Throughout the years I have become a fan of From Software’s titles, with Bloodborne being one of my favorites. So when hearing about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I was naturally excited. Now that it’s out, I know Sekiro is a fantastic title that possesses DNA from its predecessors and manages to create something unique with an intriguing story, engaging gameplay, unique leveling, and a great setting.
Sekiro has a simple story, which puts you in the shoes of the Shinobi, Wolf or Sekiro, depending on who you ask. Wolf’s journey begins when he is tasked to save his kidnapped master, Kuro, from Genchiro. Thus Wolf fights his master’s kidnapper who cuts off his arm and leaves him for dead. From here, you wake up three years later in a dilapidated temple with a man simply known as the Sculptor, who provides you with the Shinobi Prosthetic, at tool that has the possibility to equip different armaments.
While this plot is simple, there are other ways to access past events by finding rare items and sacrificing them to the Buddha statue in the dilapidated temple. This, to me, is what sells me on the story. It gives a deeper understanding of the world through gameplay, instead of exposition. And while minor, this one aspect inspired me to explore the world on a deeper level.
Gameplay for Sekiro focuses on stealth instead of the standard block mechanics of previous Soulsbornes. Sneaking around and taking your enemies from behind should always be your top choice, but when you have to face opponents head-on you have a variety of your tools at your disposal. Take the Shinobi Prosthetic, for example, and the Mikiri counter move which lets you jump onto your opponent’s sword. Overall, I found the combat satisfying, since using these skills made me feel powerful, in the sense that I was able to take the health of a boss down with a single stealth attack.
Along with changing the focus to stealth, there is no stamina meter, which is instead replaced with the posture meter that rises if you get hit by an attack. While this system is infuriating at first, I grew to find it had great tactical benefits, such as learning to step away from a fight and observe patterns as opposed to running in and attempting to fight a boss aggressively.
Leveling up in Sekiro is one of the most intuitive systems I have seen this generation. I found this system to be streamlined, because you are given different items to improve different stats. For example, collecting four prayer beads will upgrade your health and boss memories will improve strength. While these changed, you will still need to collect the standard souls in order to upgrade skills such as Shinobi arts, which are different passive skills the prosthetic, and new attacks, such as using the prosthetic and your sword simultaneously. I found this system to be an improvement, because it streamlines the upgrading and makes it easier for new players to jump in.
With all of these elements working in tandem, it’s great that feudal Japan is just as enthralling as the gameplay and story. I found the landscapes to be beautiful. From the caves to Ashina castle, there is plenty to explore. There’s a lot of little details in these landscapes, such as clues that can lead to hidden paths that can get you to new areas and items. One example, is in the early game when you find the secret shop in the Ashina outskirts. Along with these new paths there are a ton of unique enemies roaming around the world, which range from foot soldiers to giant bulls with flaming horns. I found all of these little details created a unique world that felt rich with history and conflict.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is proof that From Software is still the master of creating challenging, yet rewarding games. If you have played Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you will have fun. If you’ve never played any of the other games, you’ll find that this will be the best place to start. Everything about this game, from the gameplay to the story, is fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough, because there is a lot of great ideas here. I can guarantee you’ll enjoy your time with this well crafted masterpiece.