A new souls-like game has entered the fray! Many people are saying that this is almost the same as Dark Souls or that it is a love letter to From Software the developers of Dark Souls. I am here to tell you that this game is indeed a souls-like game with a high difficulty setting but if you are going to play this game the same way as Dark Souls you are going to have a hard time. You will need to play this game as if you don’t know Dark Souls or this game will get very rough on you. This game has no level up system so simply grinding a bit and then cake walking the game is not possible. You will need to train your skill and practice the enemy patterns. You do have skills that you can learn but there are barely any skills or items that will improve your defense but there is a special mechanic that lets you turn into stone. This is called hardening, just like a Metapod in Pokemon. We will talk more about this in the gameplay section. This means the enemies, in the beginning, will still kill you in a few hits if you are almost at the end of the game.
You are able to choose from four classes but you will need to unlock them first but this can be achieved pretty early in the game. These classes come in the form of shells and they can be collected before doing any major bosses but you will need to fight one mini-boss. The shell system will be explained more in the gameplay section. The game plays out in Fallgrim where many doomed souls roam freely, your task is to visit the three dungeons that are connected to the hub, and in each dungeon, you will need to defeat a major boss. Instead of tossing many weapons at you, Mortal Shell gives you a few weapons that your character can specialize in and upgrade. There is one ranged weapon called the ballistazooka but you could also use a weapon ability with one of the weapons that fire a ranged attack. Can you complete the three dungeons and ascend, or will you fail as many have before you?
What did I think before playing Mortal Shell?
I have had my eyes on Mortal Shell for a long time, I have seen the reveal trailer and was looking forward to this game.
The graphics I saw in the trailers leading up to the release were amazing. I always keep an eye out for souls like games since they are one of my favorite genres.
I did not check on too many details about how the game worked but I did learn about the shell system. Learning that you could inhabit warriors that have passed away and use their powers sounded really cool to me.
I learned that Mortal Shell is in high demand and that getting a key for reviewing would be hard but nonetheless I decided to go for it. I literally did a dance of joy when I learned that the developers agreed on my coverage plan for reviewing Mortal Shell.
I played the game on the epic launcher since Mortal Shell releases later on Steam. I booted up the game and started the tutorial and ended up having a rough time with Mortal Shell.
There is a lot of background information and lore to find in the game, I will tell the main story that Mortal Shell has to tell you. The story in Mortal shell is really vague and it leads almost nowhere but your first goal is to reach the Fallgrim tower. Here your character (henceforth called Foundling) encounters most of the non-playable characters in Mortal Shell.
The Foundling finds the chained old prisoner and frees him from his chains by releasing the tarnished seal. This seal still holds some power that the Foundling can use. The old prisoner is still chained and asks the Foundling to gather the sacred glands but he thinks you will fail like all the others before you. Without hesitation, the Foundling sets out on his epic journey while getting killed many times but he does not give up! The Foundling finds a temple where many monsters are hiding but deep in the temple, the Foundling finds a dangerous monster called Imrod the unrepentant. After the Foundling has been defeated many times he finally succeeds in getting the sacred gland from Imrod the unrepentant and there is a weird mist with different creatures that try to take the sacred gland but the Foundling manages to get back to the old prisoner safely.
The old prisoner is very pleased and surprised that the Foundling has actually pulled it off but there are two more sacred glands to hunt down. The Foundling manages to find the abandoned chambers that lead into a large cave complex that is filled with ice.
There are many dangerous creatures that lurk around here including an enslaved creature that intends to eat the Foundling alive but the Foundling manages to defeat the enslaved creature. After delving deep into the cave complex the Foundling finds the guardian of the sacred gland, Tarsus the first martyr. The Foundling manages to defeat Tarsus the first martyr and claims the second sacred gland. It is a dangerous journey back to the old prisoner but the Foundling succeeds in bringing back the sacred gland.
There is only one sacred gland left to collect and it is in one of the most dangerous places in Fallgrim, The Eternal Narthex. Not only is this a dangerous place with puzzles but there are also a lot of traps that the Foundling needs to avoid. After the Foundling manages to open the Dim Gate, he will need to travel all the way up the tower. The tower is filled with dangerous souls that roam around but the Foundling will not let the dangerous souls stop him as he manages to reach the shifting archives where a lot of knowledge is stored. The foundling finds another guardian called, Crucix the twice-born. After defeating him the Foundling takes the sacred gland but now, he needs to take a dangerous journey back to the old prisoner as the road has been twisted and changed. The Foundling manages to get back to the Fallgrim Tower where he brings back the sacred gland to the old prisoner. The old prisoner uses the sacred glands to break free and disappears into a hole. The Foundling follows him down into the hole. The old prisoner has now become unchained, the unchained is not able to ascend and only sees darkness and realized that you are the one that needs to ascend. The unchained decides that if he cannot ascend no one will and he attacks the Foundling. After the Foundling defeats the unchained, he rips the fused glands out of the unchained. The Foundling uses the power of the glands to ascend to heaven.
An unknown amount of time passes and the Foundling finds himself once again in Fallgrim, the cycle is going to repeat itself again.
The most important part of Mortal Shell is the shells that you inhabit as they provide you with health points, stamina points, and resolve. All the shells also have different stats and skills. There are four different shells that you can inhabit and they are all scattered around the hub. The first shell can be found right after leaving the tutorial area. You will need to find and pick the shell that works for you, to gain more skills you will need to learn the name of your shell. Erebrim has a lot of max health points but very low stamina. Do you want to be a tanky and buff character you will need Erebrim but if you want a character that is fast and can stun-lock enemies you might need Tiel. He has insane high stamina to keep on attacking and dodging but barely any health points. You are going to need to figure out which shell you want to use before using tar and glimpses to gain new skills. What is tar? Tar is the currency that you will need to collect for learning new skills and purchasing items from the trader. The trader has a lovely cat that you can pet. Tar can be gained by using tar items or defeating enemies. When you switch a shell, you will keep all your tar. Glimpses are needed to glimpse into your shell and learn about his past to gain more power and you can also use items to gain these glimpses. Glimpses are bound to the shell that you had equipped when gaining a glimpse. To learn new abilities, you will need to talk to sister Genessa, you are going to need a lot of glimpses. When you have gained all skills sister Genessa will become a merchant where you can buy glimpses, this allows you to transfer glimpses to other shells.
All shells have the ability to use harden, the harden ability can be used while attacking or right before you are getting attacked. When you harden you will take no damage unless you are playing a new game+. You will need to use the harden ability to survive this though the world. When you are hardened and an enemy attacks you, they will be staggered, this creates an opening for attacking the enemy. Some enemies will be staggered less than others. When you harden when attacking your attack will continue when you have been attacked. Mastering this new technique is needed for winning in Mortal Shell. The harden ability has a short cooldown that you will need to keep in mind when fighting. After collecting the tarnished seal you will be able to use resolve to parry attacks and this is called an empowered riposte.
To parry an attack you will need to time your parry right, the animation in Mortal shell takes a bit longer so it is different than in other games. Some enemies are easier to parry than other enemies. You can only use the tarnished seal to parry when you have enough resolve. You can gain resolve by attacking enemies or using items. When you parry successfully you will restore some health points, this a good technique to use when you are almost out of health points and you see an enemy that you know that you can parry. If you do run out of health points it is not immediately game over, you have one more chance to get revenge. You will be thrown out of your shell and if you are fast or smart enough you can reclaim your shell and try again but after being defeated once your shell is cracked. When you die again you will be transported to the last sister Genessa that you interacted with. If you manage to get back to your shell you can regain your tar. You will never lose your glimpses when you die.
The world is small and it gave me a Legend of Zelda feeling with three major dungeons that need to be completed. In every dungeon, you can find a new weapon. You begin with the hallowed sword and you can unlock the smoldering mace, Martyr’s bade, and the hammer and chisel. For each weapon, you will need to fight a boss. You can start the boss fight by interacting with the book that is next to sister Genessa at the beginning of the dungeon. You will get a paper cut that hurts so much you will pass out and find yourself in another dimension where you need to face off with the boss. This boss called Harden can also use the harden ability and will use the weapon that you are trying to unlock. There is a secret weapon called the ballistazooka that you can unlock by repairing it in the tower of Fallgrim but you will need 8k tar to buy the tools at the trader. The ballistazooka cannot be upgraded and uses large bolts that can also be purchased at the trader. Other weapons can be upgraded with two artifacts that can be found in the same dungeon as where you have unlocked the weapon. These two artifacts will unlock new abilities for your weapon but you will need to use resolve for your weapon abilities. The weapons can be upgraded in the Fallgrim tower or the beginning of each major dungeon. You can find quenching acid to upgrade the weapon damage, the maximum amount is five quenching acid unless you are playing on new game+ then it is ten. Quenching acid and artifact upgrades are not shared. You can also upgrade your resolve gained and how much you will heal with parrying and these will be transferred to each weapon that you use. The best idea is to find out your favorite weapon after obtaining your favorite shell and then upgrade it with quenching acid.
Healing and items work very differently compared to other games, you won’t be able to switch weapons at the go immediately. You can only carry one shell and one weapon paired with the ballistazooka. When you rest at sister Genessa the enemies will reset but you won’t have potions or estus flasks in this game. You will need to eat either roasted rats or mushrooms that you find and when they run out you are out of luck. Mushrooms can be found all over the place and they will respawn after a certain time but which mushroom will heal you? You won’t have a clue what items will do until you use them, that is right you might try an item and it will poison or kill you! You will need to get familiar with items to learn what they do or increase their potential or decrease their downside. There are some secret items to heal you like the mango, there are a total of 78 different items. I highly advise to test out items when near sister Genessa or when you are low on tar. You will also find special items to switch shells on the go but these come with downsides until you are familiar enough with the items that are called effigies. You can also switch weapons on the go when you find special items but you won’t know which weapon until you are familiar with the items. The items for summoning weapons can only be found in secret chests that can only be opened when the mist is active. Don’t worry this mist will not have a heartbreaking ending like a certain movie from long ago. You can activate the mist after gaining the first sacred gland and also de-activate the mist but it will cost you one glimpse each time. When the mist is active there will be different creatures and also some mini-bosses that are walking around, this is a perfect place to farm some glimpses. Activate mist, Kill the two mini-bosses, and then de-activate and re-activate, this will make the mini-bosses come back. There are many more things to explore in Mortal Shell, like fast travel or finding lore.
The world may be small in this game but it is jam-packed with new mechanics in a Dark Souls-like world.
Sound and Graphics
The graphics in this game are wonderful, there are some clipping issues here and there or some surfaces that you slide off but the world looks great.
The world is not big but this game is more quality than quantity which in my opinion is usually better than a big empty world. The enemies are usually gathering around a camp which is realistic.
The animations look good as well, you will need to react quickly to things that are happening on the screen, for example, a monster of the mist jumping at you, if you fail he will take some bites out of you.
The sound is perfectly placed and the sound effects are good especially for the ballistazooka.
What did I think of Mortal Shell
When I started this game I was having a lot of trouble actually getting somewhere or finding shells. I kept dying and I did not know why or how this game worked.
I tried playing it like Dark Souls but nothing worked my parries did not succeed and dodging was hard. The enemies killed me easily and upgrading some skills did not work.
Bosses crushed me with ease and all enemies destroyed me. Exploring was impossible due to getting killed all the time. I did not understand all the game mechanics and I did not even manage to get a sacred gland.
I tried and I kept trying but nothing worked, it was 10 hours of failing and failing again. I took a break after this cursing the game and being angry at Mortal Shell. I was thinking about what I was doing wrong when it hit me. I have been playing the game completely wrong! Duh! I played it like Dark Souls which was a huge mistake. I completely switched my view and started to look at it as a new game. I tried to forget everything I did so far which was actually nothing.
I started learning the mechanics and found my perfect shell Erebrim and got the ballistazooka in no time and suddenly got my parries right and crushed the bosses for the sacred glands. In no time I had all skills and got the ornate mask.
I brought Imrod down with only getting hit once and got the sacred glands in no time at all. In about seven hours I managed to get all the skills for Erebrim, get the sacred glands, and beat the game. Of course, I made some mistakes here and there still, even when fighting normal enemies but suddenly the game turned to fun and I was cruising through it with ease. Learn from my mistake and don’t think it is just a Dark Souls clone because it is not.
The game is small and I would have loved it if there where more dungeons but the quality is great and there is even a secret ending, I won’t spoil but it is fun to achieve this secret ending.
My personal rating of this game is an 8.8
Pros and Cons
– Souls-like a game with unique mechanics.
– This is the perfect game to test your skills, the difficulty is high until the game clicks with you.
– The story is very vague which is good for a souls-like game.
– The familiarity system for items is very fun to explore with, suddenly dying when eating something is fun.
– The battle mechanics are smooth and very fast-paced.
– The developers use quality before quantity with the content it has created.
– The class system with shells works really well.
– The game looks a lot like Dark Souls.
– If you play this like Dark Souls there will be people who are going to rage quit.
– Switching back to your weapon from the ballistazooka feels very clunky.
If you are looking for a fun soul like a game with a high difficulty this is the game that you are looking for. I would recommend this game to people who are looking for a challenge but don’t expect a huge world with many intersecting sections. You will find a gorgeous small world with three major dungeons and many enemies that want to kill you.
I give this game a…drumroll…
Leave your own thoughts in the comments or leave your own rating.
You can buy the game on epic here https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/product/mortal-shell/home
I hope you liked reading this review, I hope to see you in the next review.