Mortal Shell - Invictus Reincarnationem (Game Review)
Publisher: Thunder Lotus
Developer: Thunder Lotus
Platform: XB1, PC, PS4
So here's another soulsclone, a clone that pays as a homage while trying out a lot of neat different things. Things that actually do work out. While donning the exoskeleton of a Dark Souls game, Mortal Shell does manufacture its own identity and in the fringe, manage to get me invested in some ways. Even with its vague plot and obvious mysticism, it can still leave quite a hook.
Created by a team of 4 people and published by a UK company, Mortal Shell didn't get the publicity like Surge 2 and Sekiro obviously did, neither is it as content heavy as those games. It rather breaks the mold instead. It's good to see this game drawing humble inspiration finding its own footing and managing to deliver impeccably.
The game has me interested in ways and maybe due to that, I can't help but be drawn to it. It is a great facsimile of Dark Souls yet has more twisted ideas about being something a bit more, albeit less dark as well with some light tone here and there. But I don't want to get ahead of myself, I'd be remiss If I didn't mention some of the flaws and technical issues around the game.
Right at the very beginning, you play as a husk. A fledgling without a name looking for something to occupy, a body of once with essence within now cast asunder into this broken, macabre yet mysterious world. Your very goal is to don these vessels and fight against various foes until you've killed the 4 bosses staying in each different levels as their keepsake.
So, that is actually your main goal. Find all 4 vessels, find 4 (besides the one you get from the start) of the weapons lost and start fighting all the 4 main bosses till you've unlocked the final boss. Weird how it all sounds.
There's a lot of spooky, ominous vibes to get here. Nothing as unsettling as any other horror games or souls like have done but the details are pretty subtle. That, paying enough attention you could literally have you shivering. It's wet yet beautifully sinewy exterior and griming atmosphere creates a bit tension while you are continuously trekking into the unknown.
There's a story, just not something that is straightforward and coherent right away. Lot of hidden clues and limericks here and there, there's even the spooky Sister Genessa, of whom you'll speak often as not only she acts as your checkpoint but also unlock all the earlier abilities of the shells.
Mortal Shells has its spook factor, while it's obviously splicing stuff aesthetic and atmosphere wise from Medievalism, Victorian with some Mesopotamian Obsidian obsession thrown in and some cinch of Geigr with the foundlings look. It obviously borrows ideas and has a lot going. Underneath it all, not much to unpack but certainly like a well pasted layers of cream on one stack of cake after the other.
Mortal Shell is a game about trial and fury, how much you can master the art of your weaponry and dish out damage like no tomorrow. While you might feel invisible dodging and weaving back and forth against your foes, there's still a lot to unpack and uncover within the game, mostly while exploration.
At first, you start in the jungle with your first husk. Having no idea what to do and where to do, the game makes it very confusing to start so you explore the murky, labyrinthian forest, find so much of the same kind of enemy types waiting for you. But once you manage to make it to the main keep, you find out all your main goals which I'll admit took me awhile to get there since I thought this was the place where I'll fight a boss.
In there, you meet Sister Genessa, she will be your guide and checkpoint saving marker just in case you die. She's also someone who lets you unlock all the latent abilities of your shells. If which you'll need both Tar and Glimpses to spend. The latter is difficult to find as it can be anywhere from enemy drops to item pickups in areas as you explore them. Glimpses obtained stays within each shell, meaning if you've gathered some packs of it, save it up for the other shells you'd want to upgrade. There's even a merchant above the keep that'll give you consumables as well as some parts needed for you to improve your weaponry. I should mention more about the items you use since using them repeatedly grants you more of its stats or provide something more unique once familiarized, there's more but I'll leave at that.
Speaking of upgrades, you do get to upgrade your arsenal as well. You'll need few specific resources for it, though easily obtainable by defeating some bosses lurking around the jungle areas like Grisha and such. But some from just exploring the new areas you discover from the labyrinth jungle.
Combat is pretty swift and varied. You have your normal and heavy attacks, and can use them to set different combos as well. But one interesting mechanics is the ability to harden, this is something that stays in cooldown every 3-4 seconds but once you said, enemies hitting you will stagger. It's a neat mechanic to use for tricking the predictable A.I into traps for extra damage or helping you stay alive from near death situations. You also have parry, where successfully you prompt an attack that also sucks life out and gives you health. Different weapons you use also have special abilities. Both will cost resolve, how much you have depends on the shells you use.
Each shell in particular has different attributes, abilities and such. One in general is useful for exploration around the jungle while the others are good for the other levels connected from it. Though, you can play whoever you want based on your playstyle preferences.
There are four different levels you explore throughout the game, each has their own boss protecting it. Defeating them all unlocks the final boss and defeating it means you won the game.
To unlock the 3 other weapons, you need to fight Hadern, defeating him will you grant you each weapons but you have to find him in each of the 4 levels you discover at first.
Mortal Shell is a game that is very fined tuned to different playstyles, dual weapons are fast and do more damage especially for the Acolyte shell with more stamina. Or the Venerable with more health stats to outlast from more attacks. I'll also say this, this game once you're really familiarized can be kind of easy. Yet I was still invested thanks to different enemy types coming to and from. Learning their different movesets, experimenting with my weapons and abilities, new items retrieved, farming. For a game that has just 10hrs worth of level to explore, you can do a lot that'll take over 20hrs to get there. Though the early levels is where I kept getting lost and it failed to least give me solid hints enough in right amount of time. But yet I feel like it's the Surge 2 all over again except there's something quite unique.
At the highest settings possible, this game is quite the looker. Not even Dark Souls can pull off that Obsidian sweet look, just teeming with luscious dark wet veneer. In fact, everything in this game looks a bit rinsed, varies based on location. Except for the high castle which has two much light poured onto it. Again, this is a UE4 game. So it manages to ooze itself with its aesthetics creeping in almost every section. Got also good lighting, animation, gloom, post-processing and ambient occlusion. Though, there isn't much to change in setting so mostly what you see is what you'll get.
Voice acting is pretty good actually, am surprised a game of this budget managed to do something like this. It's pretty interesting how they pulled it off. The sound design is bunch of clanks and swords clashing, flesh tearing. Yeah it's medieval up in here. But the hauntingly intense music really makes you feel hollow inside.
Overall, good stuff. Really. But it can be pretty buggy sometimes, you'll also get stuck in trees. Be wary of that. I've even had hardening stopped working for some reason.
This isn't the best Souls like, nor does it do anything better than most of them. It tries and for the most part it succeeds. This is also well priced in Epic Games store as well as retail console pricing.
I liked it, good stuff.