Mortal Shell Review
Developer: Cold Symmetry
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PlayStation 4
Age Rating: Pegi 16
Release Date: 18/08/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Trying On A Mortal Shell
I’ve never been much of a glutton for punishment. And I’ve never really had the time or patience for try, die and repeat gameplay. I’ll admit, I barely got out of central Yharnam during my time playing Bloodbourne. When I saw Mortal Shell I thought, it’s time to “git gud” and see what this game has to offer.
You play as a skinless grey Foundling. It looks like something you’d expect to find in one of H R Gieger’s sketchbooks. As a Foundling, you have the ability to harden at will; turning yourself into an immovable mass of solid stone. This handy trick allows you to block enemy attacks, set up powerful attacks, and even save you from fall damage. You’ll be using this power loads during Mortal Shell, so get to grips with it as fast as possible.
The Foundling can also inhabit one of four mortal shells; the dead bodies of fallen men, granting you the abilities and characteristics of each. You basically wear these poor dead chumps like a raincoat and can swap them out whenever you please. If you get beaten to near-death while inhabiting a shell, your Foundling form gets forcibly ejected from the shell, giving you a short period to scamper back inside before death.
Each shell has a varying health bar, a stamina bar, and a number of resolve bars, giving them all different playstyles and attributes. They all have ten ability upgrades to unlock, three of which are the same for all four shells. I made finding all four shells my first priority in this open world game. I was looking for the speedy low health shell I knew must be somewhere among the corpses.
Finding The Right Mortal Shell For You
The first shell you encounter is Harros the Vassal. He’s a good all rounder and the perfect shell to get to grips with the mechanics of the game and start exploring the wonderfully detailed environments of Mortal Shell. Harros’s abilities lean towards improved hardening skill and generating extra in-game currency.
Solomon the Scholar is a shell focused towards resolve abilities and parrying: he has the highest resolve bar, an average health bar but below average stamina. Solomon’s abilities lean towards resolve powers and improving the rate of resolve generation. This is a great end of game shell when you have the game’s parrying mechanics totally nailed.
Eredrim the Venerable is a tank character; with a vast health bar but very little stamina or resolve. Eredrim is a tricky shell to master in a game as unforgiving as Mortal Shell. But when you do, he hits harder than anyone else. His abilities ramp up Eredrim’s attack power even more, making him a powerhouse of slow single attacks.
Tiel the Acolyte was the shell I had been searching for. A speedy rogue character with stamina for days but little health or resolve, just the corpse I needed for cutting through Mortal Shell’s many deadly foes. Tiel’s abilities grant him the power to poison his enemies, regain health from being poisoned, and adds some minor performance buffs.
A Weapon For Everyone
Now that I had my shell of choice I needed a good weapon to wield. Mortal Shell has four to choose from: the Hallowed Sword, the Smoldering Mace, the Martyr’s Blade and the Hammer and Chisel. You acquire the Hallowed Sword during the game’s tutorial; it is a fairly standard sized sword with average speed and reach, a good starting weapon. It’s upgraded form allows you to shoot a mechanical or molten spike from its hilt for devastatingly high damage. The Hallowed Sword was working pretty well for me but I like options, so I went looking for the other three weapons to add to my inventory.
The Smoldering Mace is a hefty bit of kit, vastly long but hugely slow and cumbersome, probably my least favoured weapon in the game. It can cover your foes in flame and cause a blast of fiery fury though, so there’s that.
The Martyr’s Blade is also a handful, being a six foot long two handed sword, but is faster and more agile than the Smoldering Mace. Upgrading this giant letter opener grants it with frost power, bringing a real chill to the bones of your enemies. I love the sheer absurdity of this weapon.
My favourite weapon is by far the Hammer and Chisel; they are the fastest and most agile, capable of chaining together multiple attacks, and just look cool as hell. Upgrading them enables a powerful area of effect attack and a hilarious range attack that sees you launching the Chisel through the air with the Hammer.
Now The Journey Starts
Finally, I had my shell and weapon of choice, it was time to actually play the game. Mortal Shell has a wonderfully detailed interlocking world. Every area branches off the central hub location known as Fallgrim. Imprisoned in some ruins in this central area is some sort of giant bird thing. This odd prisoner asks for your help in retrieving a number of artifacts from three temples in the far corners of this dark and deadly world. This is about as much plot as the game really offers.
That’s not to say the game isn’t detailed, it most certainly is! The world itself is rich and polished to a high shine, there is plenty of lore and backstory to find but none of it is just handed to you. If you want to know about this world, you need to go out and find out for yourself.
Even picking up items is a journey of discovery in Mortal Shell; as you have to use each one to uncover its effect. Using items a number of times unlocks further benefits and information about them. There are over 75 items to find: a mix of consumable items, unlimited use items, upgrade parts/equipment, experience, and currency.
Consumable items range from boiled frogs, roasted rats, and freaky fungus to pages of scripture, spectral token’s and creepy effigies. All these consumables have varying effects that can help turn the tide of battle. Unlimited items are used to call forth weapons and fast travel back to Fallgrim.
Making Ends Meet
There are two main currencies in Mortal Shell; Tar and Glimpses. The first is “little more than a remnant of Nektar” and Nektar is “the gift of the Revered, a fraction of their transcendent nature made manifest”, sounds tasty doesn’t it? Tar is extracted from slain enemies and various sources around the world of Fallgrim.
Glimpses can be harvested from defeated enemies and found throughout the game but with less frequency than Tar. Glimpses give insight into the life of your shell and can be used to upgrade its abilities. All the Glimpses have distinct names and meaning behind them such as Glimpse of Wisdom and Glimpse of Courage. My favorite, is the Glimpse of Annihilation, “Anguished screams emanate from within this glimpse’s burning core. Faces of the dead form in the haze of smoke and ash that pours forth. In time, their faces look more and more like that of the beholder”.
Mortal Shell is crawling with dangers big and small; 7 foot tall axe swinging locals and poisonous frogs hopping around your feet. You soon get to grips cutting these foes down one at a time, then the numbers creep up and sneaky ambush tactics come out the bag, suddenly you’re surrounded and being cut down yourself.
Temples, Bosses, And A Mortal Shell
As you explore the three temples in the dark corners of Fallgrim, Shrine of Ash, Crypt of Martyrs, and Seat of Infinity, you encounter new and even deadlier enemies. These temples are the real meat of the game. There’s some great enemies and locations within. I loved the Slave of Scorn, a walking pincushion of swords who will pull out the impaled weaponry and turn it on you. This baddie has a trick up its sleeve when at low health, cleaving off their own head and hurling it at you as a poisonous (and rather yucky) bomb.
At the end of each temple lies a fearsome boss: Tarsus the First Martyr, Imrod the Unrepentant, and Crucix the Twiceborn. The path to each is not easy, with the Seat of Infinity giving me the most frustration and deaths along the way. I spent a long time wandering around twisting columns of rock looking for Crucix the Twiceborn, but when I found him it was worth the search.
Personally, the real sadness of this game is its length. By the time I fell in love with it, it was already over. Sure there is a new game+ and even a super hard black obsidian mode that challenges you to complete the game without a shell. But I think that’s beyond my capabilities, I’ll doubt I’ll ever rise to that challenge, will you?
Rapid Reviews Rating
You Can Purchase Mortal Shell On The PlayStation Store