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Mortal Shell open beta, our thoughts on this new entry into the Soulslike genre

Available now on the Epic Games Store.

Mortal Shell
Credit: Playstack / Cold Symmetry

Mortal Shell is the upcoming Soulslike game from PlayStack and Cold Symmetry. The open beta is live now and can be accessed via the Epic Games Store. This was initially planned as a closed beta but due to overwhelming demand, it became public, giving us all a chance to get our hands on some of the early content from the game.

I’ve played through the beta and things are looking very promising given that the release date of the full game is sometime in Q3 2020. Before we get into the detail of the game there’s one thing to get out of the way. Yes, it’s a lot like Dark Souls, the level of difficulty is punishing, there is little to guidance on what to do and you’ll be ready to through your PC out of the window in frustration.

Watch the Mortal Shell announcement trailer below:

The beta starts off with a brief tutorial showing you the basics of the control system. Here you will also learn the first thing that stands out in Mortal Shell and that is the harden ability. Using this allows you to create a hardened shell around your character which can deflect enemy attacks. This results in you taking zero damage from most attacks and can also stagger your opponent giving you an opening to attack. You can use harden at any time, even when attacking, making it a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. The cooldown is also quite generous. At first, I thought this might make things a bit too easy but boy was I wrong, if you come to rely on harden rather than mixing up your combat style then you’ll be worm food very quickly.

After the tutorial, you’ll be thrown into the game proper. As you stroll down a hill you’ll come across two mobs sitting around a campfire, one is playing the lute. It all looks very peaceful, that is until you get too close, they produce weapons and try to take your head off. This is also where you’ll probably get your first taste of the bear traps that are littering the ground. You’ll attempt a dodge only to get caught in a trap and battered to pieces.

Mortal Shell

Credit: Cold Symmetry / PlayStack

The levels on offer include an open area with lots of meandering tracks with lots of surprises around each corner including more bear traps, crossbow-wielding enemies and increasingly tougher mobs to take on. There is also a hidden mini-boss in the first level but I shall let you discover that on your own. (There is a video below showing some of my gameplay which includes the mini-boss so be warned if you want to discover this for yourself).

The second level on offer is set underground in a complex of crypts. The enemies here are very different from the ones above ground, they are much faster and deal poison damage too. My favourite enemy down here is a thing that pulls swords from its own body to either throw at you or enter into close quarters. It’s my favourite as when it nears death it decides to rip its own goddam head off to throw at you!

Within the crypts, you’ll meet an NPC where you can unlock new skills for your shells, find the second shell in the game, upgrade your weapons and also take on the first real Boss.

Mortal Shell

Credit: Cold Symmetry / PlayStack

On the subject of shells, you’ll come across two in the beta. You start off using Harros, he’s a heavily armoured knight with a big sword. He moves pretty slowly and has a higher health pool than the other shell on offer. For those who like things a little faster Tiel might be more to your taste. You’ll discover Tiel in the crypts and he’s much faster on his feet especially once you’ve weapons more suited to his style.

When you die within the game you will be thrown from your shell and will have a very small chance of getting back into it to continue fighting. Out of your shell, you take on a nondescript form that can only take one hit. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s best to retrieve your shell, change to a different one or just accept the fact that you’ve cocked up and you’re going to die.

As you would expect from this sort of game if you lose your shell you’ll also lose all of the currency you had on you at the time. Once again you need to weigh up the risks of retrieving this or leaving it to rot.

The combat is punishing and you’ll definitely need to practice to become successful. If you just want to button bash you’ll be dead very quickly. To make the most of your abilities you’ll need to master the parry ability, which if done correctly will open up powerful counter attacks with the ability to heal you.

Mortal Shell

Credit: Cold Symmetry / PlayStack

Graphically things are ok, I didn’t come across many bugs ( I got the odd crash but that’s to be expected with such an early build) and each area felt very distinct from the other. The soundscape, however, is where the game truly shined. Whether it’s the detail of a discordant lute being kicked around whilst you fight to the truly stress-inducing soundtrack to the boss fights, the sound engineers have got things nailed. I recommend playing with a headset to get the best experience.

Overall, the Mortal Shell beta was fantastic. Apart from the odd crash, I have little to nothing to complain about other than my complete and utter lack of skill! In the video below you can watch parts of my playthrough. Be warned, if you find strong language offensive then don’t watch it. Mortal Shell will certainly bring every profanity you know to the fore as you die over and over!

The Mortal Shell open beta is available from the Epic Games Store.

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