For some reason, Mortal Shell passed me by when it first released. It looked like another dark and gloomy game at the time. And while I knew it wasn’t trying to be 100% a Souls-type game, I couldn’t help but think of it as such from its marketing. The distinction between the two wasn’t enough to make me think of it as anything else other than a Soul-alike. Now that I’ve got my hands on the game for Switch, I can finally find out how the game plays and if it’s worth your time picking it up on Switch.
Mortal Shell is a deep action-RPG that tests your sanity and resilience in a shattered world. Your adversaries spare no mercy, with survival demanding superior awareness, precision, and instincts. Possess lost warriors, track down hidden sanctums of the devout, and face formidable foes.
For the first time, Mortal Shell: Complete Edition brings together all content updates and DLC into one formidable package.
Included in Mortal Shell: Complete Edition is the game-altering Virtuous Cycle expansion – an entirely new roguelike mode that brings random and repeatable savagery to Fallgrim.
Also present is Hadern, once your elusive teacher, now yours to master as Mortal Shell’s fifth possessable and playable character.
Mortal Shell: Complete Edition also features the Rotten Autumn content update, which adds unique Shell shades, a new mini-quest, a powerful new photo mode, and an alternative boss fight soundtrack from black metal band Rotting Christ.
Pros & Cons:
- Visual Filters. There are only two filters in the game, unless more are unlocked at the end. But in the beginning, for sure, there are only two of them. There is one called “Indie” and I detest this. I can’t imagine it was added to the Switch release only, but what it does makes you think of an Indie game on the Switch. It basically turns the graphics that are halfway decent into pixels and jagged edges. It’s the same concept as if you were to take a great looking game and then draped a lace curtain over your TV screen. You can still see what’s going on, but it’s a massive distraction. The filter that I liked was the other one, film grain. In fact, I recommend it and I recommend leaving it on. It makes the game look better by obscuring the blemishes of the game. I’m uncertain if this was also specific to the Switch to make you want to round off the edges, but it works.
- DLC. There is a DLC pack included in this game, and surprisingly I didn’t have to download something separate or do an update to get it. With this complete edition, you’ll find things like camera mode and other little bits and bobs. Nothing that really changes or enhances the gameplay. But once you have done certain things within the main game, you can then gain access to the DLC. The DLC content is vaguely titled ‘The Virtuous Cycle’. This content adds rogue-like features to the game. You’ll still fight bosses and go through the entire game. However, with The Virtuous Cycle, the baddies are random. You’re also enhanced with abilities and traits that are not in the main game. For some, this may be the best way to play the game, but you first have to tolerate the game as it was designed.
- Load Times. They’re long and they’re bad. I’m sure that this was just a straight port, but it feels like it’s running from a disc still. The game tries to mitigate the issue by having one long load initially. So, you’d better not die in this game otherwise you’ll have little to make you want to get back in the game by the 3rd or 4th time you have to wait for a reload. The good thing about a modern console is being able to put it to sleep and wake it up. So if you’re playing on the Switch, you can press a button to just let it go to sleep. However, if the Switch dies or if you power it off, you will have to sit through the long initial loading screen again. But yeah, go ahead and try to avoid death.
- Text. This stuff is itty bitty. Had I known that I wouldn’t have asked to review it for Switch, but here we are. What’s worse is that I reviewed it on my Switch Lite since I take it on the go. My primary Switch stays docked at home for play on the big screen. So, yeah, I could read that just fine. You can change the subtitles to be large and increase the HUD and UI, so in all fairness, it makes the game more tolerable. But it is still very small compared to other games on the Switch.
- Framerate & Gameplay. I honestly cannot tell what the frame rate is for this game, but by playing it I’m able to discern several things. First off, the frames drop a lot and the top end feels playable. However, you don’t really live in the top end. There is no constant frame rate in this game, it’s very dependent on what is happening and how many elements are on screen at the time. So the beginning of the game teaches you how to fight, but that is out the window later on. As you progress, the game seems to feel more sluggish as the visual elements increase on your journey and so does the number of baddies. That doesn’t make this game unbeatable, and I’m guessing that that was the assignment given to the developers porting it.
I’m sure this title is more suited to a docked Switch experience, but if you are playing on a TV, it shouldn’t be through the Switch. The great thing about this game is that, compared to a From Software title, it’s short. This game will take you 10 hours to play through the base gameplay. If you care about side missions it’s a couple of hours longer and if you want everything it’s 20 hours. I think if you buy this on Switch, you’ll be happy if you just play the base game.
- Souls. Yes, it’s definitely what I thought it was based on the marketing. The game itself even starts the same way as the games it sets out it emulate. You wake up, you don’t know who you are or what you’re doing. You have to examine elements with text and such to get inclinations as to the story. And then, the gameplay features a lot of poking and dodging. This is all viewed from a third-person camera, so it all looks correct. When it works smoothly, it feels like a Souls-type. When it doesn’t work, and I don’t want to wait through loading again due to death, I found myself dodging and rolling beyond a baddie just to continue on.
Having said that, I think the fact that it passed so many by in 2020 the PS5 was coming out. A lot of people at the time were amped for the release of the Demons Souls remake on it. I think many more people, while not able to buy a PS5, just didn’t even consider another souls game at that point. They were discussing the footage and images that were released for Demons Souls, which likely marred the release of this game. Demons Souls was announced in June, Mortal Shell came out a few months later. I just think that whether you enjoy playing Soulsbourne games, you should definitely try this now that you’ve likely beaten Demons Souls or you’ve given up trying to find a PS5.
For me, this port falls somewhere in the middle ground. I certainly didn’t hate my time with Mortal Shell. I actually like what this game was trying to do, but its ambitions outweighed its success. You can feel that you want more out of this title. More speed, more frames, more visuals, larger text, etc. So if you want to play a game that is indeed a souls-type, then make sure you buy this on another console. You’ll be right at home with the title even playing it on Xbox One or PS4 launch models. And there is an enhanced edition on Xbox Series and PS5 if you own one of those. If you really want to play this game portably, I’d recommend picking it up for a Steam Deck or playing it on a laptop. The experience will be where the developers wanted it to be and you’ll enjoy yourself.