May 16, 2022

Mortal Shell Open Beta; Beyond Soulsborne

The new hotness in the ever-expanding list of SoulsBourne games might just be this devilishly good-looking title. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on Mortal Shell. (You can do so from behind your sofa, it’s okay with us).

Mortal Shell Open Beta

Souls‘ fans delight; the Mortal Shell Beta is open to all. With now over a year since FromSoft first teased Elden Ring (dare only to whisper the name lest the project disappears completely), and with no firm release date on the Demon Souls reboot, it seems our collective, insatiable appetite for digital masochism may be satisfied sooner than expected. And all this from just a handful of developers.

Beta now open for all

Mortal Shell opened its doors last week to an open Beta on PC for all interested. Described by developer Cold Symmetry as “an uncompromising Soulslike experience though a compact, single-player game”, with an initial playthrough taking between 15 to 20 hours. Ears suitable pricked.

But it’s not the first game to ride this renewed wave of love for challenging single-player action RPGs. “Soulsborne” has become something of a catchall. It spans experiences limited to 2D Metroidvania like the excellent Hollow Knight, to anime-inspired arcade fighters like Code Vein. Some hit the mark, but many fall short. It is both a compliment and something of a poisoned chalice. Holding games to the standard of Dark Souls is a high bar indeed. Understandably, few reach that rarefied air. Fewer still iterate beyond, improving on an almost flawless formula. Mortal Shell, it seems, may have done just that.

Demand for the beta has been overwhelming, by Cold Symmetry’s own admission;

“We expected demand but nothing like this. We really didn’t want so many people to feel left out. We’re delighted to open the beta for everyone on PC, starting now”.

Moving Beyond Soulsborne

It’s easy to see why. The level design and atmosphere are delightfully dilapidated, in true souls fashion. Combat carries real weight, cool downs on the weapons are brutal, particularly with the claymore, one of two starting weapons. Enemies are varied and equally decrepit, pushing the genre to almost horror levels at times. And it is absolutely beautiful, astounding to believe this came from a team of less than 20.

But what takes Mortal Shell beyond the Soulsborne label is the titular ability to change shell (class to you and me) seamlessly mid-battle. Teasing two shells in the beta, the play can switch between a balanced knight “Harros”, or the stamina focused rouge, “Tiel”. Each comes with a unique upgrade tree with abilities aligned to the play style you would expect of your typical strength and dex builds respectively.

Taking the Best From the Best

Further, Mortal Shell has adopted a Sekiro-esque extra life, with the player hit out of their shell on the first death, with a time-bound opportunity to re-entre their shell for another go with health fully restored. Estus is done away with, focusing on consumables and a riposte/health regain focus. No doubt this will be a divisive mechanic (think Bloodborne health vials), but one that will doubtlessly appeal to the hard-core among us.

Exciting too is the ability to “harden” your shell mid battle, effectively granting ultra poise and the ability to tank any incoming attack. Used well this could grand a moment of respite mid boss encounter breaking momentum and granting you a brief window to counter.

Overall these changes deliver something that goes beyond the usual rinse-and-repeat formula too many Soulsborne games are guilty of. Mortal Shell has taken the best of the best and combined them to create something enticingly different. Taking riposte mechanics of Bloodborne, Sekiro’s resurrect and the versatility of approach from Dark Souls, the sum is indeed greater than the parts. Colour us excited.

Launch details

Mortal Shell is set to launch on Epic Games Store later this year as a timed PC-exclusive priced £24.99. Console release is scheduled later, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One expected later in 2020. Steam release will follow finally in 2021.

Sources: Eurogamer & PCGamesn.com


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