FromSoftware has truly made a name for themselves by making a whole new genre with their Dark Souls series of games. This new formula has been used for all of the Souls games, Bloodborne, and now Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. So now that it’s out, how does it stack up to its other FromSoftware brethren?
The story is set in the Sengoku era of feudal Japan, with a shinobi named Wolf vowing to take revenge on a samurai warlord who severed his arm and kidnapped Wolf’s master. The samurai aims to sacrifice Wolf’s master to attain immortality, armed with a sword, a prosthetic arm, and stealth, it is up to Wolf to rescue his master from a terrible fate. The goal of the game is clear from the get-go, and the world and the story will naturally grow as you get closer and closer to achieving the goal.
The Sengoku era is an interesting period to set as the backdrop of this game. The warring states left Japan in a state of ruin and fatigue and it definitely shows in the world design of Sekiro. The world feels real, making it really feel like people have lived and died in this world. One thing different is that the world in Sekiro is open and huge, a huge departure from the Metroidvania level-design of Dark Souls and Bloodborne. This can make you get lost pretty easily, since the added verticality and openness doesn’t help in differing the same looking architecture of the Sengoku period.
Another huge departure is the combat mechanics. Dark Souls had you rely on putting in the right stats and blocking at the right time. Bloodborne had encourage you to duck and weave, wanting you to fight with wit and not might. Plus, both these games had online components and customisable characters. Sekiro instead put the focus on a single main weapon, multiple sub-weapons, and has you rely more on stealth and skill. There’s also the fact that Wolf can resurrect himself during battle, a huge difference from the harsh deaths one would get from the other games, this is also where the game gets its Shadows Die Twice subtitle. This difference might be a deterrent for FromSoftware fans, or might just deter new fans from trying out the older titles.
In Sekiro, Wolf is armed with his sword and his prosthetic arm which has a number of different loadouts you can equip. From a deployable shield, a spear, and a flame-thrower, the prosthetics are key in beating most of the games enemies. Because Wolf is a ninja, expect a lot of roof-climbing and stealth. This new verticality is supplemented by the ability to jump and a grappling hook, with previous Souls games having mostly flat levels with minor platforming. Another big part of the game’s combat are the one-hit kills, with you and your opponent having a “posture” meter, hitting your opponent while they’re blocking will fill up this meter, once it’s full, they’ll be open to a one hit kill. Another way to get a one-hit kill is to sneak up on your enemies, which will net you a quick kill if done right.
The best way to describe the game feel of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is think of it as a mix between classic Megaman, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, with sprinkles of the Souls games. It’s definitely a unique but familiar feeling game. Perfect for veterans of the medium, not so for people who are just starting out on video games.
Overall Sekiro is an awesome title and a great shakeup to the established FromSoftware formula. It is quite a challenge, but it is definitely fun and satisfying if you manage to master it. It is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.