Mortal Shell

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Mortal Shell Game Poster Image
Fantasy action tale is tense and challenging.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Game strives to entertain via daunting challenge, high tension, bloody medieval-style combat. The story is largely unexplainable, but themes of courage and tenacity in the face of seemingly overwhelming danger eventually emerge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player's character has little in the way of personality or discernable motive beyond a desire to continue moving forward and to kill everything that tries to stop him.

Ease of Play

The controls don't take long to learn, but mastery of combat mechanics, strategy, and timing is intentionally challenging. This is an extremely unforgiving game, with enemies that can kill the player's character with just a couple of hits, and bosses that take multiple attempts and plenty of practice to defeat.

Violence

Viewed from third-person perspective, the player's character uses heavy bladed, piercing, and blunt weapons to attack humanoids and monsters. Blood spatters with successful strikes, and enemies make moaning sounds as they fall to the ground and die.

Sex
Language

Occasional occurrences of mild profanity such as "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol-based items can be used as restoratives.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mortal Shell is a fantasy action role-playing game (RPG) available for download on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. It's meant to thrill players with gritty and challenging medieval-style melee combat and violence. Players take on the role of a withered "foundling" who inhabits the "shells" of defeated warriors, using these bodies to fight humanoid and monstrous enemies. Blood spatters with successful hits, and enemies moan creepily as they crumple to the ground and die. Combat is intense, but it isn't as graphic as in many similar games, such as those in the Dark Souls series. The mostly unexplainable story provides only enigmatic clues as to the protagonist's personality and true motives, but the creatures he fights are clearly aggressive and cruel and mean him lethal harm. In-game text contains occasional mild profanity, and bottles of alcohol can be used as restoratives. Parents should also be aware that this is an extremely unforgiving game in which players are bound to fail frequently. It requires some tenacity and perseverance.

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What's it about?

MORTAL SHELL lets players inhabit a foundling -- an empty humanoid vessel -- in a ruined and desolate world populated with fearsome and aggressive creatures that will attack on-site. Spurred to do the will of the Dark Father, your real goal is simply to survive the onslaught and push forward through dead, murky woods and decrepit structures as you attempt to reveal this strange land's mysterious secrets. Few answers will be found looking inward. The foundling is essentially just a withered and mummified body -- he can harden his skin like stone and use it as protection from incoming attacks -- who has the ability to inhabit the bodies of fallen warriors (called shells) in order to use their combat skills. It's a handy skill, but if you take enough damage, the foundling will be knocked out of its current shell and be left with only a small amount of health. And that's bound to happen a lot, since combat's exceptionally challenging. Players use a variety of bladed and piercing weapons in their attacks, watching enemies for telltale signs that they're about to strike in order to successfully dodge, block, or riposte before moving in to take advantage of the opening. Providing some assistance are curious items you'll discover along the way, many of which need to be tested in order to determine their use. The more they're used, the more your familiarity with them will grow, potentially increasing their strength. Revealing all the mysteries of this forsaken world while avoiding death will be challenging, but with caution and tenacity, it can be done.

Is it any good?

Think of this difficult little action RPG (role-playing game) as Dark Souls lite. Mortal Shell isn't necessarily any less challenging than FromSoftware's vaunted fantasy series, just a bit less sprawling and more manageable to play in smaller chunks. The combat will feel familiar to those who've played action role-playing games, demanding a keen eye and precise timing in order to avoid damage while landing blows. It isn't quite as graphic as you might expect, but it's just as stressful and extremely tense. Death comes frequently, especially at the start, and players will need to be possessed of a certain doggedness to win as they refight respawned enemies in order to make it back to the scene of their most recent slaughter. And it should have enough originality -- the ability to harden the foundling's skin to weather a hard blow, the use of fallen warrior shells as a different kind of class and character progression system -- to hold the attention of players craving a bit of innovation.

What makes Mortal Shell a little less intimidating than a Dark Souls game is its scope. As tough as it is, it shouldn't take most players more than 15 hours to finish. The world is just as satisfyingly labyrinthine as you'd hope, the bosses just as fiendishly difficult as you'd expect, but there's simply a bit less of everything. Fewer areas to explore, fewer enemies to fight, fewer weapons and abilities to master. This is reflected in its substantially lower price tag -- just $30 at launch -- making it a good bet for players who can't afford the sort of time necessary to play and complete most of the much lengthier games in the growing genre of devilishly difficult action RPGs. Mortal Shell doesn't want to be the next Dark Souls, but rather an alternative for players who want a Dark Souls experience without spending too much time or money to get it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in Mortal Shell affected by the amount of blood shown in the game? Why do you think people are drawn to entertainment featuring violence? Can you think of an example of violence being taken too far in a game?

  • What sort of challenges have you faced in life that required determination and resolve to overcome? How did you feel afterward?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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