Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition First Impressions

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Mortal Shell is a souls-like game developed by Cold Symmetry that hit the PS4, Xbox One, and PC last August with promises to scratch that familiar itch that From Software fans know all too well. Shortly after release, GBAtemp’s resident tech guy and super Souls fan @Tom Bombadildo had the opportunity to review the game and give his thoughts.
Only seven months after releasing the vanilla game, Cold Symmetry released a so called “enhanced edition” of Mortal Shell for the current (next?) generation of consoles as well as PC. Thankfully the upgrade to the Enhanced Edition is free if you already own the original title—provided the upgrade is within the same console family or PC. But a new upgrade so soon after release begs a big question… What’s new about this game? And is it worth your time? Well, let me give you my impressions.

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I am a big fan of Souls-like games, and for the most part this game did scratch that itch prior to playing through the PlayStation 5 version of Demon Souls. Like most games of this genre, the story is not spoon fed to you and requires you to explore on your own to figure out what exactly is going on in the world around you. You start off the game as a, well, it’s not very clear what you are at the beginning of the game. What’s important to know is that you have quite a bit of stamina and almost no health. It is at that point that you have two choices, you can enter the bodies of the deceased, otherwise known as “shells” in order to balance out your character and give you a fighting chance as you explore the strange world of Fallgrim and its temples; or you can opt to make the game difficult and play without ever acquiring a shell. Having taken both routes prior to writing this piece, I recommend playing the game first with using the shells and all materials at your disposal to see how difficult you find the game.

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Unfortunately, while this game is a rather decent Dark Souls clone, I found it to be a bit too easy. It is very easy to stunlock many enemies and the hitboxes are extremely large, with the I-frames being extremely generous. It is only when you play without any shells, meaning everything kills you in one hit, that you can see just how fun it is to take advantage of the game’s mechanics to succeed in your adventure.

Despite the ease of combat, I find that the majority of my struggle with the game was figuring out exactly what I was supposed to do. As I stated, the game doesn’t spoon feed you the plot but it also doesn’t indicate where to go. This meant that I ultimately had to resort to a walkthrough to find all of the collectables in my first playthrough and also to orient myself to where I was in the large world. Meanwhile there was an incessant and constant tolling of a bell coming out of my PlayStation 5 controller whenever the “Mist” was active around Fallgrim—so about half the game. Running around lost while hearing the constant ringing could have driven me to madness after a certain point. Further, you need to unlock every upgrade before acquiring unlimited fast travel, by which point you’ve likely nearly completed the game.

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With the cons aside, I really did enjoy the game mechanics. Combat is relatively simple, you can dodge, you can parry, and you can use strong or light attacks. In addition, there is a mechanic called “harden” where you can harden your body every few seconds to tank a hit from an enemy. By using this ability at strategic times you can get yourself out of very sticky situations. I enjoyed the simplicity of the combat mixed with the complexity of learning how to use it effectively. There's a learning curve, sure, but it doesn't take long to figure out that patience and dodging will help you survive most encounters.

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For the most part, I concur with my colleague’s opinion of the game as laid out in GBAtemp’s official review of the original edition of the game. So, let’s discuss the differences between the original and the enhanced edition. Well… There’s not much. Visually, the Enhanced Edition sports 4k resolution and enhanced textures. This resolution is paired with, yes, a stable 60 frames per second on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Further, the loading times are significantly faster in the Enhanced Edition of the game. Other than that though, I don’t believe much else has changed. Several game breaking exploits have been patched out of the Enhanced Edition of the game, so if you’re speed-running you might want to grab the original version of the game instead. Otherwise, if you have the $30 to spare, you can’t go wrong with picking up this version of Mortal Shell and giving it a shot.

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