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Mortal Shell is a true Souls-like, and within the first two hours, I drank moonshine with a bandit, played the lute and pet a kitty. As an added bonus, the game is actually pretty good as well.
So what is Mortal Shell? Well, arguably for the first time ever, when the guys over at developer Cold Symmetry say “it’s a Souls-like” — it actually is!
What most developers think a Souls-like game is: really hard difficulty, and punishes dying. But what a Souls-like actually is is gameplay directly similar to Dark Souls with a similar feel and atmosphere. Mortal Shell fits the latter description perfectly.
If you’ve played Dark Souls, then you know what you’re getting into with this one. Mortal Shell is a simpler experience but still an equally challenging one that demands that you move, dodge, and attack with perfect fluidity and timing. To help with this you can harden your skin to stone to avoid damage! This is a must-use skill that allows you to shake off attacks without breaking your fluidity. You attack first, then harden mid-swing so that the enemies hit you and bounce off. Then you can unharden and your swing carries through. The world is smaller than Dark Souls map but basically has the same amount of enemies, though more densely packed in so that you must master the hardening skill from the get-go — or you’re going to die a lot.
In Mortal Shell, you play as a pale naked dude with no skin, that looks like the blank Hosts in HBO’s Westworld. There are no classes in this game or any level customisation. Instead, you inhabit (possess) “Shells” to run around in. These shells have their own stats for you to keep in mind. Durability (your life), stamina and resolve. There are four Shells in total and all can be found within the first area of the game. Each comes with unique passive abilities for you to unlock.
Additionally, there are only four weapons in the game for you to use. The Hallowed Sword (which you start with), the Smoldering Mace (a large two-handed mace that you can ignite), the Martyr’s Blade (a zweihander-like sword) and the Hammer and Chisel (exactly as it sounds). All of them have their own unique resolve attacks for you to build by finding upgrades.
You can mix and match the weapons with the Shells to find your ideal play style but, apart from that, there isn’t any other customisation. That’s fine though, as this is a much simpler experience.
I have a few complaint about Mortal Shell, but not many. I’ve encountered some annoying glitches that have caused me to die. For example, in a boss fight my ability to harden stopped working, making the fight a lot harder than it should have been. Another example was during another boss battle, where this time my ability to dodge stopped working causing me to run around in circles trying to avoid the boss until it finally killed me. Other than those two examples, the game worked fine for me.
My main criticism is related to the healing in Mortal Shell, or rather the lack of it. You have no dedicated healing item that renews. There’s no ‘Estus Flask’ or equivalent. That’s right, this is Dark Souls 2 healing! In Mortal Shell, you have to farm for healing items. And this is basically eighty percent of the causes of my death in the game. I didn’t run out of healing items; I just didn’t have any to begin with.
Is Mortal Shell good? Yeah, it’s alright. Is it great? No.
All in all, it is a true Souls-like game that is enjoyable and challenging, that I would recommend you go and play only if you’re looking for something similar to Dark Souls.
Andy gave a second opinion review of the game, and covered a number of criticisms that hampered his overall experience of the game.
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