The Dark Souls series has become a legendary part of the gaming world. All of the titles in this series are frequently referred to as the most difficult games ever. And, that might be very close to the truth. They are indeed very difficult, especially the first time you get around playing them, but the experience at the end is rewarding and well worth it. This is probably why so many developers got the inspiration from Dark Souls. In fact, Dark Souls might have inspired an entire genre. Mortal Shell is definitely part of that genre.
Since I am an avid fan of anything released by FromSoftware (developers of DS series), I also love to try any other souls-like games. In these last three or four years, I saw the release of dozens of different titles that tried to achieve or mimic that “Souls” experience. Unfortunately, it seems like achieving that is not easy. I slowly lost interest in new releases of this genre, but it seemed like Mortal Shell did offer something unique this time around.
So, I decided that it is time to get back into the genre and try it out. If you are also contemplating whether Mortal Shell is a worthy purchase, I hope that this article will help you finalize your decision.
Unique and smooth souls-like gameplay
Whenever I start up a game that is part of this new and exciting genre, the first thing I want to feel is smooth and satisfying gameplay. Of course, every AAA title should provide such smoothness, but that is certainly not the case. So many indie and AAA titles these days leave the feel of the gameplay very unenthusiastic and sluggish.
Well, that was not the case with Mortal Shell. This title comes from a developer that I have first heard of called Cold Symmetry. As far as I can see, this is their first project. But, even though it is their first project, they managed to make quite a release.
The first thing I said to myself when I pressed play was: “Wow, this feels so much like Dark Souls”. That is usually a very good sign and indeed, my premonition was on point. With the first few steps I made in the first few attacks, I knew that I was going to enjoy playing through this entire game.
Every attack I made and step I took felt so significant and rewarding. Every attack I managed to land on the enemy felt satisfying. This is what I am always looking for when going through the souls-like genre and I imagine that is what everyone else wants.
Not so smooth controls
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my entire play through this new release, I still had some very frustrating moments related to the controls. In a videogame where death is such a big risk and takes away so much from you, the controls need to be as perfect as possible. This is where Dark Souls shines. Of course, even FromSoftware is not perfect, but they have managed to optimize the controls to the next level. Every mistake you make is because you pressed the wrong button and not because the PC got the wrong command. Basically, it should be your fault instead of the videogame.
Unfortunately, that is not always true for Mortal Shell. I do not know whether my issues were a specific bug or an omission by the developers. Whatever it is, I still think it is worthy of mentioning.
On several occasions, I had the trouble of attacking. In other words, whenever I pressed the attack button, nothing would happen. The character just stood there and accepted the attacks from my enemies. This also happened when I tried to dodging or hardening (unique feature).
However, again, it might just be a bug with my computer or a mistake that they can fix in a future patch or update.
Mortal Shell’s story doesn’t deliver
Usually, video games in this genre are not very focused on the story. This is also true for Mortal Shell. There are some simple and few explanations about what is going around in the world you have entered, but it is all a bit vague. Although, that is not necessarily bad and I did like that.
What makes this story more interesting is the fact that you start out as an unknown character without any kind of unique features. At first, you are weak. But, with the ability to possess different empty vessels of deceased warriors, you start to get stronger. These vessels are referred to as shells. Currently, there are four different shells that give you a unique playstyle.
You can change through these different shells any time you want, practically changing your gameplay experience with them.
Beautiful but confusing map
Again, I have to mention Dark Souls as a good example. I would mention some other titles for comparison, but there is no other. It is the best in the genre and it still is.
FromSoftware has always managed to design a map that is elaborate, complex, confusing, and intuitive at the same time. I know, it does seem strange to put confusing and intuitive in one sentence, but it is true. Once you start to understand their way of design, you start to figure out how to handle the map. The pathways become clear and you cannot get lost because every location is unique in its own way.
Mortal Shell does provide quite a beautiful map that is a blast to explore, but it quickly gets very confusing. I do not think this is user error because I do have a lot of experience with them map exploration.
When I first started out, it is quite clear where I could go and where was. But, as soon as I progressed a little bit more into the story, things got very tangled. Wherever I went, it seemed like I was already there even though I have not been there. Every wall looks the same, every enemy looks the same and I felt like I was going circles.
Although, I do not believe this will be a huge problem for most people that already have experience in this genre. But, it may be troublesome for those that have not played a title like this before.
Performance and graphics
The entire videogame is built on the Unreal Engine 4. I do not see a reason to delve deeper into this subject because the graphics look quite good and the performance is solid. It is not anything groundbreaking, but it is good enough to make your gameplay experience a little bit more interesting.
Keep in mind, I am using an AMD Radeon 5700XT and had well over 100 FPS throughout the entire map. Even though, Unreal Engine does not always go well with AMD GPUs.
Considering the fact that this is the first project by Cold Symmetry, it is quite impressive just how much fun I had while fighting against all those different enemies. Sure, I did have some problems with the controls and it was not exactly clear where my next destination was, but overall, it was a good experience.
For the lovers of Dark Souls, I heavily recommend it. For those that are not familiar with souls-like titles, I would recommend doing a little bit more research before you buy.