Shortly after starting Mortal Shell I met a mannequin that springs to life into a mysterious lady who says cryptic things. Then a prompt asks if I want to sip the Divine Tar.
This brings up a screen that in large font says “SEEK NAME”. In a smaller font it says I must learn the name of this shell before I can upgrade. Earlier than even this, mu white phantom character gives a dead knight a head massage and inhabits it. This of course raises my stats.
With what I assume was an objective, I struck out into the world to find my name so I could upgrade. I wondered around the swamp fighting 3 mooks and a Big Guy to find 2 mooks and a Big Guy to find two Big Guys repeated. Each item in the world requires I use it before learning what it does. This is exciting. Do I use it in battle hoping for a turn around. In idle moments? Just incase of a negative outcome. What could Spec of Glimmer even mean?
Back to me, the author, the player. Before the game even started it showed me a screen identical to a Dark Souls item description. “This Sure Is Dark Souls,” I declared. Loading into the game and fighting some zombie soldiers, “This sure is Dark Souls.” Walking around in circles in a swamp, “Wow they didn’t even wait to have the swamp in this Dark Souls Clone.”
I beat two bosses. I found cryptic messages about some tragedy. I somewhat understood the parry system but not the hardening system. You hold a trigger to harden to absorb an attack. It always seemed to work better for the enemy than for me. I found additional shells to inhabit. I went to a new area and found the lady again asking me to drink Divine Tar and Seek Name.
I could not find the name I seeked because it did not exist. I was supposed to gather Tar (experience) and Glimmers (other experience) by defeating those mooks and those two bosses I had beaten without upgrades to go to the lady and Hold A to Obtain. I needed to Obtain Seek Name. That was in fact the first level of experience gaining.
Ah Yes of course. My 30 years experience of playing games got distracted with obtuse wording. They had tutorials elsewhere. They may have had a tutorial for how experience works. But here the game told me to Seek Name, and I Seeked.
What I learned from this is the expert skill of Dark Souls. I replayed Dark Souls 1 and 2 earlier this year. They consumed my life for a week each. Nevermind the many many hours of Elden Ring.
I would become exhausted at trying or frustrated. What I did not become was bored. Just worn down and reminded of my mortality as I die and try to fight the same boring 3 enemies again only to be rewarded with success with another chance to do the same.
I had made Mortal Shell more difficult. I had wondered around it’s swamp so much to no Aha’s even as it looped back on itself. The game is filled with tubes you climb through to hide loading. It also has doors you enter to have a black screen to load the next area sure.M
I didn’t want to do it again. Maybe the carrot of what does SEEK NAME mean made be play longer. Because finally going “oh I just…level.” Made me turn the game off and delete it.
I played it thanks to Xbox Game Pass. I got 3 months for a dollar. I think I have done this 3 times in 3 years. It is incredible value. It is going to destroy video games. That doesn’t stop me from participating in the easiest way to play games I regret owning.
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