as you go to NG+, then NG++ and so on and so forth. The only thing that lacks in this department, is that you can’t have different builds. You can play the game with each of the different Shells, and see how differently they feel, but that’s about it. You can’t be a glass cannon, or a magic using boss, who can one hit everything. So it’s unfortunate in that regard. But, it is a nice spin on it!
Mortal Shell has a great spin on the traditional Souls-like Genre, and once I understood the mechanics, I had a fantastic time with it! Unfortunately, if you can’t read the small text, you’re not going to know what is going on, or what items do. So hopefully you’re close to your television or monitor while playing! I do wish all games sounded as good as this though. As that really helped pull me into the world, and that’s what kept me engrossed! It’s definitely worth a play for any fans of the genre!