As you can guess by the title, I’ve never played a “souls” game before. I never experienced the soul-crushing repetitive nature of playing, dying, and repeating for hours at a time that makes one question why they put themselves through such mental torture…but I want to, and Cold Symmetry and Playstack were more than happy to test my resolve with their soulslike game Mortal Shell.
Mortal Shell takes players to a dark world full of creepy looking enemies, creatures, and mystery as they play as a being that takes over the remains of four dead warriors and fights their way through enemies in order to attain glands from certain enemies to appease the mysterious monstrous prisoner.
Now onto the game itself! Leading up to getting the review copy of Mortal Shell I watched and studied gameplay videos of Dark Souls in which this game is said to be like. Long story short, YES, Mortal Shell is on the same level of Dark Souls!
When it comes to controls, there’s a lot to take in as pretty much every button on the controller has a function! There’s a tutorial level at the start but after that, you may have to go into the menu and check out the controller layout from time to time, but as of right now, I pretty much got a handle on it.
Sound is quite complex in a good way and may require you to do a lot of adjusting to your liking. The spoken dialogue is unique like how it is in Dark Souls giving it an otherworldly feel and fitting for the world of Mortal Shell. At times I think some of the audio can play tricks on you where you hear an enemy that’s in the distance but it sounds like they’re right next to you, not cool when you’re in the middle of a fight OR reading some hidden lore you find that pops up.
When it comes to the art and animation, Holy Shitake! The art alone is worth its own article, the way the light and shadows bring the areas you’re playing in to life and sucks you into a new world, that just happens to be full of very distinct looking creatures and enemies. One thing I wish they had in Mortal Shell is a bestiary with the names of the enemies you have encountered. One of my biggest complaints in this area is how small the text is when you have to read anything, the size of the subtitles is fine though strangely.
Gameplay in Mortal Shell is rough; of course, if you’re playing a soulslike game that’s what you want. This game is a marathon, not a race. You have to be willing to put a couple hours in and take your time as rushing only ads to the heartache of dying. In the game, you earn Tar which is the currency that can be used to unlock abilities OR buy items from the shop. If you die, you start over from a spawn point in which all enemies you fought have re-spawned as well, so you will have to fight your way back to where you died to retrieve your Tar, but if you die while trying to get it back…it’s gone. The one mechanic that’s tricky to get used to is Hardening, that’s basically your block, you time it right that you turn your body into stone.
Mortal Shell is not for everyone but I know it will have its own fan base and also have the ability to win over fans of Dark Souls. Unlike DS, unfortunately, you don’t have the ability to customize your character and armor as theirs only four sets of armor with their own abilities along with weapons, which is kind of a downer.
Overall my experience with Mortal Shell has been emotionally mixed as I never played a game like this before and normally would probably not, but, I actually really enjoy playing it and exploring the world, getting a feel for the enemies tactics and trying to update mine as I encounter newer enemies and creatures.
When it comes to scoring Mortal Shell from 1-10, its high thanks to the rewarding gameplay, art, characters, sound (in a way), the mysterious world it takes place in, and the controls. What hurts the rating is sound issues as mentioned earlier, lack of unlockables (bestiary), text size, and some of the defense mechanics, which looking back do not really hurt the scoring that much. In the end, Mortal Shell is a 9.5!
Mortal Shell comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Epic Game Store August 18th digitally and with high demands, it will also come out physically October 2nd.