What is Mortal Shell?

Mortal Shell is a deep action-RPG that tests your sanity and resilience in a shattered world. Your adversaries spare no mercy, with survival demanding superior awareness, precision, and instincts. Possess lost warriors, track down hidden sanctums of the devout, and face formidable foes. 

And well,… the Beta/Demo of it arrived not too long ago and it’s still live until the 10th of July! You can grab it overĀ here. It is an Epic Game temporary exlusive BUT the developer, Cold Symmetry, was at a critical stage of the development of the game and needed the financial support that Epic Games provided to them, so it should be understandable. Worst case, you’ll wait for the steam release and wishlist it over here. I have been excited about it ever since I saw the Trailer on April 1st this year… and yeah, I thought it was a joke as well… and luckily, I got a chance to play it!

Mortal Shell plays quite interestingly, in my opinion. The only souls-like I’ve played so far has been Dark Souls 3 and I don’t really have too much experience with the genre, especially as I just arrived at the Cathedral of the Deep… but Mortal Shell feels really different, in my opinion. Not only does it have some interesting mechanics like the Hardening-Mechanic that allows you to resist incoming blows by hardening your body, negating the damage of one hit or the Shell-Mechanic that essentially allows you to possess fallen warriors (aka Shells) and inherit their abilities. I also liked some other points so far but I first wanted to talk about the demo’s contents.

The demo features the tutorial as well as portions of two areas: The Fallgrim Outskirts, which is a rather open area with a few camps, smaller fry enemies and some stronger enemies, and the Abandoned Chamber, which is a bit of a narrow and maybe even claustrophobic area that features the first boss of the game! On top of that, you get to try out two different shells with a few abilities each (well, 10 in total but some are locked in the demo), as well as a few different enemies to fight and die to. Fun!

Shells are essentially fallen warriors who you possess and who each feature unique abilities. Your character is essentially the Foundling who is rather weak and can only harden its body. Hardening prevents the next attack from damaging you, though it leaves you in a frozen state and it goes on cooldown afterwards. I found it quite interesting that you can play around with this mechanic in a lot of ways like hardening in the mid of a devastating swing only to block an attack followed by your own slash! Your first Shell is Harros who feels incredibly sluggish and is more of a chunky knight. Your second one is Tiel who is really nimble and fast but features less health. Tiel feels like the right character for me to play, though I haven’t gotten to unlock him just yet. His abilities are centred around mobility and poison damage/resistances. When your shell dies, you slip out as the Foundling and can either fight on (though as a one-hit target) or slip into the Shell again for just another life. After that one, you get reset to your last checkpoint. 

And that gets us to something that I didn’t like: 

You don’t have those RPG-mechanics like levelling your character. Instead, you get these “characters” to play as aka Shells to possess and you get to customize your build/loadout instead. I ended up playing with Harros for quite a bit before eventually realising that he’s way too clunky and slow for me personally. It’s not based on your dexterity or whatever. It’s based on you being that specific character, right now.

The other thing is that I often felt as if I was too slow or too bad at the game. Dark Souls 3 is rather hard for me personally but it’s doable. Hollow Knight is really difficult, too, but I never feel like it’s too difficult or that it’s too hard for me. I always wanted to continue playing Dark Souls 3 or Hollow Knight (and yeah, I know, HK is not exactly a souls-like) but I never felt as if it was unfair. Mortal Shell doesn’t give me that feeling just yet, mainly since the swings of Harros are super slow and since I feel like the game expects me to learn how to parry… I personally just didn’t like it, as a Newbie to the Genre. And well, this is a Demo after all… I doubt anyone would really play much Harros after unlocking Tiel anyways. Maybe the game needs a bit of balancing in that regard or maybe I’ll just have to “gid gud”. 

But yeah, overall, I liked the game. Hardening and the Shells are interesting. You also can destroy the enemies’ morale by killing one of their allies, resulting in them seemingly cowering in fear and crawling away. I loved that about the game! And you also unlock more information and properties to some of the items the more you used them. Using an instrument a bunch of time improves your skill with it a bunch, resulting in you actually playing actual music! And when you get those parries and empowered attacks off, you also get to kill enemies in a really cool way with slow-motion and all of that goodness, which can be quite satisfying. 

I really feel like a lot of the game is great and I feel like I should like it more… but the sluggish Harros is just not my cup of tea. I’ll give him a shot again tomorrow night… Maybe I’ll have some better luck next time – and worst case: I’ll just wait for the full-release and watch other streamers play it so that I can enjoy it without feeling limited by our character’s Mortal Shell. 

And well, jokes aside (spot the joke): This game feels like more of a “hard-boiled Dark Fantasy Action Game with Souls-mechanics” to me and less like an RPG… which is a bit sad. I like collecting stuff in Dark Souls 3. I just unlocked a cool mage hat and I’m gonna wing it no matter what! And well, I hope stuff like that gets added to Mortal Shell, too. And if it doesn’t, then that’s fine. I just probably won’t play it.