Mortal Shell is an entry into the Souls-like genre from developers Cold Symmetry; a game which created a bit of a stir when it was released onto the Xbox One way back in the mists of time – in 2020. Like, we’re talking months ago now, and in that time there has been an entirely new generation of hardware come to market. So, like any self-respecting developer, the clever guys over at Cold Symmetry have been beavering away on a new Enhanced Edition of their game to take advantage of the extra horsepower under the hood of the Xbox Series X|S. If you bought the original game, the update to the X|S optimised edition is actually free, so it’s well worth the price of admission already. But the big question has to be whether the tweaks have brought anything new to the table. Come with me to a dystopian world full of baddies, swords, giant bosses and repeated painful deaths!
The headline figures are pretty good on the new hardware, it has to be said. A little research will show there are a number of videos showing the differences between the two next-gen versions of Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition, and while I have no interest in virtual willy waving, it does appear that the the Xbox Series X is somewhat better at running the game, with 60FPS achieved at a claimed 1880P resolution. Now, personally, I wouldn’t know 1880P if I fell over it, but the 60FPS inclusion is a game changer. Much as it did in the remake of Dark Souls that was released a while ago, the increase in frame rate makes the game a whole different kettle of fish.
You see, in the original version of Mortal Shell, I could never get on with parrying attacks, as the window of opportunity to successfully perform a parry seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. Now, with the increased frame rate, parrying is a viable tactic again, as the lead up to the enemy attacks can be seen much more clearly. It’s so much of a difference that I managed to defeat one of the early bosses – a massive sword-armed monstrosity called Grisha – without getting hit once, parrying every attack and using it to launch into a riposte, something that I again found too difficult to pull off the last time around.
Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition always allows the game as a whole to run more smoothly, and this in turn ensures that the combat is now more rewarding. You see, while the harden mechanic does still result in some really cheesy-feeling victories, especially over bosses (seriously, they can all be beaten by hardening, poking them with the sword, rolling away and then rinsing and repeating), it does at least make you feel like you have more than one weapon in your arsenal. I can’t begin to describe how good it feels to parry the enemies’ attacks now.
The graphics have had a lovely tickle over with the shiny HD wand as well, and for a ruined world, that of Mortal Shell doesn’t look too bad at all. The previous generation game wasn’t exactly ugly, with a nice hand-drawn vibe to it, but now with the Enhanced Edition it looks even better. The big difference is in draw distance, doing away with a kind of mist or fog that previously curtailed the draw distance. Well, the fog has lifted, you can see enemies a long way away again, and they can see you too.
It’s here where a pro tip comes to mind: if you hear a whistling noise, dodge quickly, as the archers have seemingly got telescopic sights on their bows this time around, able to hit you from a ridiculous range. Of course, it’s nothing a quick sprint and jump attack can’t cure, and getting up close and personal is a good way of dealing with them. They are rarely alone though, so be ready, as getting swarmed in Mortal Shell is a surefire way to get killed. Even dying to the weakest kind of bandit enemy is not only a distinct possibility; it’s also somewhat embarrassing to go from downing one of the massive axe guys to be given a clip round the ear and knocked out of the shell you’re currently in.
Yes, the combat is as brutal and unforgiving as it ever was, and literally every enemy can kill you – even the suicide frogs in the swampy bits if they poison you too badly. Healing items seem to be at a premium as well this time around, and I always seem to run out of mushrooms too early.
So, is all well and good in the shiny remade world of Mortal Shell through the Enhanced Edition on Xbox? Well, yes, in a word. There are no downsides to what the developers have created here, especially if you bit the bullet and bought the game on the last generation of hardware. The last time around, pop-in of textures and objects was a bit of an issue, not a massive one to be fair, but it did occur. Now though everything just seems to run more smoothly and the loading times are almost gone, giving you the confidence to explore the mechanics of the game; the running, the dodging, hardening and attacking like a well-oiled machine. It does still seem very similar to Dark Souls, which for me as a Souls fan isn’t a drawback.
All in all, Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition is a great example of how to revamp a game for the better via the power of the next gen. Even if you didn’t buy the game first time around, I can recommend that you “Shell” out for it now.