Mortal shell provides a different experience for those of us that like difficult games by letting us body swap and get hard.. Trust me it works.
You start the game as a foundling, which kind of looks like a rejected cyborg sleeve, this foundling inhabits bodies which give you abilities to go and kick the enemies asses. Immediately you’re hit with strangeness and intrigue as you know you’re going to struggle in a souls like way, but also you want to carry on to find out what the hell is going on (I still don’t know). The first area of the game….sorry the second (as the first is basic training in a weird dream land)….is a marsh with enemies camped around. Now what’s strange is you aren’t given health injections which refill on death/visiting the checkpoint, instead you need to pick up items that heal you – much more like a standard RPG. Also you start with high health and stamina, you later find out that the levelling up is based more around your technique, so this is another thing which differentiates it from Souls….actually ya know what…
I want to say here and now that I view Dark Souls as a genre and not a series of games, there was an original sports sim, beat em up and even FPS game. And although Dark Souls is an ARPG, it’s a sun genre, it exists on it’s own. And this idea has spawned many other games that use it’s mechanics. I know it’s not the first game to have stamina management or collection of XP, hell there’s Demon’s souls right before it, but it’s the game that made this style of tough ass RPG combat a main stay in our society. So I’m sorry that I keep comparing games to souls, but I can’t help it!
Ok back to the review. The game has some borrowed mechanics from Souls, sure it has stamina management and you have to collect your XP from where you died. BUT there isn’t a lot else to really compare it, the checkpoints are very different (although you talk to a weird woman to level up) the whole system feels like it’s own thing, which is definitely an achievement. I really want to talk about the combat, now being in a sleeve allows you to have a second chance at combat. When you’re killed your inner foundling is thrown out and if it dies it’s game over, but you’re given a chance to return to your host body for a second life! Returning restores your health, but die again and there’s no second chance. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE COMBAT…..well the combat is, well it’s pretty cool. You can get a few slashes of your sword out before completely depleting your stamina bar (whilst always remembering to reserve some for dodging) but there is a 2nd core mechanic to help with taking damage, hardening! Mortal Shell gives you the ability to turn into stone whenever you want, whether it be whilst running, standing still or swinging a sword. If timed right the hardening can parry an enemy’s attack and give you another chance to counter attack. The hardening is measured with a little gauge that fills up about 30 seconds after use. The idea is to balance the stamina with the hardening ability to become an unstoppable force against enemies….well good luck with that.
This game is honestly tough, and I say that after having recently finished The Surge and whilst playing Dark Souls 3. I think the thing that may let Shells down is that it doesn’t give you enough of a chance to level up early on, and the first main area of the game is kind of pointless and difficult for no reason as you can’t level up there. I don’t want to judge it too harshly for these things because it’s good to be challenged and use your brain after all! I just need enough of a reason to keep playing a game, and enough progression shown, to keep on with the punishment. Unfortunately I haven’t really had that so far but I’m waiting to get the hook, which is the only thing worrying me, I found that I didn’t quite have enough patience with it to keep trying to forge on ahead, which is definitely something you need.
I don’t really have a final score for the game, I think if you hate souls likes avoid this like the plague, but if you’ve played all the FromSoftware games and the copy cats and are looking for something different in the genre then this will be for you, there’s no doubt about that. Mortal Shell does something very different with a well known formula, so much so that it feels like something very different. It has enough elements from classic RPG games to make you want to explore the world that’s provided and has some fun with it like learning to play a lute!
You can watch my review here: