Sunday, 30 August 2020


MORTAL SHELL Game overview

Dark Souls fans awaiting the release of Elden Ring (or at least news about it) have followed Mortal Shell with interest. A promising game that many were happy within its beta version would probably not have reached the same heights as From Software’s creations, but at least it seemed worthy of attention. And it looks great and the gameplay seems to be good - it's even surprising that a tiny team of 15 people was engaged in the development. However, the fewer people in the team, the less they can do, and this is one of the main problems of the novelty.

He's a monument!

The core of the gameplay here is the same as in Souls. We explore locations, bump into opponents who will knock us down with a couple of blows, and try to find a way to the goal. If the character died, we return to the beginning of the area and run to the place of death to pick up the lost currency. At the same time, opponents are also reborn, of course.

The main differences are related to the combat system. In particular, the main character never wears a shield, but he has a way to protect himself from blows - when you hold down the button on the controller, he simply turns into a stone statue. You can do this at any time: even during the roll, even before the attack, even after it - the hero instantly turns to stone and can remain in this state indefinitely until someone hits him. Most enemy attacks are interrupted in this case, and opponents can be immediately punished with a couple of attacks.

Petrification is restored within a few seconds after use, so that the player does not "spam", but he does not have to wait long. Other ways to avoid an attack are bounce and roll, accompanied by beautiful animation in which the character turns to stone for a split second. With these three skills, fights turn out to be dynamic, especially when you memorize the sequence of blows of each enemy and better understand when and what to use. In battles with strong opponents, for example, there is no point in turning into a statue right away - in this state you can restore stamina, which is desirable to do later when it was spent on several rolls and attacks.

The main thing is that the suit fits

The maximum amount of stamina depends on the shell in which the character is wearing. The fact is that the main character himself is a dystrophic squishy, dying from one blow. But he can move into the stronger bodies of dead warriors - the first is given just like that, and the other three will have to be looked for, following the clues in the tower (the central zone with an anvil, a merchant and a sister-healer selling passive skills). Switching between them is carried out either in the same tower or with the help of figures found in the world.

Shells are classes of sorts. Someone has a huge reserve of health, but quickly fizzles out, while someone else has the opposite - they can fight for a long time, but they will survive only a couple of blows. Passives also differ: with one shell, you can poison enemies with every blow after a kill, with the other, attacks will unbalance opponents more, and the minion shell is especially good for petrification lovers - with it, its recovery time is reduced, and stamina accumulates faster.

To acquire these skills, you need two currencies: containers and reflections. Both leave behind enemies, but the former is lost in case of death (they can be taken if you get to the corpse), and the latter falling out much less often, but they remain with the character forever. But it should be remembered that they are tied to the shells - whoever picked them up will have them.

"Suits" differ and the maximum number of cells of determination - this is another interesting element of the combat system. Many attacks of opponents can not only be blocked by petrification but parried with a separate button. You did it successfully - fill in the cell of determination. We did it with a filled cell and immediately after parrying hit the enemy - restore some of the health. It is not so easy to perform this technique - until you master it perfectly, you will lose more "lives" than you receive. But when everything is perfect, the accompanying sound effect never ceases to delight. By the way, the game warns about unblock able attacks with a red icon on the back of the hero so that you can have time to bounce.

The electricity has run out

Each shell has ten passive skills, which would be a big plus if the game didn't end before you fully pump the first one. Unfortunately, a team of 15 developers was unable to offer a large-scale game - it will be possible to see the final credits after eight hours. First, we are looking for a tower, from there we go in search of shells (which lie nearby), then we visit three temples with our bosses, we defeat the last major enemy ... and that's it, the end. You can start "New Game +" or stay in the old world, collecting uncollected, but there will be no more significant content.

It's a shame that Mortal Shellends at the moment when you just start to accelerate. Many of its elements become simply unnecessary because you do not have time to taste them. But there are a lot of interesting ideas - for example, objects found for the first time have no descriptions, and first, they must be used. After that, the process of "acquaintance" with the thing begins - apply it three, five, or ten times and you will begin to get a completely different effect. The mushrooms poisoning the character seem completely useless, but you can only find out their true purpose by tasting them. The same with spoiled food, moonshine, and much more.


But in my case, the game ended long before we studied the available things. Some ended up lying with a deadweight - either we didn't want to risk far from the checkpoint (there was a case when we summoned an unpumped weapon instead of my powerful one with one item and could not change it back - it was not very comfortable to fight the boss), or forgot about their existence from -for a heap of trash in the inventory. And the rarity of some trophies raises questions - there are those that you find once or twice per game, and the effect from them is weaker than from the more common ones.


The same thing happens with weapons. On the one hand, the game offers to change equipment at the beginning of each temple - there is always a statue at the entrance, and next to it lies the book that starts the test. Defeat an opponent armed with a blade, hammer, and chisel or mace (you don't have to suffer for the starting sword - it is given out just like that), and you can take the weapon for yourself - it will be saved in the tower.


The problem is that there is no point in exploring the temple with new equipment because it is not pumped. And all the resources necessary for pumping are hidden in the depths of the temple - either they are in the chests, or you need to climb somewhere - and they cannot be used without an anvil. Either run with all this goodness back to the beginning, and then return to the boss, or initially take your favorite weapon and use it.

Personally, we immediately liked the mace, and the whole game we tried to find successful combinations of blows and techniques with it, as a result, we got so good at that we won the last three bosses without restarting, and in the last temple did not die at all. The rest of the weapon turned out to be unnecessary - there was simply no need to switch to it. Perhaps, with more interesting bosses, the situation would have developed differently, but most of them have a rather meager set of techniques - with petrification and rolls, they can be defeated with any weapon.

We demand the continuation of the banquet

At the same time, we can't call Mortal Shell a bad game - a lot of work has been done for such a small team. Yes, the locations may seem dead, but all the temples are very different from each other visually. Yes, enemies are everywhere of similar archetypes: there are skinny ones, there are fat ones, and there are arrows. But they look different, and they attack too - someone attacks with two daggers, and someone brandishes a rusty sword or club (with different animations).

Attempts to reveal the universe are also there - the story itself leaves much to be desired, but the receipt of each passive ability is accompanied by a short story, and tablets with small texts are scattered around the world.

One of the "achievements" suggests going through the whole game without using shells at all. That is, to run after the squishy without passive bonuses and try not to receive damage in fights with bosses. You can try your hand, but hardly anyone would call it additional content - just unnecessary entertainment, not for everyone.

Mortal Shell is one of those games that deserves a rating between "Walker" and "Commendable". It is better than some of the Dark Souls clones, but at the same time, we would not put it on a par with some Code Vein or even Remnant: From the Ashes. A solid game that is too short and looks more like a starter before something big and ambitious.

Pros: various locations with unique (for the most part) opponents; an interesting idea with petrification allows you to fight more aggressively; shells with characteristics and passive skills for every taste.

Cons: because of the very short duration, you do not have time to pump even one shell, let alone the rest; there are not enough bosses, and those that exist have a meager and predictable set of techniques; long downloads on PS4 when moving from one area to another; the plot will surprise you with nothing.

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