Mortal Shell Open Beta
Mortal Shell is an upcoming Souls-like from developer Cold Symmetry. Recently the beta was opened to the public. From July 4th to July 13th players had a peek into a random segment of the game. Instantly the game reminded me of Dark Souls in both aesthetic and gameplay.
I know, every game recently seems to be presented as “Dark Souls meets Care Bears” or whatever nonsense people say, but believe me when I say this game is an evolution of the genre. New mechanics and concepts make the game feel like so much more than another copy. I believe Mortal Shell will push the genre to new places, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full release.
What was in the Beta?
Included in the open beta were a tutorial area and two overworld maps. The tutorial stuck out to me because it was much more forgiving than I expected. Mortal Shell’s tutorial aims to ensure the player understands combat and basic mechanics before they brave the brutal outer world. There were a few small enemies present with various outfits and weapons that altered their attack patterns.
Capping off the beta was an epic boss battle with Enslaved Grisha, a massive shackled beast with blades for arms. Numerous items could be found all over the map, and they introduced a new and exciting item discovery system.
The Evolution of a Genre
Shells are what the game calls their abilities, but they are so much more than that. The hollow suits of armor also function as talent trees and character stats. These Shells that the player inhabits are where Mortal Shell begins to separate itself from similar titles. Rather than a single character with stats like Strength and Intelligence, each Shell has a unique skill tree that benefits that armor’s specific playstyle. From what I could tell, there will be at least four shells, if not more, for players to find throughout the game. In the beta, there were two Shells available.
The first gave players the ability Harden, which would see the player turn to stone and take no damage from the next incoming attack. Resembling a Knight in a full suit of armour, this same Shell also had much more health than stamina. Collecting Tar, the game’s form of experience allows for Shells to be upgraded.
The skill trees for each Shell are based around knowledge of the armours’ former owners. Finding the name of each unlocks the ability to upgrade them. Midway into the beta players find the second Shell, whose appearance is that of a rogue, more so than a knight. The slender second Shell features an abundant amount of stamina, but at the cost of overall health. Changing Shells changes playstyle, and it will add tremendous depth to the game as it goes on.
My Favorite Things
Small things like the item discovery system may seem insignificant. I think long term these minor details will turn into the most exciting aspects of the game. Each time a player uses an item, they gain a point of Familiarity with the said item. Each level of Familiarity with an item reveals more about them and occasionally will grant additional effects when using it next. Using items like this creates a multitude of mechanics for players to deal with, do you try an item at the wrong time and kill yourself? What if you’re in a boss fight and the object teleports you to a checkpoint resetting your progress? Item familiarity concepts add tension to an already stressful experience, and I love it.
I have to mention as well, the Shells’ functions in combat are top-notch. Not only do the Suits of armour grant stat changes, but they add a rare mechanic I haven’t seen in years. The best way to describe it is Sonic’s rings, hear me out. When you drop to Zero health in Mortal Shell, you are kicked out of your armour and have one more hit you can absorb before dying. If players manage to make it back to their Shell before being hit, they get an entirely new health bar to work with, just like Sonic and his rings. This also means players can enter a fight with one Shell and recover back into a different one mid-battle, or whenever they need it.
My Final Thoughts
My first impression of Mortal Shell when I saw the trailer months ago was that it was just another Souls-like game. I was wrong; the game is so much more. Mortal Shell appears to be the evolution of the genre. New abilities and concepts for character progression bring extreme depth into the game and shift players’ focus to more than just boss fights. The art design is familiar, but I feel the further players get into the game, the more it will vary. Pre-beta, this game was not on my radar, now it’s one of my most anticipated games for this year.
P.S. Here’s a bonus GIF of me petting a cat in-game. 10/10
For more information on Mortal Shell, visit the game’s website here.