It's a bit of a tired point at this stage, but it's definitely true -- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a far cry from Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and anyone who ignores this will be summarily slashed to pieces. From Software's latest shares some similarities with its predecessors, but with combat, traversal, and character progression all very different, it's a new experience and a new challenge to face, even for seasoned players.
In fact, Sekiro might be a good entry point despite the high level of difficulty. The game takes a much more overt approach in its storytelling, providing you with more exposition and a more character driven narrative. That's not to say everything is spelled out for you; this is a From Software game, so there are plenty of secrets to discover. However, the story is arguably more compelling here because you're given just enough to chew on to grab you early on. Playing as the titular shinobi, you're sworn to protect Kuro, a young lord who's heir to a sacred and powerful bloodline. In his duties, the Wolf loses his left arm and Kuro is taken, and when your character comes around, he has a false arm called the Shinobi Prosthetic.
This kicks off the game proper, as you set out into the world in order to find the Divine Heir. It's a fresh setting that looks gorgeous and interconnects with itself in plenty of clever ways. The region of Ashina is a diverse place; you'll go from war-torn villages to a huge castle, as well as bamboo forests and creepy dungeons. It's set in Sengoku era Japan, although this is a fantastical spin on the violent period. It might be a slightly more realistic setting on the surface, but From hasn't skipped the opportunity to get weird.
For the most part, though, you'll be facing off against human enemies. With most encounters consisting purely of sword fighting, you'll need to become familiar with the game's combat system, which can take some getting used to. Instead of simply whittling down a foe's health bar, your main aim is to build up their posture bar. This meter fills as you attack, but there are other ways to break an enemy's posture, the main one being deflections. Most incoming attacks can be parried by pressing block just before they hit, and doing so does damage to the baddie's posture. Reducing their health means their posture builds up more quickly, so you shouldn't ignore health, but you're really trying to stagger your opponent. When you have, a red mark will indicate you can deliver a fatal Shinobi Deathblow.
However, enemies are trying to do the same to you. Simply blocking will see your posture quickly weaken, so deflecting becomes your main tool for victory. The combat is incredibly intense as a result; you're relying on your timing and your wits to avoid or parry strikes, and it can be a very tough first few hours as you wrap your head around it. It's also very fast and death comes swiftly; a few wrong moves and you'll be down. Once it clicks, though, and you play by Sekiro's rules, the fights become supremely rewarding, with every deathblow earned and satisfying to pull off.
There's a basic stealth system in place, which is also key to success. In fact, the game teaches you this even before combat. It's an essential method you'll use a lot in order to even the playing field. Enemies do tend to have eagle eyes, and getting spotted by one can quickly turn into being chased by a mob of angry men, but it isn't long before you can escape with a grappling hook. This, along with an actual jump button, makes for a much more vertical world that you can use to your advantage.
Speaking of the grappling hook, your Shinobi Prosthetic can be upgraded with all kinds of side weapons that can help turn the tide of battle. Each one has its uses and there are plenty to find throughout the game, from a fire blasting Flame Vent to the impenetrable Loaded Umbrella shield. There isn't really a dud among all the Prosthetic Tools, although you'll definitely use some more than others depending on who you're up against and what you prefer.
Of course, these tools can be improved, as can other aspects of the One-Armed Wolf. The difference here is that leveling up and stats have been largely removed; instead, certain items will increase your health, posture, and attack power, while you improve your abilities with Skill Points earned by killing enemies. It's much easier to wrap your head around than a screen full of numbers.
More than any From Software game, this is all explained clearly to you. It doesn't hold your hand, but you're never left wondering what on earth a particular system does. Again, newcomers will appreciate this more direct approach to tutorials, and there's even a man with whom you can train if you need to practice your katana skills. The game might be hard as nails, but it's also more accessible than its forebears.
Death doesn't even necessarily mean death anymore. The protagonist carries the ability to resurrect after a defeat, meaning you're immediately back in the action where you dropped. This power isn't something you can do all the time, but it can give you a second chance against a foe you're struggling with. You can even use it to your advantage, waiting for enemies to move away and then springing back to life to execute a stealth kill. The system is smartly balanced to prevent abuse, and dying shortly after resurrecting will kill you for real, and this carries harsh consequences.
Occasionally, deaths can be caused by some frustrating things. Losing a fight is one thing, but losing it because the lock-on disables and you can't find your opponent is irritating. You may also come unstuck with the game's rigid movement and camera. You'll be jumping chasms, grappling tree branches, and scaling sheer rock faces, but sometimes traversal feels off. Jumps can falter, and the window in which you can grab a ledge feels a little too narrow, and both of these will send you falling to yet another death.
Performance is also an issue on PlayStation 4. Running at an unlocked frame rate on PS4 Pro, both it and the standard console occasionally struggle to keep things smooth, and with combat so reliant on precision and perfectly timed parries, it's not ideal. These issues aren't particularly intrusive, though, and most of the time you probably won't notice because the game's presentation will pull you in. The visuals and music provide the game with a distinct feel, and as always, world and enemy design is top drawer stuff. It looks great, and you'll be glued to the screen exploring all that Ashina has to offer.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a fiercely challenging, yet highly compelling action adventure. The posture-based combat is tricky to learn but wonderfully rewarding to master, and all the nips and tucks to From Software's usual tropes make for a game that's surprisingly accessible for new players. Despite some slightly ropey traversal and occasionally dodgy performance, this game will keep you hooked from start to finish with its built-in "one more go" death mechanic and a bleak yet gorgeous world to explore. This is a fresh new spin on From's formula that fans and newcomers alike should definitely give a stab.
Love the setting of the game but the subtle changes to combat are proving challenging to get used too! I’m trying to dodge everything as per Souls games and anything else just doesn’t register!!!!
You will not beat me game!!! 😭
A big fan of the Souls games and have completed DS1 and 2.
Think this may be From's best game yet and certainly the most accessible.
Where I have heard concerns from people, it's that they don't want to learn a new style of playing since their reflexes are tuned to other From Software games.
Defiantly faster than DS and BB, but it's a fantastic new system.
I'm digging it.
Hope From Software continues to branch out in new directions.
I’m loving it a lot more than Bloodborne, which I couldn’t stick. Lady Butterfly won’t beat me again!
It took me a while to wrap my head around all the systems and use them competently, but after Lady Butterfly everything is becoming second nature.
Here's some good tips for Souls players that are struggling, don't dodge spam, jump or deflect (or jump and deflect). It's best to be constantly engaged with an enemy unless you want to break off fully.
It's really easy to break combat in this game, so don't be afraid to run away and approach areas differently.
Learn to Mikiri counter! This is one of your best moves in the game! Master how to do it!
Bloodborne's still my favorite From game, but Sekiro is impressing me more and more the longer I play it. This is one of the very few games that actually feels like proper sword combat.
sekiro masterpiece shadows die twice.word up son
Loved Bloodborne, struggled with all three Dark Souls, and absolutely love this. All progress feels earned, patience is rewarded, and the bosses are great fun. I've been handed my arse by Lady Butterfly a number of times, but she is an incredibly fun boss fight.
Something about Sekiro just hasn't grabbed my attention... Not quite sure what exactly is causing my hesitation though.
Hopefully I'll be proven wrong eventually and it'll go up there with all the souls games as one of my best gaming experiences.
... Learning that I need to un-learn the Souls combat shouldn't be too hard though... I beat Demon Souls (After six different starts as six different characters) by rushing into everything headfirst like a madwoman... not sure to this day how I managed that 😅
Good review though! @Quintumply
@Foxy-Goddess-Scotchy Thank you for reading!
I like this way more than Dark Souls and I think having a proper main character is a great decision!
But damn is the game hard sometimes...I'm still early on and the first real boss really destroyed my butt and I still didn't try a second time!
Great review, hoping I can drop enough hints to get this for father's day!! Loved bloodborne so looking forward to that faster pace combat!!
I'm seriously considering this game. The most Souls experience I've ever had was the first level of Dark Souls 1. Never really got interested in the whole franchise, but I don't feel like waiting for Ghost of Tsushima for Samurai action. Since this seems to be different from the other FromSoft games, I might get it.
Love this game. Nearing the end don’t want the story to end
I see everyone is struggling with Lady Butterfly just wait for the next bosses. Ape Guardian is making my life very difficult.
Although I've not got this yet (PS4 in storage during refurbishment - sob), I was reading that although the game defaults to the Japanese voicetrack, also the English Dub is supposed to be really good. Well worth trying especially if the subs are distracting apparently.
@JoeBlogs I'm still rocking a launch model PS4, so that's how I played it!
Bah, I can't get Sekiro right now and it's breaking my heart. Adore FromSoftware's games and this sounds like another classic. Hopefully I'll be able to grab a copy sometime!
The game looks incredible indeed, I’m with my copy already, but I’m too busy with Yakuza Kiwami 2 right now.
I've been watching some gameplay and I can't wait to pick it up.
I really like the verticality compared to previous From Software games, and the combat's pace seems to have been made faster.
Really started enjoying the game after it clicked for me last night. The big thing for me was learning to stop trying to dodge everything and instead to learn to keep attacking and deflecting until a red mark comes on. I had been completely ignoring the enemies posture bar till then!
Edit: Stealth attacks for the win!
Hooked on this at the moment, the combat clicked with me the other night. Personally I wouldn't say it is any easier or difficult than the SoulsBorne games, you just need a different mind set to approach it.
I just beat Gyobu, so i didn’t meet the infamous Lady Butterfly yet.
I agree with the review, although it pains me to agree with a “measly” 8 for a Miyazaki title.
It has excellent gameplay and it’s truly skill based, but it kinda lacks that atmoshpere Soulsbornes have.
It is more game than experience, in a way.
When it clicks it does so potently, though.
I'm at Lady Butterfly and I'm suffering. It's my first From Software game and I'm suffering. I love the settings, so it helps, but gaining experience is so slow and, let's face it, I'm playing so badly that I thought of giving up and selling the game several times already.
@Tatoun Keep at it! Lady Butterfly is a tough fight but once you learn all her movements you’ll be able to avoid or deflect most attacks.
Ups and downs for me. Played a few hours Sunday, thought I was amazing, then got my bottom kicked by a mini boss all last night. Sigh.
It feels much more like a boss rush than their previous games. Got some great ones though, and some nice level design. It ain't no Bloodborne though.
Amazing game... Was having problems till it finally clicked. Now I cant put it down.
Another must play!
@Quintumply hey so people have given this game harsh reviews on Amazon claiming they have beaten dark souls games etc and the game is too unfair. Some have mentioned you just have to change your playstyle do you feel there was some justification in what the guys whining on Amazon are saying?
@MonkeyDLuffy19 As I mention at the very start of the review, Sekiro isn't Dark Souls, and shouldn't be treated as such. Combat and movement are entirely different, but that doesn't mean the game is unfair or worse than Dark Souls. Yes, it's a challenge, but the game is very clear about what it expects you to do, more so than any other title From Software has made.
To answer your question, the people writing bad reviews on Amazon have probably been trying old Dark Souls/Bloodborne tactics and are frustrated that they're struggling. I'd ignore them.
@Quintumply yeah I knew before it was released that the game was different but still seeing as I hadn't played it I couldn't really argue back. Thanks for the quick reply
@Kyroki I'm glad you're enjoying it!
@Kyroki I'll move this over to the forum, but the short answer is yes.
A worthy successor to the Tenchu series.
Love to play sooner.
..sweet Jesus., I've just completed it... it's taken a good couple of weeks... but I finally managed it... as a big fan of DS, etc. I have to say it's a worthy successor... I do think there is a little too much reliance on 'mid bosses' and probably a few too many bosses in general... but it's sooooo rewarding... It did feel a little like a slog at times (rather than fun)... but I have to say, not having multiplayer really meant having to learn the bosses (that Genichiro difficulty spike in the middle of the game teaches you everything you need to know...) frustrating and brilliant...
Another work from FromSoftware and Miyazaki which shows the world how to make games. A truly extraordinary experience. The game has some of the world's best battles, stories, music, and design and boss fights in the history of video games. I also want to share my review about Sekiro, for more information, check the link below:
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