By now, I feel like we’ve all played a souls-like game before. The genre’s high-difficulty with death around every corner keeps us coming back for more, whether it’s to prove something to ourselves or because we just like being tortured. It’s an interesting concept that has found its way into many games, but it doesn’t always work out.
Luckily for developer Cold Symmetry, their newest game Mortal Shell builds on these challenging systems with a few unique mechanics. Still, it’s setting might hit a little too close to home with other entries in the genre.
Mortal Shell doesn’t waste too much time getting you into the action. After a brief tutorial, players face off against an overpowered opponent, and you are thrust into a dark world that you don’t belong in. The lore of the game is delivered through what is known as Mortal Shells. During gameplay, players have the ability to possess empty bodies of warriors and utilize their skills to take down the many enemies that await them.
Each shell has a backstory delivered as you level them up and expand on their abilities. They also act as a way to do away with regular classes and force players to utilize each shell’s strength. The stamina and weapons also vary between shells, but it’s possible to mix weapons between characters.
With the shells that we had access to in the beta, it’s clear that their is enough differentiation between the shells to warrant a character change. In later levels, I can see this being a massive factor in the trial and error approach to getting through alive or just something else to factor into the gameflow.
Mortal Shell seems to borrow many systems from other souls-like when it comes to combat. However, one unique addition is the Hardened state. This defense mode can block an enemy attack if used at the correct time. I didn’t understand the skill when I first started playing, but after a few hours, I adapted it into my move set, and it became just as essential as parrying or dodging.
Where I’d like to see Mortal Shell stand out more is in its level design. The environments are just way too similar to ones found in titles such as Bloodborne. The gothic scenery works well with the themes of the game, but I’d like to see what else these developers have and push themselves creatively to stand out if only to compliment their unique systems.
Still, I enjoyed the sense of exploration and discovery in each of the levels. Even if you end up at a dead-end, there’s usually something of interest that will help you later down the line. Healing items provide health over a period of time instead of right away, and certain items, along with upgradable character stats, can be purchased using Tar gained from downed enemies.
Mortal Shell frustrated the hell out of me, but I loved every second of it. The familiarity of the challenging gameplay mechanics is disrupted by the clever character class system and abilities. I’m looking forward to diving deeper into the lore of this world with the available shells, but mostly I’m eager to see the future environments that the developers have to offer.
Mortal Shell is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in Q3 2020.
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