Mortal Shell is a work that could perfectly be a spin-off of the Dark Souls franchise. Instead of modifying or giving a twist to the basic mechanics, what this new video game does is precisely change everything that surrounds the basic mechanics. In this way, Mortal Shell becomes a tribute to the Souls franchise that, being in essence really similar to the FromSoftware games, manages to differentiate itself and have its own soul.
The combat, the movement, the inventory, the layout of the world... it's all pretty much straight out of Dark Souls and it all works, thankfully, in a surprisingly good way. The combat is slow and difficult but fair and satisfying; the weapons are sufficiently varied; the objects we find really help us on our way ... Mortal Shell is quite a copy of Dark Souls as far as its playable core is concerned; and I do not say this as something derogatory, quite the opposite. The video game is capable of having that essence of an affordable but difficult challenge, that mystery that surrounds all the enemies and recesses of the map; that Dark Souls feel that so many millions of players have fallen in love with over the years.
Mortal Shell, as I said before, is committed to modifying not the playable core, but what surrounds it, the extra layers that in FromSoftware's works provide depth and make a difference. And he does it with surprising affection and care. Mortal Shell includes some mechanics such as containers (a kind of living armor that gives us certain characteristics) or infinite objects (objects that we find on the map and that reappear after a certain time) that serve to turn the essence of Dark Souls into something more accessible. It does not do it so much by lowering the difficulty of the challenge but by being friendlier with the player, allowing more mistakes and giving second chances more frequently.
Despite the good work of Mortal Shell in most of its sections, there are some details that show that it is not a FromSoftware game but a work made by just 15 people. The camera is the main one but that we can put the video game, since the fixation of the enemies does not work especially well but it is not comfortable to fight without said fixation. On the other hand, the map, although quite open, really simply puts a path within our grasp, as most secondary routes are nothing more than areas to return to later when we have acquired new skills.
All this means that, although Mortal Shell has a high quality, the playable section is weighed down at certain times and, although the game offers numerous second chances and a much less aggressive treatment than the Dark Souls saga, frustration can appear without too many complications.
A new story
The world of Mortal Shell is one of the main attractions of the work. Although Souls-like is usually entered for its playability, the truth is that Mortal Shell is capable of putting on the table a universe and a narrative that stand out above its competitors (and in some aspects even above its own). Dark Souls). Mortal Shell bets, in the narrative, for a simplification compared to the works of FromSoftware.
While the play still has a rather cryptic story, the underlying discourse in Mortal Shell reveals itself more easily than in Dark Souls. Mortal Shell comes to talk about the futility of life, to be a kind of stoic essay in which life has no meaning and we are simply part of the video game to move on without anger, envy, jealousy or frustration.
This speech, together with a dark universe full of lore, makes Mortal Shell become a narrative reference within the so-called Souls-like. A work that, although its history remains cryptic, is capable of revealing much beyond the surface and leaves with a marked and quality discourse.
Halfway between indie and triple A
As for the more technical, Mortal Shell is a work that we could define as a double A. Not so much because it is a medium-budget production but because it mixes elements of the independent scene and the AAA industry. Technically, the game lacks higher production values and both the modeling and the animations reveal that, despite its similarities with the Souls franchise, there is not the same money behind it.
However, the artistic section is capable of making up for any technical deficiency. From the detailed environments to the character design, everything is taken care of to the millimeter to, on the one hand, make the video game enter through the eyes; and on the other hand make everything marry exceptionally well. Like the pieces of a puzzle, all the sections of Mortal Shell fit together so that the video game is constituted as a whole, with its own theme and aesthetic.
As for the duration of the video game, we find a work of a caliber much lower than Dark Souls. But it is not necessarily bad. And is that Mortal Shell is not long, but not short. The video game explores its proposals over a little more than a dozen hours in which different environments and enemies are displayed. It does not get to cause a feeling of repetition nor does it leave us with the feeling that development has been cut in half due to lack of budget. Mortal Shell has a duration that fits perfectly with its proposal and leaves us with a great taste in the mouth.
What I think of the game after playing
Mortal Shell is a love letter to Dark Souls. A video game that pays homage to the FromSoftware franchise by accepting that the essence of Dark Souls, whether or not it constitutes a genre, is unsurpassed in its own way. From there, and adopting the core of FromSoftware's works, it builds around it an experience that is capable of adapting the essence of Souls with some changes that make the video game a more accessible product, that offers more second chances and that It will allow entry to all those who Dark Souls is too uphill.
It is true that it has flaws, especially in the technical section, which show a lack of budget and production values compared to other Souls-like. But Mortal Shell seems to be the one who has best understood this supposed genre. The only one who has taken a real leap forward in the narrative and the only one who has understood that it is not necessary to change the playable core of Dark Souls to be different from it.