Development teams for modern games often include dozens, if not hundreds of people. One of the really attractive things about Mortal Shell was that it had been developed by a team of fifteen people, some of which worked on the game remotely. Cold Symmetry, founded in 2017 by a core team of four, is best known for its debut title Mortal Shell. The studio is composed of AAA veterans with a strong passion for making games of their own. Mortal Shell is an Action RPG that draws heavily on the mechanics of games like Dark Souls. Combat is brutal and deliberate. Mistakes are punished harshly. Every enemy has the potential to be lethal.
I am a Dark Souls veteran, having devoted thousands of hours to the series. When my editor reached out to me with the offer to review this game I was absolutely giddy. I am something of a glutton for punishment when it comes to difficult games. I live to conquer those seemingly unbeatable adversaries. Mortal Shell did not disappoint in this aspect. Combat in Mortal Shell is easy to learn, but difficult to master. I found myself dying quite a bit to some of the early enemies while growing accustomed to some of the new mechanics introduced in the game. Such as being able to harden yourself to avoid damage, as well as provide a method of delivering damage through what would otherwise be lethal combinations from enemies.
Like Dark Souls, you are not railroaded into any specific story line or narrative. After a short tutorial period in the first few minutes of the game, the world of Mortal Souls is yours to explore. There are little bits of lore sprinkled throughout the game by way of flavor text on items, NPC dialogue, and lore items you can find in the environment. You learn that you are something of a lost soul who has been sent to a purgatory of sort. Not quite heaven, nor is it hell. It is inhabited by many other creatures, some inherently hostile, some not. Your body resembles a human without skin, and is equally fragile. Any enemy which hits you, will kill you. Which is where Shells come into play.
A shell is the body of a warrior who is long dead, however, using your innate powers, you are able to possess the shell and use it for your own purposes. There are four shells in the game at the moment, each offers advantages and disadvantages over the others that have to be unlocked using Tar and Glimpses. Tar is roughly the equivalent to Souls in the Dark Souls game and are obtained by defeating enemy creatures.. Glimpses are items that drop occasionally from defeated enemies. Both Tar and Souls can also be obtained by using consumable items which you will pick up on your journeys. Each shell unlocks powers by spending souls and glimpses when speaking to Sester Genessa, whom is also an NPC that serves as a checkpoint throughout the game as. Weapons can be improved via items that unlock special powers, increase damage, or modify the parry/riposte system.The first shell is unlocked shortly after starting the game, as is the first weapon, a sword. The remaining three shells, and three weapons must be acquired by finding them throughout the world as you explore and survive.
When “wearing” a shell, you are given a small reprieve in combat if you are defeated. When your health is depleted you will be thrown out of your shell and have the opportunity to return to it and continue the fight. Should you lose all of your health again however, you will be sent back to Sester Genessa. The option to play the game without a shell is available, but is extremely difficult. Doing so will unlock an achievement and is required for those of you who are seeking the “platinum” the game. One of the small joys I found in combat is using the Ballistazooka. I will let you find out about that on your own however. Combat revolves around knowing the attack patterns and abilities of your enemies and effectively countering them. Aggressive can be effective in short spurts, but will usually end up with a death. Smooth, calculated strategy will take you far.
I was very impressed with the environment of the game. From the swampy forests to the mind bending obsidian fortress and beyond. It is clear that great care and detail was put into the look and feel of the game. All of the character models are wonderfully detailed and the soundtrack helps to create a truly immersive experience. You are even able to contribute with the use of the lute in game. Also, everyone should take the time to live the life of a brigand at least once. While combat is solid, there is a huge amount of lore to unlock and explore, perhaps the only thing I am disappointed with on finishing my first play through is the length of the game. I was able to clear the story in just under sixteen hours. I am sure that there are things i can come back to and find or unlock, however, I feel like there wasn’t a whole lot of actual game play. This is a great game, well worth the price tag, which comes in at about half of what most new games cost. I am hoping that we will get some major content releases in the future.
Currently the game does not feature any multiplayer functionality. The developers have stated that they wanted to focus on the single player experience. Overall I rate this game four out of five stars. I am waiting with baited breath to hope for some DLC material to expand on the promising setting that Cold Symmetry has brought to us.