Mortal Shell Is a Game Best Enjoyed Slowly

Mortal Shell

“Not every video game needs to be a frantic, fast-paced experience,” insists the action-RPG Mortal Shell. “Some can be enjoyed deliberately, cautiously, and at a slower pace.”

Mortal Shell is being referred to as a “Soulslike” (even by some of the game’s marketing materials), which means it’s mechanically similar to games such as Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Combat in Dark Souls is slow, with an authentic sense of weight to it. You won’t rush enemies, but rather approach cautiously, searching for an opening and striking when one appears. Now this isn’t an essential component of the Soulslike genre (Hollow Knight is a great example of a Soulslike with fast-paced combat), but it’s one that Mortal Shell employs to great effect.

Mortal Shell

There’s a clunky, meaty pacing to combat encounters in Mortal Shell, which forces players to proverbially dip a toe into any situation before diving in. This is made easier by the game’s “sense instinct” mechanic, which gives players a sort of ethereal glimpse into areas they’ll be traversing later on.

This slowness isn’t limited to combat, either. Players will want to spend time experimenting with the game mechanics and figuring out how things work, from the Harden defensive ability to the seemingly endless bear traps scattered about Fallgrim, the game’s first major area.

And this extends to the environment as well. This world is twisted and labyrinthine, and despite being someone with an incredibly fine-tuned sense of direction (especially when it comes to 3D game worlds), I found myself getting lost and disoriented quite a bit. It’s always wise to commit an area layout to memory before heading into the next section.

I can only assume that some people will find this slowness to be off-putting — it’s certainly not for everyone. However, I quite enjoy it. I really like how much the game rewards cautiousness, which I think is a crucial component of discouraging speedy playstyles — if you’re going to actively punish a rush-style approach, make sure alternative approaches feel like their worth the effort. And Mortal Shell does this well.

Mortal Shell

As a perfect example, I want to share one of my favorite moments from the game’s first hour, though I should first warn you it’s perhaps a bit of a spoiler.

You’ll hear a lute in the distance, and as you wind a bend, you’ll spot the lute player. You can actually stop and listen to the creature play for a while if you want to. However, if you approach it, you’ll be flanked from the left by an armored brute with a halberd. I got the whole encounter on video, and you should definitely check it out.

Even though I died here, I did so with a smile on my face. The setup for this trap was so brilliant that I couldn’t help but laugh. This is just one of many such moments offered by Mortal Shell. This is a game with a wicked cleverness to it.

I strongly believe that Mortal Shell is at its best when approached slowly. It’s a rich experience, crammed with wonderful touches that deserve to be appreciated. While I’m sure the speedrunning community will have a go at this game, a first-time playthrough should absolutely be a slow one.

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