Review – Mortal Shell: Complete Edition (Switch)
Originally released in 2020, Mortal Shell was a welcoming surprise, but also a weird launch. It was announced alongside the next generation of consoles, touted as a next-gen game through and through, only for it to launch a mere couple of months later on PS4 and Xbox One first and foremost. It was a pretty good Dark Souls clone (and I say that without exaggerating, it’s basically Dark Souls with a twist), one that was punching above its weight despite being, at the end of the day, an indie made on a smaller budget. I wasn’t expecting for it to be ported to the Switch someday, given its whole “we’re next-gen” schtick before its release, but lo and behold, Mortal Shell is the latest “impossible port” on the system.
In some ways, Mortal Shell‘s limitations were what made the game so interesting. Well, besides the surprisingly cheap price tag at launch. The fact the game was completely open-ended, with you being able to tackle any of its (few) areas in any order, and that you didn’t exactly build a character from scratch, instead opting for a few empty husks of dead warriors, each with different stats and strengths. Finally, there was the whole emphasis on turning into stone in order to defend and parry. These things made Mortal Shell worth giving a look back in 2020. The question is: in 2022, in a post-Elden Ring world, and on the freaking Switch, is it still worth double dipping?
The short answer is: only if you’re starving for a Souls game on-the-go. The developers did their best in order to port this game into a system that simply cannot handle it that well, but the amount of caveats is huge. You will notice these setbacks right from the get-go, as the loading times are really bad. We’re talking “Bloodborne before the patches” levels of bad. The game must have been compressed beyond oblivion in order to fit onto the Switch. Thankfully, the wacky sound design doesn’t sound compressed as well. For what it’s worth, the Switch port of Mortal Shell sounds pretty much the same as the other versions, with the only difference being not hearing the stupid ramblings of the characters you meet through the nonexistent speakers of your controller. Wasn’t a huge fan of said feature on PS5, to be fair.
Graphically speaking, there are some noticeable drawbacks, namely in the quality of the textures and the resolution, but I expected worse. If playing in docked mode, you will constantly ask yourself “why am I doing this?”, but in portable mode, Mortal Shell doesn’t look awful. Animations are still somewhat crisp, and characters do retain some moderate level of detail, despite the reduced textural quality. What really brings the game down is its performance.
Granted, we all spent the past ten years or so playing soulslikes at 30fps, so we can’t exactly complain about a game like this, running on the Switch of all things, to not achieve 60fps (although the port’s trailer oddly showed footage at said framerate), but the problem is that this game very frequently drops to the 20’s, occasionally the mid-10’s. Forget about trying to run this in docked mode, as the issues are more frequent.
Luckily, Mortal Shell is a slow-paced game, where pretty much everyone takes ages to attack and move. Everybody in the damn game feels constipated when walking, so the poor framerate can be somewhat alleviated with this. Oddly enough, the game is still responsive, despite these issues. You just have to partake in long animations, just as before. But it’s still ugly to look at, even nauseating at times. The more detailed the level, the worse the framerate gets.
At its core, this is still the excellent Mortal Shell we all fell in love with two years ago, but do bear in mind that the setbacks caused by this game being ported to the Switch largely outweigh the pros. The novelty value of playing yet another “impossible port” on the Switch is fantastic, but you will have to deal with unbelievably long loading times and some really poor framerate issues. It’s a good distraction if you’re looking for a soulslike fix on your Switch. Just bear in mind that this is vastly inferior to other versions out there.
It looks good, considering the setbacks caused by the inferior hardware, but it suffers from a really poor framerate.
Mortal Shell was already pretty slow for a soulslike, even on modern machines, but the incredibly clunky framerate makes this particular version even more glacial than before. Thankfully, it’s still responsive.
I’m pleased to inform that, unlike other “impossible Switch ports”, this version of Mortal Shell retains its good voice acting and morbid sound effects with little to no noticeable compression.
Fun Factor: 7.0
It’s a good distraction if you’re looking for a soulslike fix on your Switch. Just bear in mind that this is vastly inferior to other versions of Mortal Shell out there, and the loading times are unforgivably bad.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Mortal Shell is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Mortal Shell: Complete Edition was provided by the publisher.