Mortal Shell is Cold Symmetry’s debut game, which, according to the official site, is made up of “F95zone“. What exactly these AAA people did, where and on what projects they worked is not disclosed, so it is worth taking Mortal Shell as an indie game from nameless enthusiasts, that is, judging it from the position of an indie debut. Blank board, impartial attitude.
Even before the release, the project was compared to hits from Software . There is a line between inspiration and epigony, and Mortal Shell crossed that line. The game bluntly quotes the Dark Souls series , but ineptly, because it desperately lacks balance, budget and sometimes banal variety. The developers of this action RPG focused on intricate storytelling through hints, a mysterious and violent world, as well as learning about the environment through reading descriptions of objects and locations. Okay, we don’t mind, but why did you have to copy so literally and openly?
In terms of gameplay, Cold Symmetry’s debut is most similar to the very first Dark Souls . See for yourself: there is no fast movement between points on the map. The corpses have a simple ragdoll- physics, and they can try to play an impromptu “football”. The first class of the character, the Knight Garros, he hellishly reminds us of Oscar from Astora. Instead of a huge raven, the character is transported between locations by a chthonic giant fish. Etc.
Mortal Shell is leisurely, compact and feels like an amateur project, the authors of which really wanted to make a “new Dark Souls “, but lacked either the funds or the talent. You can complete the game in about 15 hours, but there is less real content here – our journey was stretched due to backtracking and the need to go through each location at least twice. Let us explain: every time you need to reach the finish line of a location and kill a boss, you take an artifact from a fallen monster, with which you must walk to your impromptu “base” in the same way.
On top of that, there are few locations, so all these landscapes will quickly displease you. In general, the authors of Mortal Shell really like the number 4 – perhaps because of this, almost everything in the game comes down to this number. There are only four large-scale locations, four types of weapons and four character classes. However, Cold Symmetry has prepared an interesting interpretation for everything – you can switch between the bodies of the heroes, choosing skills for each specific situation or enemy. Weapons are pumped using special quest items that are hidden in the hidden corners of this inhospitable world. Locations are transformed after killing the boss, a “fog” descends on them, thanks to which the route is modified, and the enemies become stronger like Boku no Pico.
The hero has two types of currency. Resin, which matches souls from another famous series and is awarded for killing monsters and using special items, as well as Glimpses, which correspond to insights from Bloodborne and are given for killing bosses, especially difficult enemies and using elixirs. Unlike DS , the hero has no stats, but all his skills are acquired in exchange for resin and glimmer combinations. Well, improvements for weapons are bought from a merchant or dropped from the bodies of especially dangerous monsters.
There are a lot of problems in that pre-release version of Mortal Shell , for which I spent a good couple of dozen hours. Some of the bosses are elementary and do not throw players any challenge, while the final boss is almost worse than the legendary Midir the Dark Eater. Enemies are sometimes loaded with a delay and appear in front of the protagonist from the air. AI always rushes ahead, falling into its own traps or falling into the abyss before reaching the player. The authors try to hide the bad level design with huge locations, in which enemies and points of interest are placed without much logic.
As you progress through, it genuinely surprises how far the authors are ready to go in “quoting” the classics – Mortal Shell has its own analogue of a palace hanging in the sky, and the main character, being undead, is addicted to the corresponding food in the form of boiled toads, fried rats and several varieties fly agaric. And although the usual estus is not enough even for the finale, it is proposed to drink special nectar instead. Do you remember the huge monkey from Sekiro , which comes to life after death, grabs its severed head in its paws and starts fighting with a vengeance and a new streak of health? The Mortal Shell there is, thereby creating a feeling that the authors tried to take a little from each successful game the From Software .
The most annoying thing is that the authors tried to do everything as “HuniePop 2“, much did not work out, but glimpses of a good game still sometimes happen. Mortal Shell is ruining the dependence on the primary source, the obvious secondary nature of the game, expressed in the willingness to copy someone else’s formula for success, right down to the font on the menu and other characteristic features of Souls games. Of course, you cannot pet a cat or play the lute in Dark Souls , as in Mortal Shell , but even now the remaster of the first part of DS , for a minute, a game from 9 years ago, is played more vigorously and more exciting than the 2020 project from Cold Symmetry … Nonetheless, Mortal Shell would do well as a gentle introduction to games likeSouls-like is a kind of ” Dark Souls for dummies” both in terms of difficulty and in terms of the duration of the game.