I spent my first hour with Mortal Shell crashing like a wave against its brutal combat and Souls-like obstinance to basic signposting. Then I found the game’s first save point, was able to start grinding for new abilities, and everything began to click into place. Here’s how to avoid a similarly painful onboarding experience and get to where the game really starts.
Mortal Shell is a punishing but gratifying action game where you steal warrior corpses and use them to fight through one of Ingmar Bergman’s medieval nightmares recreated in Unreal Engine 4. Immediately after the game’s tutorial you come to a narrow path flanked by two short offramps on either side. On the left is your first combat shell — the body of a knight — and on the right is an abandoned campsite with some loot. After both of these detours the path opens up into a large fork in the road with half a dozen different directions for you to explore. The key is to ignore them all and just keep going straight.
If you do, you’ll come across some bandits sitting on the ground you can quickly kill. After that, you’ll run under a large fallen log and then up into a smaller fork in the road surrounding a giant tree.
Immediately to the left is an open door. Go inside, talk to the mysterious woman on the right, and boom — you’ve reached your first save point, Mortal Shell’s version of the Dark Souls bonfire.
Mortal Shell’s currency is tar, which you get by killing enemies. When you speak to the mysterious woman — Sester Genessa — the game saves, refills your health, and locks in the amount of tar you have. You can then spend the tar through Genessa, unlocking the ability to upgrade your Knight shell (and the others you eventually earn) to add new abilities and bonuses that make surviving Mortal Shell’s harash world and defeating its harder enemies way easier.
The fact that Mortal Shell is so bad at getting you to this extremely early checkpoint, even going so far as to lure you down multiple wrong paths, is not great, but it’s also no surprise. It’s basically the graveyard problem from the original Dark Souls, an optional location early on that a lot of beginning players got stuck on because it was easily accessible but the skeletons within continually tore them to shreds. And what would a Souls-like be without a similarly obtuse starting area (probably a Souls-lite)?
If you already got to Genessa and still feel like bouncing off the game, YouTuber FightinCowboy has an extremely helpful video for quickly finding some of the early shells, a process that is relatively quick, painless, and doesn’t require much if any combat. Once you have these shells you can start swapping between them and customising builds based on your playstyle. That’s where Mortal Shell’s fun really begins.