It’s been a few weeks since the Mortal Shell open beta ended. I had meant to get in an article about my hands-on impressions, but I never found the time. But the thing is: I haven’t stopped thinking about my time with Mortal Shell.
I’ve always been a fan of the Souls series—but there have been only a few clones that have sated my thirst for the third person action mixed with risk vs. reward mechanics that the Souls series provides. The Surge series does it well, and games like Hollow Knight and Salt and Sanctuary bring the genre to the 2D perspective. Each of these games brings a unique twist on the mechanics, but the appeal is usually in the execution. Mortal Shell brings its own unique mechanics, and it tries very hard to be Dark Souls—and executed well, that’s not a bad thing.
When Mortal Shell went into open beta on the Epic Games Store I was skeptical of what it could bring to the sub-genre. While it doesn’t feel exactly like a bonafide Souls game, Mortal Shell has its own flavor of soulslike that is extremely satisfying. Attacks with the heavy sword feel hefty, and land with appropriate oomph while the smaller hammer and chisel feel fast, but still damaging.
In Mortal Shell you play as a being that hops between different mortal shells to fight. Each shell has its own characteristics, and even skill tree to put points into. Since this is a beta, not all of the skills were available, but the ones that were there were interesting enough—and hint at certain shells being better for certain areas or enemy types, which I’m basing from my memory of the open beta’s enemies.
Speaking of which, I found many horrifying things in my Souls series playthrough, and I’d argue that Bloodborne is borderline survival horror—but nothing in any of those games is as gruesomely horrifying as what is in Mortal Shell. I’m specifically thinking of that one enemy type that would attack you by pulling long knives out of its own body to toss at you, finally throwing its end in a poison gas explosion when it’s near death.
Harden is an interesting mechanic that is one of the other unique points to Mortal Shell. It’s like a shield, but you can do it mid-swing, and therefore mid-combo. If you midjudge an attack, you aren’t stuck taking a hit if you can hit harden fast enough.
Another quirk to Mortal Shell were the items. You don’t automatically know what everything that you pick up is , and you have to use it to get some information. Detailed information doesn’t show up until you’ve used the item a number of times. This adds a bit more “risk” to a sub-genre already full of risk vs reward scenarios, but it’s an amusing sort of risk. Of course, I’ll have to see how amused I am with it during a full playthrough.
If you hadn’t noticed, I’m pretty psyched for Mortal Shell. I won’t have to wait that much longer to get a hold of it, though, as it releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows in September.
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