Mortal Shell published by Playstack and developed by Cold Symmetry is an action, role-playing video game that really gives me mixed emotions as I’ve said countless times before “I’m not a fan of Dark Soul type games”. This game literally beat the crap out of me mentally making my hate grow towards it yet oddly secretly loving it. It was quite an abusive relationship, but let’s read on.
Starting the game as an empty vessel in a tutorial like dreamspace, I quickly learned the basics dodge, light attack, heavy attack, lock on and the sweet and essential ability ‘harden’, that turns you to stone when used strategically a game changer. Upon completing this short section, my empty vessel enters a dark, foggy, twisted world and asked to do the bidding of the character ”Dark Father”. You are soon tasked with travelling the tattered landscapes while tracking down hidden sanctums and their followers, where you will encounter numerous grunts, warriors, poisonous frogs, mini bosses (god they made me rage) and fearsome ultimate foes that will take all your skill and might. Come out victories and the spoils will be yours with defeated enemies dropping sacred glands to harvest. These are used to upgrade skill trees or purchase wares and goods from merchants such as the intriguing Vlas and his adorable cat.
Dying, which I done a lot of, (to the point of channeling my inner Stace rage) made me want to throw my controller and if it wasn’t luckily wired it would of been flung across my room. I died so much it was to the point of where I’d be resurrected mocking the character Sister Genessa myself; the gamplay learning curve is that steep. (“I have kept your flesh safe foundling’’ again and again).
Gameplay is so challenging I started becoming like Russell Crowe in a ‘Beautiful Mind’, analyzing every detail trying to figure out the best route for a plan of attack to avoid dying. As a result, this means going back to the scarcely positioned checkpoints while also respawning all enemies. At times, it really tested my sanity and resilience but I never gave up, often retiring to bed when I could barely keep my eyes open, that need to inch my self further across the map almost maniacal.
When your vessel enters the torn and twisted world you’ll encounter the first of 4, empty shells which your character is able to possess, each with their own advantages/disadvantages. Below are their stats:
Harros The Vassal
An armored shell that provides a good balance between defense and attack.
- Durability: 5/10
- Stamina: 5/10
- Resolve: 5/10
(Reminded me of Skeletor, also my favourite)
- Durability: 3/10
- Stamina: 10/10
- Resolve: 2/10
Solomon The Scholar
- Durability: 7/10
- Stamina: 5/10
- Resolve: 10/10
Eredrim The Venrable
- Durability: 10/10
- Stamina: 3/10
- Resolve: 3/10
Surprisingly, the controls were a breeze to pick up, though some buttons like (LB) parry and (X) kick will only work once you find the parry item, or unlock kick from the skill tree. Even the menus were simple to navigate and figure out which fortunately didn’t add to the rising anger I was already usually experiencing.
Playing this on the Xbox One S was a real treat it as it looked downright amazing, down to the enemies armour to a frog resting on a stick. One area I entered had enormous bats hanging from branches of trees which was a treat but also made me wary of getting to close since everything in this game is a trap. I loved exploring the forest particularly. Making my way around, getting lost quite a few times, it wasn’t a bad thing, I was in awe at how crisp but also eerie it was.
The environmental sounds such as swamps, waterfall, creaking dilapidated towers were all very atmospheric. The audio of footsteps, howls, screams, and whizzing of arrows past my face had me always alert. Always testing my sanity as it felt like I was being snuck up on forcing my character to do a 180, just as nervouslyas I was. I never felt safe but I was loving it. Kudos to the sound department on a quality production.
My only real flaw in Mortal Shell is the exclusion of a map. Not even on screen just one in the inventory. As much as I enjoyed being lost, dying meant I was too sure as to where or how I got there or how to get back to retrieve my shell. Picking up items is 50/50 as you’re never sure what anything does until you use it, as I insisted on eating a toadstool I inadvertently poisoned myself, though eating more cleverly built up an immunity to poison. There was even a drink I tried which knocked my vessel out of it’s shell, luckily there was no enemies around. Even getting into fights was difficult especially without the parry forcing you to dodge unless your remember to use the sweet harden skill turning to stone for one attack move. Having more than three enemies at once though really is a game of patience, pattern learning and strategy… definitely for a very calm gamer.
All in all, despite my countless frustrated Stace rage (Editor note: I resent the 2nd reference in the same review ) moments, I did enjoy this (it’s become a bit of a guilty pleasure) as I’m sure fans of Dark Souls like games will too and probably get even more enjoyment. They’ve really made the game do what they said it would; tests your sanity and resilience in a shattered world over and over again. I’m still not a fan of these repeat and learn, heavy hitting games but I’m a fan of this game. Like a dirty little secret this will sure to be staying on my hard drive, so until next time peace foundlings.
- Tests your sanity and resilience
- Shells (Skeletor)
- Getting hard In battle
- Solid combat
- Played a lute like a boss
- No map
- Tests your sanity and resilience