Mortal Shell is a Dark Souls-esque combat and exploration oriented game set in a mysterious and dark fairy tale land. The game really doesn’t hold your hand at all and just drops you into the world, free to explore every nook and cranny and fight every enemy.
One of the things that sets the game apart from others in the same genre is the concept of shells. By possessing bodies, you gain access to the shell’s armor set and are able to upgrade abilities using Tar (short for Nektar), the game’s upgrade currency. In order to access the upgrades though, you must go on a quest to find out the name of the shell. The shells are also unique in that once you take fatal damage, you will be ejected from your shell in a vulnerable state where any single hit will kill you. However, you are able to re-enter your shell at full health if you can finesse your way back into it.
Another unique feature is the ability to harden your own body. It’s basically the same as a shield mechanic except you can only use it once before it needs to cool down and you can use it while attacking. Being able to use it mid attack makes harden quite versatile and useful for many combat situations.
The game also has a surprising amount of lore in the background of the game. You’ll be able to find many quest items and collectables, as well as meet interesting npcs, like the giant toad gentleman, Gorf, and the fancy merchant Vlas. Much like most things in the game, Mortal Shell doesn’t hold your hand for anything and leaves it up to you whether you explore enough to find out these interesting tidbits. The first time I played, I managed to skip the first section entirely and accidentally made my way to a harder zone. Doing so leaves me without the ability to parry.
Overall, Mortal Shell is a well made combat exploration game. It handles quite well and the difficulty level isn’t too frustrating. The game does a great job of telegraphing most attack patterns and gives you enough time and feedback to adjust so you can defeat the enemy and move on to the next area in a reasonable amount of time. The lore and npcs add enough to give the world of Mortal Shell it’s own character as well. It’s a fascinating and delightful package. It felt like an old school video game where you are free to play the way you want, when you want, with no artificial progress treadmills that you have to grind to proceed.