I haven’t played all of the “soulslike” games, but I have played a few of them. I always wanted to do like them, but struggled to get into them. Mortal Shell was no different, at least at first. After persevering for a while, I started to get into it. Big time!
It follows the same basic formula, which makes sense considering how heavily inspired by Dark Souls the developers were. It has a similar setting (with dark and eerie vibes), the same basic combat system and has a habit of giving you very little information, with the information you do receive being incredibly cryptic.
Like most of the soulslike titles, this cryptic information is what put me off at first. Don’t get me wrong, I like to think and be challenged. I hate it when a game holds my hands and won’t let me experience the game for myself.
I loved how in Mortal Shell, I didn’t know what any of the items did until I used them. That was a really cool and logical addition. What annoyed me was the lack of information in regards to leveling up. I was collecting “tar” and “glimpses”, but I had no clue what this stuff was and the game made no effort to tell me.
Every time I wanted to level up, the game told me I needed to learn the name of my suit first. I kept using glimpses, as their description stated that they could help me learn more about my suit. Eventually, I figured out I needed to speak to “Sister Genessa” and give her “x” amount of tar, which would then unlock my suits name, in turn unlocking the skill tree. To me it felt like it could have just told me how to level up. Especially considering that you might not come across Sister Genessa for a while.
I also missed having a map to work with. I liked the minimal HUD, but it would have been handy to have a map in the menu system that I could look at. Even if most of it was blank, until I visited the area to unlock it. It would have been nice to know where I have and haven’t been, or even how to look up alternative ways to my destination.
Another thing that really, really annoyed me (perhaps more than anything) was the inability to pause the game. Even if you are in the menu system, the game continues on, you just can’t see it. I don’t understand why you can’t pause a single player game. Do the developers not have children? Do they not now what it’s like to be in the middle of a tough fight, only to lose at the finish line because your damn daughter ran in front of the tv?
(Fortunately, I found a work around for this. Photo Mode pauses everything, and can be quickly accessed by holding the pause button. Mwa ha ha.)
Once I got past what I annoyed me, I started to get into the game. And, the more I played it, the more I learned about it. It was less daunting from that point. I found all of the shells (which are the games different armour suits, proving different builds), weapons and a bunch of other cool stuff I could use.
From this point, I breezed through the game in about 10 hours. I remember encountering a boss in my first hour or two and getting absolutely annihilated. I thought I would never be able to beat them, especially considering this was the easy boss of the game. After I was comfortable with the mechanics though, I beat all of the bosses with relative ease. Of the bosses I encountered (I think I came across 6?), I only died 2-3 times.
I was actually a little bummed to finish the game. The good news is, Mortal Shell offers a new game plus mode. After defeating the final boss, you can start all over again, keeping all of your knowledge, skills and upgrades.
You can also try and play the game without using a shell, which is very, very hard. I’m currently attempting that. It’s equal parts amusing and frustrating. I’m not sure how I will go yet, but I suspect it gets easier once you get the hang of it.
I’ve also got all the collectibles to find, other suits to level up and potentially hidden counters to come across (the ones I’ve found have been great, like Gorm and Baghdad). I’ve also got the DLC that I could pick up, if I ever have another $10 to spare.
If you want a little bit of a challenge, or a throwback to the earlier days of video games, I can recommend checking this game out. Once you get past the steep learning curve, it actually gets relatively easy. It also offers a decent amount of replayability.
However, if you don’t have the patience to be frustrated and annoyed for a few hours, or value an in depth storyline, I’d probably give this one a miss.
Still, it’s a pretty reasonably priced game, especially if you pick it up on sale (like me!). It’s made me determined to go back and try some other games I threw in the towel with, like Bloodborne. I wonder how far I’ll get with a little bit of patience.