Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, is the latest action-adventure game by FromSoftware, famed developers of the Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
Set in in the end of the Sengoku era, you play as a shinobi named “wolf” who serves a powerful young lord who has the powers to resurrect the dead. However, the young lord has been captured by the forces of Ashina and you’ll stop at nothing to save him.
Sekiro’s level design is reminiscent to that of Dark Souls, where paths are well laid out and double back as you take your time to explore its hidden pathways uncovering hidden treasures and secrets. There is a much greater emphasis in vertical level design as you use your prosthetic arm to grapple up onto rooftops to get the drop on unsuspecting enemies as compared to past titles where you could barley even jump.
There is a great sense of freedom as you zip to branches, ledges and rooftops – especially when you’re about to face certain death.
Unlike past titles, FromSoftware have decided to do away with varied weapon and equipment choices. The katana you use at the start stays with you throughout the entirety of the game. At the same time Sekiro has a new perspective on combat while still maintaining a strong focus on the challenge it presentst.
Sekiro mainly focuses on swordplay and combat posture, requiring the player to have quick reflexes and a mastery of the the parrying system to gain an edge over your foes.
As you land hits on your enemy, or successfully parry their attacks, their posture meter fills up. Once full, their posture breaks allowing you to go in for a deathblow against ordinary enemies, or a lethal hit against bosses.
Remember that the same rules apply to you too. Once your posture breaks, you are at your most vulnerable. This is the core mechanic of the game which will take some time getting used to but does feel extremely satisfying once you nail it down.
Some enemies have special attacks that you cannot parry away but require specific moves to counter them. The game does give you hints when that’s going to happen with a flashing red warning sign above your head (albeit for a split second), which gives you some time to decide which counter move you should use.
Countering these moves gives you a good amount of posture damage, providing that risk-reward element and encouraging players to be aggressive.
Apart from just using the prosthetic arm for grappling, you can find various attachments as you play to turn your prosthetic arm into a Swiss army knife.
Equip thrown stars to deal damage at range, or an axe to break shields and stagger enemies. Deciding which attachment to equip, and when to use them is vital, as they require multiple spirit emblems to be used and you can only carry a certain number of them on you at a time.
Over time you can upgrade these tools. If used wisely, these tools can help swing a fight to your favor.
The boss encounters have the same level of excellence and annoyance found in past FromSoftware titles. Bosses are merciless and can end your life in mere seconds if yore not careful.
These fights may be daunting, but with a little patience and practice, you should be able to overcome them. Some fights may be more of an annoyance due to the length of the fight, or frustration when bosses somehow maintain their momentum after getting hit to deal a huge blow to you just because you didn’t play the game right.
Mini bosses are fun to face, though the move sets are similar. However, the game does a good job at spacing them out so that you don’t face the same mini boss frequently.
You don’t have to take on an enemy directly as the game encourages stealth – well, it is Japan, the land of the Ninja! Sneak your way through levels or perform assassinations and you’ll be able to remove alot of a tough enemy’s HP before the fight even begins.
However, stealth has it faults as at times it is inconsistent. Sometimes you may get spotted from a great distant or not get spotted when you literally right beside your foe. This makes playing in the shadows really frustrating at times.
Thank god that it has been simplifies compared to the Dark Souls franchise. Some familiar stats are gone – no longer will you need to ration skill points as your stats such as vitality increase by finding prayer beads scattered around the world, or by defeating mini-bosses. Experience gained from boss fights is used to progress up the various skill tress ranging from passive, stealth or new combat moves
As the title says – Shadows Die Twice, you can resurrect yourself after you die. You can only do it once and this ability can be reset each time you rest at a shrine. This allows the player to finish off a boss that was left at a low HP or allowing them to run away with all of their gold and experience instead of losing half to death.
FromSoftware does a great job at balancing this, as this ability causes a disease called “Dragonrot” which infects NPC’s and causes your unseen aid percentage to diminish. This disease can be cured, but the cure is really hard to find.
Sekiro can feel daunting at times, often leaving you utterly devastated. However, mastering the new swordplay mechanics and stealth elements makes it extremely satisfying. The world is also so beautifully laid out and immersive due to its design that exploration does not feel like a hassle.