Mortal Shell Review
Mortal Shell is yet another Souls-like game in a sea of Souls-likes. Does it do enough to stand out, or should you skip this one? Check out our review to find out.
Mortal Shell Review
Mortal Shell begins in a weird fog world, where you learn the basics of the game. You don’t make a character, but are instead given a husk of a humanoid to play as. When you begin, you are pretty much naked and can die on one hit. After a little while, however, you are given a Shell and taught how to fight. When the tutorial is over, you enter Fallgrim and the dark adventure begins. Now all you have to do is escape this place alive.
There is some story attached to the game, but it is in bits and pieces. Each zone has signs that tell you a little bit about the area and its creatures. The remaining sane humanoids tell you about what happened, but it is still cryptic. The bulk of the lore comes from the Shells, which get new memories as you level them up. The quality of these stories was fairly good overall, but I was still left with a few questions. Mortal Shell can be beaten in roughly 10-12 hours, depending on how well you do with the combat.
Mortal Shell is a Souls-like game, and the combat can be brutal. In true Souls fashion, one mistake and you could die. To prevent this, each Shell can harden and absorb one or two blows freely without you taking damage. The reason for this is that there is no Estus Flask to heal yourself with. Instead, you have to parry enemies and hit them afterwards to steal HP from them. There are healing items, but they are few and far between. It takes a little while to get used to, but by the end I really enjoyed it. You can also come back to life once if you reclaim your Shell after being knocked out of it.
There are only four weapons total in the game, not counting the Ballistazooka. Each of them has a couple of upgrades and unique moves. There is a large mace with high reach, a hammer and chisel for speed, a great sword for damage, and a regular sword which is well balanced. I stuck with the longsword for the most part, because I could kill enemies quickly. The other weapons work fine, but they just weren’t my style. Plus, the special on the longsword knocks enemies down quickly.
The Shells in the game act as your classes, with four of them in all. Harros is well rounded, but doesn’t excel anywhere. Tiel is the quick one, with the most stamina and the best dodge. Eredrim is the tank with the most HP, but has low stamina and resolve. Solomon has the most resolve, but doesn’t have as much HP. Each of these characters has their own skills that you have to level up by using their Shells, which is how you get more lore and get stronger.
The downside to this system is that there are no stats to upgrade like HP, stamina, or strength. Certain Shells will get upgrades to their stats, but you can’t pick which stat on which Shell. This means that when you find a Shell you like, you can upgrade it fully and then avoid fighting because you don’t need the Tar anymore. The enemies still drop items and you can use Tar to buy things, but I started skipping them after a couple of bosses. That, and the run back from the bosses is already long enough without fighting.
Since the game is a tad on the short side, you won’t see too many different areas. You start in a swamp and eventually go to one of three different main areas. One of these areas is the undead ice cave, with contains Viking-like warriors and poisonous monsters. Also included in Mortal Shell is the Obsidian Tower, which is the largest area in Mortal Shell and is full of giant knights, assassins, and archers. One wrong step there and you could fall to your death. Finally, there is a flame area with fire knights and specters waiting to drag you down. It isn’t big, but there is enough variety to get enjoyment out of each zone.
The item system in the game is unique and fun to use. You don’t know what an item does until you use it, which makes sense in this game world. One mushroom will heal you, but another one will poison you. It means that each time you find a new item, it could have an interesting effect that could either help or hurt you. The more you use them, the more effects they have – like quicker healing. Learning how they improve your parrying or hardening skills is the key to mastering combat.
I played on the PC, and I ran into one crash while I was loading into a boss fight. When I reloaded, the fight loaded up fine, so it was just a one-off. Outside of that, I didn’t have many frame drops and didn’t run into any bugs.
Mortal Shell shines brightly as an example of the Souls formula done well. Anyone who is a fan of the challenging gameplay the genre is known for will be happy with this title.
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