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Mortal Shell

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: PlayStack
Developer: Cold Symmetry
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2020

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Mortal Shell'

by Chris Barnes on July 20, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Mortal Shell is a ruthless and deep action-RPG that tests your sanity and resilience in a shattered world.

Plenty of games have taken inspiration from From Software titles in recent years, including Ashen, Nioh, and The Surge. None have so unabashedly imitated the formula, feeling, and style of the Dark Souls series as much as Cold Symmetry's new game, Mortal Shell. I've learned to love the Dark Souls franchise over the years, so in theory, Mortal Shell should catch my interest as well.

In Mortal Shell, players watch a morbid, skeletal figure rise from a pool of water with little context as to who the character is or what's happened in the world. This persistent, intentional lack of information strikes true throughout the entire beta. The menus, with gothic, ornate bordering, obfuscate the purpose of the various items in the game world. Cold Symmetry added an item familiarity meter, so as you use an item more, your familiarity with that item grows, and you learn more details about its uses and applications. This is a welcome addition to the impenetrable nature of these games. Titles like Sekiro drove me away with their punishing game design; unlike other games in the bonfire genre, Sekiro made it impossible to fumble through with sheer force of will. In Mortal Shell, I can continually spam an item to determine its uses if I haven't already intuited it from prior applications.

Games within this genre are often defined by their rewarding combat and equally brutal enemies, and the combat system in Mortal Shell scratches a level of intrigue that other games do not. A major mechanic involves leveraging the character's ability to encapsulate in stone for a brief period of time. This can be enacted at any moment (if your cooldown meter is ready), allowing you to create some interesting tweaks to sword combos to register hits. Moreover, it serves as a great "get out of jail free card" when you're incapable of dodging an incoming enemy attack due to lack of stamina.

An important aspect within combat-heavy games is the enemy design. Who wants to fight three similar enemy types over and over again? On this front, Mortal Shell does an adequate job of keeping the monsters fresh and compelling. Crazed villagers serve as the basic fodder throughout the opening levels, but Cold Symmetry has sprinkled in a handful of other monsters to keep you on your toes. Some can launch themselves at you from across the room and rip flesh from your neck. Others slash wildly at you with giant sword limbs that take the place of their arms. One of my favorites is an armored corpse that's been pierced by numerous swords, and it'll gladly throw a sword at you and replace it by removing another from his chest. These same enemies will even rip off their heads and throw them at you, ending their lives early and robbing you of a glorious finishing blow.

After playing the Mortal Shell beta, I'm looking forward to seeing how this iteration of battling brutally difficult, gothic-inspired corpse monsters will deliver when the full game comes out later this year.

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