Cold Symmetry’s Mortal Shell is a tribute to From Software’s Souls series that incorporates a cast of heroes to build throughout your adventure. Playing as the protagonist known as The Foundling, you’ll take on several nervewracking and death-defying challenges while exploring a hostile and desolate world. To do that, you’ll inhabit the bodies of different warriors who have their unique connections to the world of Fallgrim. Mortal Shell has many echoes of the popular and challenging Souls-like games, while also injecting its twists on the formula. But there’s also a hidden way to turn the difficulty up even further.
While controlling the shells in Mortal Shell is one of the game’s biggest highlights, it’s possible to make things even more challenging by permanently disabling them entirely. In doing so, you’ll stay in The Foundling’s base form, who has nearly unlimited stamina but will die in one hit. Given that the game’s flow is about that careful balance of offense and defense, this added challenge isn’t recommended for newcomers to the game, and it’s best to at least finish the game once before attempting it.
Surprisingly, you can activate this alternate version of the game shortly after the opening minutes. Once you venture into the core area of Fallgrim, shortly after the quick cutscene pointing you in the direction of the Fallgrim tower, make a right down the path leading down further into the swamps. You’ll encounter some spear-wielding enemies and poisonous frogs, but it’s best to run past them once you reach the shallow river, head right, and then make an immediate left to head back north. Right next to you will be a tree, make another right to walk up a walkway to find a hole leading further into the tree.
Once inside, you’ll find a shrine that will give you a choice to renounce your shells and proceed with the rest of the game as just The Foundling. There will be a warning accompanied by this choice, giving you one last chance to reconsider. If you proceed, The Foundling will take on slightly different form, and all shells will be unusable for the rest of the game. This also means that you won’t be able to gain upgrades for your character. Sester Genessa, who upgrades your shells, will also be there to offer insight into the world and serve as a glorified checkpoint from here on out.
While this may seem harsh, you’re still given access to a suite of weapon and gear upgrades to boost your weapons’ power. Plus, all the tar and glimpse you would have spent on your shells can now be used on the merchant to buy items and other trinkets. The Foundling is still capable of holding its own in a battle–arguably more so in some cases. As mentioned previously, they have an immense about of stamina, allowing them to last longer in fights. However, one blow from an enemy take them out instantly, and without a shell to retreat back into, you’ll instantly be booted back to your last checkpoint if you fail in a fight.
It’s certainly a bold challenge to take on, and it does have some echoes of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which also had a similar mechanic that you could enable. After my first playthough, I can how much of a challenge it would be to finish the game without getting hit once in a fight, but it certainly seems possible, and I don’t doubt that some of the more skillful players will be able to pull it off.
In our full review of Mortal Shell, editor Phil Hornshaw praised the game’s unique approach to paying tribute to From Software’s games.
“Mortal Shell succeeds more often than not at capturing the specific feelings intrinsic to Souls-like games. The twists it adds to From-inspired mechanics do well to help this sort of game become more approachable than most, while maintaining the same air of mystery and foreboding that makes the genre itself so intriguing. Mortal Shell makes for a strong introduction to Souls-likes, a demonstration for new players of what so many have found so interesting about From Software’s games and those like them. But Mortal Shell is also a lovingly crafted, weird, and deceptively deep game in its own right that rewards you for wandering its twisted paths and challenging its deadliest foes.”
For more on Mortal Shell, go check out our extensive guide on some helpful tips for those venturing into the hostile world of Fallgrim for the first time.
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