Mortal Shell's debut gameplay video shows it's more than a pretty Dark Souls

A new trailer and the first gameplay video for the gorgeous, grim, and clearly Dark Souls-inspired Mortal Shell debuted today during IGN's Summer of Gaming. Watch the gameplay above and the trailer below. 

The Dark Souls influence is absurdly obvious, from the red and green bars governing HP and stamina to the cryptic NPCs standing around begging for a VaatiVidya lore deep dive, but I'm extremely here for all of it. 

The footage reinforces the lovely animations, detailed characters, and moody environments we saw in the trailers, but the combat is the sweet candy center here. And, admittedly, it looks a lot like every melee action game with z-axis lock-on released since Dark Souls. That's totally fine, but I think we'll need to see how leveling system, the varying classes, level design, and utility item pool all play into it to get a real sense for what sets Mortal Shell apart. 

But one clear, fascinating difference between Dark Souls and Mortal Shell is that your 'class' is determined by what shell your ghostly spirit form is wearing at the time. 

Shells are like grimdark Pokémon, empty human-ish forms you'll find and collect throughout the world. The more time you spend in a shell, the more you'll be able to upgrade that particular shell. 

What's especially cool about the shell system is how it layers some difficult new decisions on top of the traditional Souls health system. When your health hits zero in a shell, your spirit form will get knocked out of the sucker. You only get 1 HP in this form, and will either need to get back into your shell ASAP (there's a limit on how many times you can pop back in) or book it and find safety or another body to inhabit. For the folks who love pain, you can technically complete the game without ever entering a shell, too.

And because I'm a big dork for these kind of games, here's a few more details that stood out to me from the demo: 

  • You can play a lute and level up your lute skills.
  • One enemy ripped its head off and threw it at the player.
  • It'll be a compact experience due to team size, but still "deep."
  • There's no minimap and no fast travel right away.
  • Parries are a thing: looks like they enable Sekiro-style critical attacks that give back some HP.
  • The devs mentioned Quake as an inspiration for the atmosphere.

Mortal Shell is still due for release sometime in 2020, but you can give it an early go by playing the beta beginning July 3. For more info, check out the Mortal Shell Discord

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.