I’ve spent the last week getting my arse handed back to me over and over again in Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition, and while I don’t think I’m done with the game – or ever will be – I’m impressed and I can definitely recommend Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, the platforms I played on, though the main version tested was, naturally, PS5.
Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition is an upgrade over the last-gen versions, that much is obvious. If you’ve played the game before and want to know how it has improved, I’ll get to that, don’t worry. But first, I’m going to have a bit of a whinge and a moan about how I’m not good enough to beat this game because that’s the truth: I didn’t beat it. What’s more is that I’ve no idea how close I’ve come to beating the damn thing, or if I’ve come close at all. So, for the sake of getting this review done before the inevitable Mortal Shell 2 comes out, I’m just going to go with what I’ve experienced, which I think is a large enough portion of the game.
Mortal Shell is, to put it simply, a Dark Souls clone at a lower price point. I only know this because this is what I’ve been told. I don’t play Dark Souls. I’m aware of it and the prestige that comes with beating the game, but I don’t have enough time in my life to git güd at a game if it will take me dozens of hours. I’m just too busy. Plus, the aesthetic really isn’t my cup of tea. It’s just a bit too dark and grim for my liking.
So why on earth did I play Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition? Because I had to, that’s why. Sometimes in life you’ll do jobs you don’t particularly want to do, and for me, this was one of them.
That might sound like I’m throwing some serious shade of Mortal Shell, but I’m not. Mortal Shell is my first ‘proper’ Dark Souls-style game, but I’m not a total newcomer. If you’ve played modern action-RPGs like Assassin’s Creed, you’ve played a Souls-like game. I’m aware that’s an insulting comparison to the fandom, but what I mean is that many games have borrowed at least something from the gritty RPG series, with the combat being the most common trait that gets lifted. So at least going into Mortal Shell, I was already tuned-in to the dodge-roll-attack combat loop. Kind of…
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the complete lack of guidance. I’m still no wiser as to what I’m supposed to be doing in Mortal Shell, even if I have come to quite enjoy its challenging gameplay.
The game doesn’t waste any precious time telling you to go and do a certain task. You don’t even get a map. You’re thrown in with the briefest of tutorials and then you’re left to figure the rest out for yourself. Or consult an online guide, which I absolutely refuse to do out of misplaced stubbornness; if I am to ever beat this game (which I’m not confident I ever will) I want it to be my achievement, not MingeSlayerXX123 from Reddit, or, god forbid, IGN…
What I’ve sussed so far is that you play as a naked man-thing but you’re better off taking over the dead body of a fallen warrior. A mortal shell, then.
There are four of these shells in the game and I’ve got them all. So, that’s the game won, then, right? Not a bloody chance. That’s just the beginning, I think. I don’t really know where this game even starts, nevermind ends; the tutorial boss, Hadern, made a reappearance a few hours into the game and once again, he killed me and I was munched by a massive fish and then returned to the main portion of the game. Or what I think was one of the main areas of the game? Again, I’ve no idea because there’s no map, there’s no guidance, and there’s no end to my frustration when it comes to Mortal Shell’s New Age parenting techniques. I need to be nurtured, damn it!
OK, so I don’t really know what’s going on with the game or why I am Skeletor’s unlicensed cousin running around in dead men’s boots. What I do know is that the core combat of the game is tough as nails but, and this a crucial point I’m about to make, it’s ultimately quite fair, so long as you know the rules and stick to them. I… did not stick to them.
Combat is challenging but it’s a fair challenge, for the most part. It’s slow and deliberate with enemies telegraphing their moves. It’s like chess with hobos and swords; the enemy pulls their sword-wielding arm backwards, I shimmy to the side and hit the dodge button. The enemy lunges forward, but I’ve already moved out of the way and set up my knight to deliver the killing blow. Rinse, repeat, die, come back to the same area and do it all over again, then repeat several times. The trick is to follow the rules of: observe, react, retreat. If you let frustration take over, as I did many a time, you’ll get nowhere fast; enemies will pile on you and you’ll be out of stamina and unable to dodge your way out, and then you’ll be battered to death.
I didn’t count how many times I died in Mortal Shell, but I’m sure it was in the three figures and that is not a joke. My first hour with the game was brutal, my second was worse, and my third saw me going against a horrible cave-dwelling monster of a boss where I got to enjoy the next-gen feature of super-quick loading times after each and every one of my couple dozen deaths. Laugh all you want, youngsters, but those reflexes you’ve got now won’t last forever… You’ll be old like me and you’ll want nothing more than a nice quiet night in with some pea and ham soup and a competitive game of family scrabble.
Death is common in these kinds of games so I embraced it, laughed it off, and kept on trying. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t give a game the time of day if it’s going to kill me so often. Mortal Shell has managed to buck this trend and it’s due to the combat – because I’m sure as shit not sticking around for any kind of story.
After spending the last few years as a gaming god in Assassin’s Creed Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla – all of which have gone down the Dark Souls route for their combat – I’m finally being tested and challenged rather than being fed fodder to munch and turn into meaningless numbers, and I really appreciate that. I can’t remember the last time a game that was genuinely hard managed to keep my attention, so Mortal Shell is a win on that front. But will I ever see its end? I don’t know. I’m a busy man but I hope that over the coming years, I may make some progress. Wish me luck, yeah?
Right, let’s have a quick word about how this plays on next-gen compared to last-gen. I’ve played a couple of hours of the game on PS4 Pro, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One S and Xbox One X (I’ve been very busy), but my main platform has been PS5. But, I can say that the experience across the next-gen consoles is far superior to the last-gen editions, though there is an exception: Xbox Series S, which I’ll come to in a moment.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: the game doesn’t look significantly better on PS5 or Xbox Series X|S. The graphics are, for the most part, almost identical, with the slight upgrades being really hard to notice during play. These include updated higher-resolution textures which are difficult to spot during gameplay. But that’s fine. I’ve come to not really care because the game isn’t exactly a looker anyway; it’s a nice enough looking game, but it was never going to be anything to make you go “oh wow, next-gen is finally here! Power my dreams!”
There is a next-gen improvement that can not be understated: 60 frames per second. This is a game-changer and one that I’m glad I get to experience – because going from PS4 and Xbox One S to the PS5 and Series X versions of the game was night-and-day. The extra responsiveness is brilliant and at least in my case, it helped me out with gameplay as the game felt a lot smoother and more in-my-hands than it did on the last-gen consoles. 60fps is the way to play, and any next-gen game not delivering 60fps as standard is doing it wrong, simple as that.
That being said… The Series S version of the game is stuck at 30 fps, but it bumps up the resolution to 4K. Now, to be clear, this is the budget-friendly next-gen Xbox that costs 200 dollars/pounds/ or euros less than a PS5 or a Series X, and it was never expected to do 4K gaming. Yet, here it is doing 4K and a solid 30fps, which is still a big improvement over the One S, which turned in a sub-HD resolution and a very iffy frame-rate that I swear got me killed a few times, not my own lack of “gamer skillz”. Probably…
As far as next-gen enhancements go, Mortal Shell Enhanced Edition is quite light on improvements, but it enhances the game in the areas that matter most: higher framerates taking it up to that sweet 60fps for much much smoother gameplay, and 4K resolution to give the game and its dark world a bit more clarity, and they’re the improvements that actually matter. If you enjoyed the game on last-gen, you’ll get a bigger and better kick out of it on PS5 and Series X, and to some degree, Series S. And considering that it’s a free upgrade if you already own the game, it’s a win-win, really. And if you don’t own the game, it’s £25 quid against Dark Soul Remak’s £70 quid asking price. It’s a no-brainer, then, if you’re looking for a challenging Souls-like game. I just wish there was an easy mode for crap players like me.
Mortal Shell Enhanced Edition PS5 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/108/10
Mortal Shell Enhanced Edition might be a little light on next-gen upgrades, but the ones that matter are there and they are game-changing. 60FPS is the main attraction but a nice 4K is welcome, too.
For returning fans, it's a nice free update. For newcomers looking to get punished, it's a cheap and, well, not cheerful game, but it is its own brand of fun - if you can call it that.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5, Xbox Series X|S