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Mortal Shell guide: Tarsus, the First Martyr boss fight

How to beat the ice skating boss in Crypt of Martyrs

Mortal Shell guide: Tarsus, the First Martyr boss fight Image: Cold Symmetry/PlayStack via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Every fight in Mortal Shell is life and death, from the lowliest brigand up through the various bosses. Your fight against Tarsus, the First Martyr in Crypt of Martyrs is even more so because he’s so fast, agile, and carries a gigantic sword.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through both phases of the Tarsus, the First Martyr boss fight. We’ll talk about his attacks and how to avoid them, along with the best times to counterattack.

Tarsus, the First Martyr boss fight – Phase 1

Our most successful approach to this phase of the fight is to avoid Tarsus as much as possible, and wait for his three swing attacks (see below). It draws out the fight and involves a ton of dodging, but it keeps you out of range of his deadly sword.

Skating attacks

Your fight against Tarsus begins with him speedskating past you and attacking. Listen for his approach and dodge left or right to stay out of the way when you hear it.

It’s also possible to Harden mid-swing and deal a little damage, like in the video above.

He’ll do this three times before switching to more conventional attacks.

Two-swing combo

Tarsus has a two-swing combo, with one sweeping swing from each side. He’ll run toward you, dragging his sword behind him. After the swings, he’ll skate backward before you can counterattack.

Dodge or Harden to avoid this attack. If you’re confident, you can parry either of the swings. We didn’t have a lot of luck with that, so your best approach is to Harden mid-swing, or just (try to) dodge the attack completely and wait for a better opportunity.

Three-swing combo

This one tends to start when you’re close to him, so there’s no running lead-up. After the two sideways swings, he’ll lift the sword over his shoulder, and bring in down in a slow and brutal arc. He’ll pause for a couple seconds afterward. This is our favorite opening to deal damage against Tarsus.

Dodge out of the way of the first two slashes, and stay back during the overhand swing. As his sword hits the ground, sprint forward with a heavy attack to perform a leaping strike. He’ll usually skate backward immediately after, so you can swing for an extra light attack or two.

With patience, you can whittle his health down with just these attacks.

Sword throw

When you keep your distance, Tarsus throws his sword at you. It’ll plant in the ground, Tarsus will rush forward, retrieve the sword, and leap at you with a huge swing.

As usual, Harden or dodge out of the way. Tarsus will pause for a moment after jumping, so you’ve got an opening for a swing or two if can get close.

Area of effect attacks

Tarsus also has an area of attack attack. He’ll drive his sword into the ice and summon a cloud of cold that freezes you in place.

You can Harden and wait it out if you’re caught, but it’s pretty easy to dodge backward and out of range. You can land a hit or two before the cold hits. If you have the ballistazooka and extra ammo, this is a great time to land a hit with that.

Tarsus, the First Martyr boss fight – Phase 2

Once you’ve drained Tarsus’ health bar, he will infuriatingly recharge completely and start a second phase of this fight. Tarsus is even more skate-y during the second phase, so you’ll have to time your attacks carefully.

Skating lunge

The most obvious — and annoying — attack in this phase is a skating lunge. Tarsus winds up, rapidly skates forward with his sword outstretched, and lunges one more time with his sword.

There are two ways to deal with this attack. Dodging left and right will get you out of the way of the lunges, but you might get a hit in while you’re at it.

Our preferred approach is to sprint at Tarsus, heavy attack to leap forward, and Harden in mid-air. As Tarsus’ lunge hits you, it will (usually) stagger him as it knocks you out of Harden. You’ll land the heavy attack and stop his subsequent lunge. Even if he isn’t stunned, you’ll get carried out of the way by your heavy attack’s momentum.

Overhand swing

Once again, there’s a overhand swing combo during this phase. It’s a little quicker than the version from the previous phase, so be prepared. After the two swings, he’ll once again deliver an overhand swing that opens him to attack.

Area of effect attack

In this phase, Tarsus’s cold cloud area of effect attack includes icicles. It also comes with a lot less warning.

Watch for him to spin his sword around a couple times, and back or roll away as fast as you can, because as soon as he plunges his sword down, icicles will start erupting from the ground. If you’re too close to get away, Harden for the duration.

Tarsus, the First Martyr rewards

Once you’ve defeated Tarsus, claim the Crystalline Gland from the nearby corpse. You’ll also get a Nascent Tar that’s worth 2,500 Tar and a Glimpse of Insignificance that’s worth 15 Glimpses.

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