With many games following similar footsteps and the paved path that the Souls series has made, it’s hard to find those that are worth your time and energy playing. Mortal Shell is both an homage to the Souls series and a well crafted set of original ideas. There are some issues with a lack of variety, funky AI and some confusing environments, but the overall experience is tough, fun and inviting.
For all intents and purposes, this is a Souls game. Players wander an unknown land with nothing but some weapons, armor and items found scattered around the world. The major difference in this game is the new and unique defense mechanism where the character will harden their bodies and be able to endure practically any physical damage once. It’s continually interesting because it can be used in the middle of dodge roles, attacks, running and anything else possible. This allows players to be a little more daring in their fights and rewarding well timed and thought out attacks.I used a simple pattern, attack, harden, the enemy would flinch, attack again then back away to have everything cool down and I’d do it again. I basically used this pattern through most if not all of my play through. It was deeply satisfying and fun to be able to initiate and have battles like this, but it did become stale after hours of doing it and not finding much of a better way to combat enemies. This is a Souls like game, so it makes sense to be careful and such, but other mechanics or other ways to use my “harden” ability would have been a good touch to add variety and personalization in gameplay.
Another major difference is that as players are battling, if they take a fatal attack then their bodies are knocked out of the “shell” that they are inhabiting and have a chance to finish off an enemy and return to the shell and re-inhabit it. This can be hugely advantageous in a difficult battle or help newer players because they can lose all their health and regain it all as they inhabit the body again. This added layer of strategy for advanced players and forgiveness for novices is another great touch in the game.
Talking about the different shells players can inhabit, each “shell” has its own abilities, unique stats and other things. Between weapons and the shells, it’s great to have some core variety in the game. I wish that players were able to get to these new weapons and shells a little sooner. I also would have loved to see maybe one or two more shells and some more weapons, the game is fine with the selection now, but it could have used more to make combat more diverse.
Mortal Shell has lots of mystery and pushes players to experiment. This includes experimenting with unknown items, exploration and other things. However, the game could guide a little bit better or be a little bit easier on players who are trying new items or exploring obscure places. Mystery in lore and rewarding experimentation during combat and using items is great, but punishing players for just trying out items seems a little unfair.
Overall this game is definitely a challenge for newcomers, but is still more welcoming and approachable than some of the more intense Souls games. It demands and asks a lot of his players and that can be quite daunting for most people. However, if you are a fan of Souls like games or want to try and get into them, Mortal Shell is an overall good experience.