Name: Mortal Shell
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
Platform Reviewed On: PS4
Developer: Cold Symmetry
Mortal Shell – Review
Mortal Shell is the newest entry in the Souls-like genre, developed by a brand-new developer, Cold Symmetry. A team of 15 people experienced in the gaming medium whose main objective was to honor said genre, but before talking about it, let’s take a little look back.
February 5, 2009.
Without much hype a new game is silently released for PlayStation 3 in Japan, a game that offered a unique gameplay experience with a story that’s built upon exploring rather than watching cutscenes, providing a challenge that reminded it’s players of how challenging games were in older times and after some weeks of rough sale numbers it becomes a success thanks to its players’ recommendations, this game is Demon’s Souls and just like that the Souls-like genre started.
After more than a decade since it’s conception, the genre has expanded with a bunch of new entries being Dark Souls the most important when it comes to the genre’s world design, so here’s the question, does Mortal Shell manage to become its own thing?
Just like Souls-like’s firsts days, Mortal Shell’s story isn’t openly told but instead hidden amongst it’s a well-crafted scenario and smartly placed items which contain pieces of its lore. This approach to the story does nothing but enhance its atmosphere encouraging and rewarding exploration. Since the very beginning, you find a mortal shell, which are armors of fallen legends you can inhabit, and the more you discover about these shells, the more you’ll be able to become one with them.
On a side note, I’ll be looking forward to the inevitable conversation about its lore and how players find the pieces that solve this puzzle.
Mortal Shell doesn’t have the most photo-realistic graphics, this isn’t the kind of game that needs them, and yet its world is as enchanting as it is immersive, lively in colors or a dead landscape bathed in monotones whenever it needs to, everything looks gorgeous with excellent lightning and an entirely interconnected map that wouldn’t be as immersive without its well-crafted details.
The only thing that can take away some of the charms is the questionable implementation of a rendering technique that produces some badly looking edges all over the image, this on the PlayStation 4 Pro version at least, I imagine this not being a problem in PC or other consoles with a native resolution.
Perhaps an essential aspect for a Souls-like, when it comes to gameplay, this game’s animations and attacks follow the classic scheme and timing of Demon’s Souls, but it isn’t comfortable with just that.
Instead of a shield, you have the ability to become solid like a rock and stun your enemies with it, and this gives you a perfect opportunity to counter or step back but be careful, it has to be recharged before being able to use it again.
Mortal Shell takes the concept of exploration a little too far; whenever you get a new item, you must use it to discover what it does, while I found it interesting as a concept, in practice, it can be bothersome since this applies even to items that non-playable characters sell and some items that look like health items could be some poisons leading to unnecessary deaths.
On the story notes, I mentioned the Mortal shells; aside from being an elemental part of the lore, these shells have a notorious effect on the gameplay. Each shell has its own set of abilities and stats, some having more health than others is one of the immediate game-changers, and you may want to alter between them depending on the section you are exploring and the enemies you’ll deal with.
It’s pretty notorious that Cold Symmetry has been paying attention to how the genre has evolved, upon being defeated, you’ll be thrown out of your mortal shell, and that will leave you two options, enter in your shell again and keep fighting with full health or running away if you are surrounded by too many enemies a mechanic that at its core it’s taken away from Sekiro’s resurrection but with its particular spin.
On the weapons department, there are not many weapons to choose from, you can count them with your fingers, but each one of them has its particular play style, and you’ll have to discover and upgrade them in a similar way than the mortal shells themselves.
All in all, the combat is inspired by the original FromSoftware’s Souls games but with the tweaks that differentiate it from the rest of games in the mentioned franchise or even the Souls-like genre itself.
Mortal Shell is one of the few games that understood Hidetaka Miyazaki’s idea of difficulty, this game is challenging, but it’s not hard for the sake of it, demanding enough to make every victory feel like a triumph but nothing that feels impossible or unfair to give up middle way. For platinum hunters, this game has a list of exciting things you may not find or accomplish during your first playthrough, which is a very encouraging way to revisit the game.
Mortal Shell is Souls-like’s most advantaged student; it takes everything the genre has established during the last decade and apports to it with its particular tweaks to the formula, prioritizing quality over quantity and having a genuinely balanced curve of difficulty.
This game is a love letter to the genre it is proud of being, and definitely, a must-try for fans of it.
What do you think? Please let us know in the comments below.