Mortal Shell: Controls Guide for PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Tips

Mortal Shell is free for PS+ subscribers. Here are the complete controls and some tips for the challenging game.

Originally released in March 2021, Mortal Shell is now available for free for PS+ subscribers (through January 4, 2022). The game pits you as an “empty vessel” known as the Foundling in a twisted and decaying medieval world where you must overcome gruesome and dangerous foes to discover your “true purpose.”

The action RPG is described as a game that “tests your sanity and resilience in a shattered world,” and as you’ll come to find, that tagline is wholly consistent with the game. Just don’t throw your controller in frustration.

Below, you will find the complete controls for Mortal Shell on PlayStation and Xbox. Beyond the controls, you will find gameplay tips, but be prepared: you will die often.

All Mortal Shell PlayStation controls (PS4 & PS5)

The default layout, with no remapping or alternative options
  • Move: L
  • Rotate Camera: R
  • Lock-On: R3
  • Sprint: L3, Circle (hold)
  • Interact and Pick Up Items: X
  • Kick: Square (requires purchase of Ability)
  • Dodge: Circle
  • Cycle Abilities: Triangle
  • Light Attack: R1
  • Heavy Attack: R2
  • Parry: L1
  • Harden: L2
  • Use Quick Item: D-Pad Up
  • Previous Quick Item: D-Pad Left
  • Next Quick Item: D-Pad Right
  • Equip Ballistazooka: D-Pad Down (requires Ballistazooka)
  • Weapon First Ability: L1+R1 (requires weapon Upgrades)
  • Weapon Second Ability: L2+R2 (requires weapon Upgrades)
  • Open Menu: Touchpad
  • Pause: Options

All Mortal Shell Xbox controls (Xbox One & Xbox Series X|S)

  • Rotate Camera: R
  • Lock-On: R3
  • Sprint: L3, B (hold)
  • Interact and Pick Up Items: A
  • Kick: X (requires purchase of Ability)
  • Dodge: B
  • Cycle Abilities: Y
  • Light Attack: RB
  • Heavy Attack: RT
  • Parry: LB (requires Tarnished Seal)
  • Harden: LT
  • Use Quick Item: D-Pad Up
  • Previous Quick Item: D-Pad Left
  • Next Quick Item: D-Pad Right
  • Equip Ballistazooka: D-Pad Down (requires Ballistazooka)
  • Weapon First Ability: LB+RB (requires weapon Upgrades)
  • Weapon Second Ability: LT+RT (requires weapon Upgrades)
  • Open Menu: Back
  • Pause: Start

Mortal Shell will test your ability to adapt, persevere, and eventually, your patience. Here are some gameplay tips to help mitigate some of the challenge.

Explaining Shells in Mortal Shell

The first Shell in the game, Harros, the Vassal

Shells are essentially the class system in Mortal Shell beyond providing you with armor. There are four total Shells in the game, each with unique stats, abilities, and appearance.

As the Foundling, you can only take one hit before you die, but there is a trophy and achievement for beating the game without ever donning a Shell. With Shells, your HP and damage resistance is based on the Shell you inhabit, as well as any abilities you may have unlocked. Another feature that applies to Shells – as well as items – is building familiarity.

The more familiar you become with a Shell, the more power you unlock. You can see the connection to your Shells (and items) from the Menu screen (more below).

While in a Shell, if your HP hits zero, you will be forcefully ejected from your Shell. The Shell will remain, allowing you to reenter the Shell, but again, one hit as the Foundling and you’re done.

Respawning at the game’s beginning point; notice the stone configuration to the left that looks almost Medusa-like

Should you need to respawn, your Shell will remain in the same location. It might seem weird as you’ll always be in a Shell upon respawn if you had donned one. However, next to your HP, Stamina, and Harden bar you will see a circle. If there is a white light in that circle, you will not die upon losing your HP, instead being ejected.

If there is no white light, you will have to respawn on death. If you retrieved your Shell before respawning, then you will be granted the white light upon your respawn. This is why retrieving your Shell even after a respawn is crucial as it gives you an extra life, essentially.

When you die and respawn, you will be either at your most recent checkpoint – indicated by the stone sculpture pictured – or by Sester Genessa (more below).

Here are the Shells and a brief descriptor of their abilities:

Harros, the Vassal is the standard all-around build. It has uniform stats in Durability, Stamina, and Resolve at five each.

Tiel, the Acolyte is a light armor build with a whopping ten in Stamina, but a paltry three in Durability and two in Resolve. While you will be able to outrun and land more blows to your enemies before tiring, you will only be able to take one or two more strikes than the Foundling sans Shell.

Solomon, the Scholar is a better build than the previous two that focuses mostly on Resolve at ten. This Shell’s Durability is seven, giving it better damage resistance than Harros, while having the same Stamina at five. The high Resolve makes Solomon, the Scholar ideal for ability-based players.

Eredrim, the Venerable is your standard tank Shell with ten in Durability. However, the Stamina and Resolve are both at three. While Eredrim, the Venerable has powerful attacks, you will need to find moments to rest more than the previous three.

Facing off with the perpetual thorn in your side, Hadern

Lastly, the boss who taunts you from the Tutorial through the end is also a Shell in Hadern, a play-on-words for harden. Like the Foundling, Hadern has the ability to harden, making him a dangerous boss. You will fight him multiple times in temples as you seek to unlock new swords, such as The Martyr’s Blade.

Tar, Glimpses, and Resolve Explained

The upper-right shows your current amount of Tar and Glimpses

Simply put, Tar is essentially what amounts to in-game currency. You receive Tar for defeating enemies, and can find special Tars in chests and other lootable locations that will grant you an ample amount of Tar. Tar is essential to upgrading your Shell’s abilities (more below). However, you will lose ALL of your unspent Tar upon a respawn. Choose your battles wisely.

Glimpses are also needed to upgrade your Shell’s abilities. There are 13 different Glimpses you can gain, with each adding a variable number of Glimpses to your total. For example, a Glimpse of Wisdom will grant you two Glimpses, but three once you gain familiarity (more below). Unlike Tar, you do not lose your Glimpses upon death.

Ability layout for Harros, the Vassal

Resolve is your ability meter indicated by the gold bars above your HP, Stamina, and Harden meters. You build Resolve by defeating enemies – and some items like alcohol will grant a slight bit of Resolve – and you can have five full bars of Resolve. Most of your Weapon Abilities will require one bar of Resolve, but some will require two. Beware: like with Tar, you will lose ALL of your Resolve upon a respawn.

How to obtain your first Shell and learn Parry

Accepting the Divine Tar from Sester Genessa to unlock the name of Harros, the Vassal

After playing through the tutorial, you will awaken in a valley. At the first fork, you will find the first shell of the game to the left. Interact with it to inhabit the Shell of Harros, the Vassal.

However, you will notice that the Shell is still “unnamed” even after inhabiting Harros. To unlock the name of Shells and their potential abilities, you must sip the Divine Tar of Sester Genessa while donning a Shell to reveal its name and ability circle.

Sester Genessa is located just inside Fallgrim Tower and in the Great Hall of Eternal Narthex. If you die after sipping the tar within one of these two locations, you will respawn at Sester Genessa’s location.

After gaining Harros, whether named or unnamed, make a beeline for Fallgrim Tower in the distance, avoiding battles as much as possible as there is no level gain or experience. Head to the second floor and free the chained monster. As a reward, you will be given the Tarnished Seal, which will unlock the ability to parry and the empowered riposte.

Parrying will be crucial to surviving, utilized by hitting L1 or LB just before an enemy attack. This will also open up the enemy for a counter-attack, but the empowered riposte requires one bar of Resolve. It is important to note that some attacks are unblockable, and your Tarnished Seal will flash red when this is the case. Parrying also requires precise timing, otherwise you will suffer damage.

Fallgrim Tower also contains another Shell in crawlspace, so be sure to retrieve this before heading out to explore some more. Remember to sip the Divine Tar to reveal its name and abilities!

How to find and upgrade your swords in Mortal Shell

Reciting the passage to be transported to fight Hadern, upon which a victory unlocks the Marty’s Blade in the grasp of the statue to the left

To find other swords, you will need to travel to the realm of the tutorial to fight and defeat Hadern. This is done by reciting the passage (by interacting with it) next to statues with swords in their grasp. You will instantly be transported and engage in battle with Hadern.

Hadern has obvious attack patterns, which makes him fairly easy to combo. Just look out for his ability to Harden, which will stagger you and open you up for his powerful attacks. Should you defeat Hadern, you will be teleported back to the altar and now can unlock and equip the associated sword.

If you are having difficulty defeating Hadern, after each respawn, you are asked if you want to be sent back. You can return at your leisure after honing your skills some more to finally defeat Hadern.

Available upgrades for the Martyr’s Blade

In Fallgrim Tower and Eternal Narthex, you will find an Anvil where you can upgrade your swords. Each sword will have unique upgrades specific to that blade. However, you must also find the requisite item needed to upgrade. For example, the Petrified Winterglass was found and added to the Martyr’s Blade above.

If you stick with the Hallowed Sword from the tutorial, you can find an upgrade in Fallgrim Tower that adds a stabbing attack that makes you invulnerable during the attack and staggers your enemy. Look for the Mechanical Spike.

Familiarity Explained

Play the Lute ten times to gain familiarity and an added item ability

In Mortal Shell, you can become more familiar with items and Shells. For items, this is through repeated use. For Shells, it will come in investing in the Abilities.

You will immediately find Weltcaps lying around, which restore health. After using them ten times, you will gain full familiarity and the added effect is that healing happens more rapidly.

Some items will have negative effects on you, such as poisoning you for a certain period of time. However, gaining familiarity will make you immune to poison damage for a duration. As many enemies can poison you with attacks, it is recommended to take the poison and counteract the damage with Weltcaps until you gain familiarity.

The simple Lute pictured above, for example, does neither. Once you gain familiarity, playing it near enemies will enrage them to violence. There is a trophy and achievement for playing the lute along with an enemy playing the lute, but be careful so that you aren’t overwhelmed.

Basically, familiarity adds bonuses that, for the most part, are beneficial. Harvestable items like the Weltcaps respawn after a certain amount of time, though dying actually hinders the reset.

Battling tips for Mortal Shell

A Hardening primer

Every enemy has their own unique tendencies in how they will attack you. While it may be frustrating because of how many deaths it may take, do your best to figure out the tactics and patterns of each enemy. For example, the creature that pulls swords out of its body will remove its head and throw it at you at low health, sending out poison gas. The best bet to avoid this is to kill it before it can launch its head.

Hardening just before an attack will make you immune from damage while hardened and stagger your opponent for a counter-attack. However, you can only remained hardened for about five seconds, and then you have to wait for the meter to refill to harden again. Luckily there are upgrades you can purchase with Tar and Glimpses that speeds the cooldown, allowing you to utilize it more quickly.

While Heavy Attacks deal more damage, they also take longer to perform which will leave you open for attack. It is recommend to rely mostly on Light Attacks in quick two- and three-hit combos. Use the length of your great swords to keep enemies at bay.

Dodging will be your best bet of avoiding damage as some attacks cannot be parried. However, attacking and dodging consume Stamina with each action. You may find yourself without enough Stamina to dodge after an attack, so ensure you always have some of the green bar so you can avoid damage.

To prevent death as much as possible, kite enemies away from groups and try to get them in a narrow passage for one-on-one combat. Do your best to avoid fighting enemies in open areas where attacks can come from all sides and you may become surrounded and overwhelmed! There are also ranged attackers, so kiting enemies away from them will prolong your life.

Should you find yourself battling enemies on a ledge or a cliff, you can kick them off and kill them instantly should you have the upgrade. It does require one bar of Resolve, but can be a quick and easy way of dispatching foes to help prevent being overwhelmed.

Speaking of using Resolve, figure out which Weapon Abilities pair well with your desired Shell to unleash your most powerful and focused attacks. Some Weapon Abilities may not be apparent at first, and will require you to land attacks to see their effect.

Importantly, invest your Tar into your Shell after each battle to avoid losing Tar! Some upgrades may require more Tar and Glimpses than you have, so do your best to use the above strategies to keep accumulating Tar that you can invest. The more Tar you are able to invest early into any of your Shells, the smoother and easier the game should be for you.

There you have it, all you need to know to get started in Mortal Shell! Which Shell will you be your favorite, and will you be brave (or reckless?) enough to try and beat the game with no Shell? Pick up Mortal Shell for free today if you have PS+!

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