⚔️ Mortal Shell | PS4 | Review | "A Tough Shell To Crack" ⚔️ @MortalShellGame #GameDev #IndieGames

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Mortal Shell came along for review at a very apt time. Only the weekend prior was I involved in a lengthy conversation about ‘Souls-Esque’ titles, where punishment and difficulty are built-in to the games themselves and pushed as a focal point.

Whilst I never clicked with the Dark Souls games, personally, my friend was telling me of a moment whereby, after two weeks of trying to defeat the final boss in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, he finally succeeded and, in his words, ‘fell to the floor on his back and clawed at the air with his limbs, whilst giggling...like a happy puppy’.

This level of dedication and perseverance isn’t really ingrained in me but I did appreciate and respect someone having that approach and ‘I can do this’ attitude to gaming.

I have previously reviewed the game The Surge 2, which I really enjoyed my time with, having found it more accessible than other games of that ilk and Mortal Shell carries on that feeling of being an approachable introduction to the genre as well as remaining challenging and interesting enough to players that are more familiar with what to expect.

Set in the doom-laden world of Fallgrim, you begin the game as a foundling, a frail, lost soul that can only really threaten the many enemies that you must defeat in your journey by inhabiting ‘shells’ that you come across.

There are four shells in total and each has their own strengths and weaknesses although you will always retain the usual combat moves (dodge, light and heavy attack, dash etc.) most interestingly, you have the ability to *ahem* ‘harden’. Hardening hugely raises your defence and can result in the staggering of enemies, a massive boon in battle which can allow precious moments for counter-attacks and the like.
I really like the setting of the game, although it’s not really anything that we haven’t seen before. ‘Dark’ and ‘fantasy’ are keywords here. As you move through the different areas, you’ll get wonderfully miserable, arcane items to help you such as rotten food, fractured masks and various other things that you need to become familiar with in order to get the most out of them.

I was a fan of moments whereby I could entice enemies towards me to pick off by sitting down and playing a gentle, lilting tune on a lute, it’s a blackly funny visual juxtaposition to sit there, replete in all-consuming, bulky armour and bobbing as you strum before getting to your feet and brutally hacking down the massive foes who are drawn to your playing. 

Visually, Cold Symmetry has really done well, especially considering that this is their first game. The foggy, ominous landscapes and cavernous dungeons are really atmospheric and inching your way around corners into open rooms always feels rich with tension.

Whilst the visuals and animations are smooth – the weight of the combat is almost palpable – I was most blown away by the sound design. I don’t think I’ve played such an epic-sounding game.
Booting open a chest, hearing certain characters talk and killing blows sometimes resulted in such cataclysmic bass out of my soundbar that I couldn’t help but smile. When a towering boss character leaps across an arena and slams down a club larger than your entire character into the place you just rolled away from, resulting in a sonic boom and clouds of dust, the sensory results really made me think “I do NOT want that to hit me on the head”

Mortal Shell is a really well-designed game and, whilst derivative of other, larger games, it throws enough of its own personality into the mix to shake things up slightly. Running at around 12-15 hours to complete (depending of course, on how often you die or how much you choose to explore), the level of punishment feels just the right side of fair.

Yes, the enemies respawn after each checkpoint and you lose your gained experience points upon death but you can usually push forwards or try another path in the often labyrinthine locations.
Whilst it may be more of the same to veterans of the genre, Mortal Shell is a solid and impressive entry from an indie studio that clearly has ability and talent.

The last thing I would say is that, if you DO play this game, definitely ensure that both motion blur and film grain are turned ‘on’ as it adds a huge amount to the ambience.

Right, I’m off to harden and entice some monsters with my lute.
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)

MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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