Oh no! Not another Souls-like! Haven’t we had enough of them now? Well like you dear reader, I was getting burned out by the amount of games that seem to really just want to be Dark Souls, but not as good. Mortal Shell though, engaged me but not without a bit of effort.
If you want a review from someone who is an expert in these type of games, you have come to the wrong place. I’ll be telling you about it from the view of someone who likes the idea of Dark Souls, but never gets very far.
It is weird, I can’t say why I struggle to get into each title. It isn’t the death, as I love me a rogue-like. In fact I would say that is my preferred genre of the moment. It isn’t the difficulty either, as I like that these games are built around that. No, I think it is down to how my brain works and Mortal Shell finally made that clear.
So listen, Mortal Shell is an excellent game and you should go out and buy it if you enjoy a souls-like. It is easily top-tier in the genre and so very worth of your time as it ticks all the right boxes and has enough ideas of its own that we aren’t simply looking at a clone.
The opening areas of Mortal Shell are designed to move you through a learning process as quickly as possible and send you on your journey. Learning the controls is easy, but does take a few moments to get used to. You then discover just how under-powered you will be early on. I went in to the first little area, killed an enemy with ease but then got struck down within seconds.
Yep, I am going to have to learn enemy patterns and react to them, no way I can go in flailing around. You are some kind of knight in the way the game frames you and I have to admit, taking that into consideration is vital to early progression.
Everything has a weight to it, which means any missed attack or even mistimed swing of a weapon will leave you exposed. Purely because the weight means you carry a momentum with every action. However the same applies to enemies, fend off an attack and you can hit them back and even with a flurry of attacks.
You also need to consider positioning, as I found myself swinging at nothing way to many times during the early game. The lock-on is your friend here. Where many games will reward you for taking on group battles, it is vital in Mortal Shell that you create separation. You must draw out an enemy from a group to stand a chance of downing them. Thankfully you can also use environmental traps to aid with this.
However, I came close to binning the game a few times early on, as I felt too under-powered for too long and felt I was not making any progression or learning anything at the same time. Something that Dark Souls and Bloodborne are masters of.
I talk about this because the balancing of the game just needs a tweak to make the early experience one you want to play more of, whereas it feels like too much of a chore that doesn’t want you to play any further. Which is a shame, because at the umpteenth attempt I made progression and the game opens up wonderfully.
There is so much to discover, about nearly every facet of the game. Armour that effects your movement, weapons that can become brutal and a world that is both dank and somehow beautiful as the same time. I reached a point when I wanted to just go further and further.
I am not writing a review based on a finished playthrough here. If I was you might get it in 2022, because I am not quick at these games. This is from the point of view of someone who has barely scratched the surface, but can happily tell you that beyond a woeful opening, there is a damned good game behind the hardened shell (sorry).
Mortal Shell isn’t going to be a Souls Killer or anything like that and is just a pretender to the crown, but of the many I have attempted, this is one that I want to play more of and at least deserves to be mentioned as a viable follow up should you have finished all of From Software’s offerings.