Mortal Shell beginner's guide: Combat, survival, and more

Mortal Shell
Mortal Shell (Image credit: Cold Symmetry)

Mortal Shell is the latest Soulslike to hit the market, and just like Dark Souls, Mortal Shell is defined by its refined combat system, dark fantasy setting, and intentionally-vague storytelling. Also, like Lordran in Dark Souls, Mortal Shell's Fallgrim is a viciously dangerous place filled with enemies, traps, and challenging bosses. Don't worry, though, because we're here with some valuable tips and information about Mortal Shell's combat, progression, and the overall world that will help you survive in this twisted hell.

Mortal Shell: Combat basics

Source: Cold Symmetry (Image credit: Source: Cold Symmetry)

In Mortal Shell, combat is driven by a variety of different mechanics. As you might expect from a Soulslike, light and heavy attacks, stamina management, dodging, and parrying are all present. However, there are two mechanics unique to Mortal Shell: Hardening and Resolve.

Hardening allows you to turn your character to stone at any point — including while you're in the middle of attacking — and tank one hit without taking any damage. Additionally, when enemies hit you in Hardened form, they will be stunned, leaving them open to attack. Hardening is on a cooldown, but it's not that long. Therefore, you should make use of it often.

Secondly, there's Resolve, which is represented by a series of golden bars above your health and stamina indicators. This resource is built up by attacking enemies and can be used to deliver devastating unstoppable strikes to foes. In addition, it can also be used to perform special ripostes once you've unlocked some new abilities for your Tarnished Seal parrying tool. To use them, press the attack button after a successful parry when you have Resolve. These ripostes can restore health to you, cause an explosion to knock your enemies back, and more depending on which one you choose.

Mortal Shell: Shells, stats, and weapons

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In Mortal Shell, you don't have stat allocations or pre-selected classes like you do in Dark Souls. Instead, you can control four different "shells" — dead bodies that you find in the world and reanimate. You can switch between the shells at your home base of Fallgrim Tower, or by using doll items that you get when you first find and take over a new shell. Additionally, as you defeat enemies, you'll get Tar and Glimpses, both of which are used to unlock skills for each shell. Here's an overview of each shell's strengths and weaknesses:

  • Harros, the Vassal: Harros provides a good balance between health, stamina, and Resolve capacity. Best for players who want a jack of all trades. His skills are centered around Hardening.
  • Tiel, the Acolyte: Tiel is ideal for people who want a ton of stamina. However, be wary that his health and Resolve capacity are both very low. His skills are poison-based.
  • Solomon, the Scholar: If you like to parry, Solomon is for you. This is because he has the highest Resolve capacity and many parry-enhancing skills. However, his stamina is low.
  • Eredrim, the Venerable: Eredrim is the tankiest shell in the game due to his thick plate armor, and many of his skills are focused on increasing raw damage. He has very low stamina and Resolve, though.

If your health reaches zero, you'll be knocked out of your shell and will be in your "naked" form. If you get hit again in this form, you'll die for real, but if you can get back into your shell, you get a full heal. However, if you die again, you won't get another of these second chances.

There are also four different weapons to wield in Mortal Shell, most of which you unlock by defeating a miniboss found at the start of each new area. Additionally, there's a fifth ranged weapon that all characters can make use of. Here's a look at all of Mortal Shell's weapons:

  • Hollowed Sword: This medium-sized blade is given to you at the start. It's a balanced weapon that's decently quick, does moderate damage, and takes an average amount of stamina to wield — best for shells with low-to-medium stamina.
  • Hammer and Chisel: A speedy, unorthodox choice that does low damage, but also requires low stamina. Additionally, consecutive hits poison enemies — a great choice for shells with low stamina.
  • Smoldering Mace: This massive mace delivers high damage and has a wide hitbox, but is slow and requires a lot of stamina. Ideal for shells that have medium-to-high stamina. Great for crowd-control.
  • Martyr's Blade: A huge sword that does lots of damage and has a large reach. However, like the Smoldering Mace, it's slow and uses a lot of stamina. Best for shells with medium-to-high stamina.
  • Ballistazooka: Essentially a giant crossbow, this weapon does gargantuan damage but reloads very slowly. Great for finishing off bosses.

Mortal Shell: Survival tips and advice

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Fallgrim is a difficult place to progress in, but it's far from impossible. You'll have a much better time if you learn to take advantage of your surroundings and understand how to exploit the enemy AI. Here are some tips, tricks, and strategies that will give you the edge:

  • Look around for pickups. There are plenty of items in Fallgrim, and unlike in Dark Souls, many of these items respawn. Considering there is no "Estus Flask" in Mortal Shell, the healing that some of these items provide can often prove invaluable. You'll often find weapon upgrades as well, which make your life easier too.
  • Don't be shy with item usage. Since most consumables respawn, you can always find more. Plus, you won't know what items actually do until you use them.
  • Watch out for hazards. Whether its the bear traps left out by swamp dwellers looking to catch food or the massive chasms of crystalline obsidian ruins, the environment can hurt or even kill you if you aren't careful.
  • Use hazards to your advantage. Once you've learned to watch for environmental threats, you can then stand near them and bait foes into them. This will either kill them outright or weaken them, leaving them exposed to counter-attacks.
  • Attack from above. By attacking while in the air, you will plunge your weapon downward and do massive damage to any enemy you hit.
  • Never let yourself run out of stamina completely. Not being able to dodge at any point in Mortal Shell is risky, as enemies hit hard, and not every attack can be parried. This also ensures you won't have to waste your Harden on something you don't want to use it for.
  • Don't be afraid to run past enemies if you need to. It's better to get to the next checkpoint and come back with full health to find the items you missed rather than having to start the area overdue to a death.
  • Though expensive, the Recollection of Death skill allows you to regenerate your ability to get back in your shell if you die by killing enough enemies. This skill can be unlocked on all shells, and is a great way to improve your survivability.

Source: Cold Symmetry (Image credit: Source: Cold Symmetry)

Something else to keep in mind is that Mortal Shell's version of the Dark Souls bonfire is the NPC Sester Genessa (pictured above). She allows you to fully heal and restores your ability to get back into your shell after dying the first time, and talking to her also sets your respawn point. However, be warned that this also respawns all non-boss enemies in the world. Additionally, speaking to her allows you to use your collected Tar and Glimpses to unlock skills for your shells. Keep an eye out for her as you travel the world, as the areas where she appears are few and far between.

Mortal Shell: General tips and tricks

We're going to wrap up with a series of general tips that will help you achieve mastery over Mortal Shell's combat and world.

  • Practice parrying. While you don't technically need to parry, it's very useful as special ripostes are one of the only reliable sources of healing. Activate your parry right as an attack is about to hit you for the best chance at success.
  • Keep an eye on your Tarnished Seal. When it glows red, it signals that an unparriable attack is incoming. Opt for dodging in these instances. This red glow is also an effective warning system for deadly ambushes from above.
  • Get used to using Harden while attacking. Getting in a few hits, Hardening for your enemy's retaliatory strike, and then hitting them again before rolling away and resetting is an effective way to deal large amounts of damage safely.
  • Be aggressive. The fact there are no shields in Mortal Shell means that defensive players will be at a disadvantage, as the Harden mechanic can only block one hit before needing to recharge. Your attacks often stagger enemies enough to give you time to roll away if necessary.

Source: Cold Symmetry (Image credit: Source: Cold Symmetry)
  • By sprinting and using a heavy attack, you can do a leaping attack. This is an excellent way to start combat with most foes, and it can also be a great way to score easy damage on slower bosses.
  • Don't be afraid of The Fog, the eerie mist that covers the world and turns normal enemies into monsters when you beat an area boss. The enemies aren't too difficult once you learn their patterns, and killing them is an excellent way to farm for Tar and Glimpses. You can make the mist go away by giving a Glimpse to an NPC called Thestus.
  • Save moonshine consumables for bosses. These give you Resolve but lower your health. However, since there's usually a Sester Genessa location before a boss, you can negate the moonshine's downside by healing up with her before entering the boss arena.
  • People who want to learn more about the lore of Mortal Shell should fully upgrade each shell, as this will reveal information about who the shells were when they were alive as well as details about the world.
  • Don't use the Sester Mask to find out what it does if you have any Glimpses in your inventory. I did and found out the hard way that it uses up all your Glimpses to teleport you to the last Sester Genessa location you saved at. May my 15 Glimpses rest in peace.

Your thoughts

What do you think of the guide? Is there anything you think I missed? Let me know.

Mortal Shell is available now for $30 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.