Is Mortal Shell worth revisiting on next-gen consoles?
An Enhanced Edition of the RPG just recently launched on Xbox Series and PS5.
After a slight drought at the start of 2021, the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles are receiving a whole bunch of optimised titles in the month of March. One of these releases that I couldn't wait to revisit on my shiny new machine was Cold Symmetry's Mortal Shell. This punishingly hard RPG was one of my favourite indie releases of last year, as it managed to alter the DNA of the Soulslike genre in many new and interesting ways. With the Enhanced Edition launching recently, I decided to put it to the test on both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X just to see whether it was a significant improvement that warranted revisiting.
Before I delve into things, I just want to mention that I won't be critiquing the game's mechanics here and will simply be covering what the Enhanced Edition offers from a technical standpoint. I did previously review the game when back in August and as the Enhanced Edition doesn't add any additional features, my thoughts still remain valid.
Unlike other enhanced titles like Jedi: Fallen Order, which has both a Performance Mode (1080p 60fps) and a Post-Processing Mode (4K 30fps), the Enhanced Edition bumps up both the resolution and the frame rate simultaneously. On Xbox Series X, Mortal Shell now runs at a stable 60fps, whereas the original was capped at 30. This smoother frame rate remains consistent throughout and it was certainly appreciated during its intense battles where every sword swing counts. This consistent fluidity was impressive to see, as there are many moments where you're tasked with fending off many attacking groups of enemies.
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Mortal Shell was a pretty good looking game to begin with, but this update helps to take things up a notch by adding an extra layer of polish to the game's finer details. With it now sporting native 4K visuals, Mortal Shell stands as one of the finest looking Soulslikes I have ever played (sadly, I haven't tried Demon's Souls yet on the PS5). Shadows and textures have been improved here significantly and I was really impressed with how much attention was poured into details like how grass blew in the wind and how light glistened on my armour.
It's undeniably a prettier experience, but there were a few technical issues that I flagged in my original review that still remained unresolved. When playing on XSX textures would occasionally pop in and out on certain characters during cutscenes and bosses would glitch and get caught on different parts of the environment. Sure, these weren't anything too earth shattering, but it was puzzling to see that these issues weren't cleaned up given that this is being pushed as an Enhanced Edition. Hopefully this is something that Cold Symmetry can smooth out in future via a patch, as it's a blemish on an otherwise excellent version.
The Enhanced Edition itself isn't responsible for the swifter loading times, but I thought I would make a comparison for anybody who is looking to upgrade consoles. On the Xbox One, it took 47 seconds from booting up the app to reach the main menu and on XSX this same action took 30 seconds. When it came to dying, it took 22 seconds to return back to the action on XSX and a considerably longer 43 seconds on Xbox One. It might not be as significant a difference as with Jedi: Fallen Order (which I took at look at last), but this increase in speed is certainly appreciated as it's a game that you'll likely be dying a lot in.
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Something that should be noted is that Mortal Shell makes some interesting uses of the DualSense controller on PS5, and for obvious reasons, these effects aren't replicated on Xbox Series. When playing on PS5, environmental noises come out of the controller's internal speaker and haptic feedback is used so that players can feel the impact of actions such as being hit by a projectile. This use of the DualSense controller seems like it would greatly enhance player immersion, but I can't comment from personal experience here.
Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition stands as a superior version of an already excellent Soulslike. Its improved frame rate remains consistent throughout and it looks absolutely stunning with enhancements being made to its lighting and textures. Sadly though, whilst it is an improvement across the board, we still encountered several graphical glitches that were clearly overlooked. That being said, this one is still a no brainer especially considering that it is a free upgrade for those who own the game on previous consoles.