Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a game that rewards attention, reflexes and dedication. It’s a great piece of art that does for Japanese folklore what regular high fantasy does for Western legends. Director Hidetaka Miyazaki peppered the whole experience with callbacks to previous games (especially Bloodborne), but Sekiro stands on its own as one of the greatest action games of this gaming generation cycle (PS4, Xbox One, PC).
Combat Will Keep You Hooked
Combat is where this game shine, once mastered. Sekiro wants to be played a very specific way and that is something you have to quickly figure out. Many enemy attacks can only be countered or dealt with in a specific manner and timing has to be precise. The satisfaction of reaching an epiphany on a boss and actually deflecting or countering a massive sword, spear attack that would easily break a DS guard is highly satisfying.
It has a lot of elements that may make you think that this is just another Souls-like game but believe me, this is a very different beast. Out of all the innovations in the formula though, the combat stands out. You’re rewarded for perfectly reacting to and punishing every move. Skill takes top priority. The combat itself is modelled around being able to perfectly time parries, dodges and jumps to defeat enemies in fierce duels. Some enemies like beasts are still fought in a similar way to Souls games but the combat really does flex its muscles when dueling other humans with weapons. The story this time around is more straightforward and easier to follow. There’s nothing wrong with that and it serves this game really well.
Git Gud: Gameplay
Some players complain that the game is too hard. You basically need to “git gud” (Get Good). You can’t farm mobs and level up your stats to give yourself an easier time like in other Soul games either. Your character growth only occurs after you defeat some particularly difficult enemies and bosses. People initially struggled with Dark Souls too but they eventually learned its systems, respected it’s the careful and methodical approach and now “Dark Souls isn’t hard, you just have to play carefully, understand enemy patterns and not get greedy.”. In the same vein, you have to respect and learn Sekiro’s systems before you can master them.
The gameplay is too restricted but that’s the reason they were able to finely tune the combat to feel this sharp. When the player has one weapon and a particular set of skills, they can focus on tuning the enemy encounters to be the most effective and appropriately challenging. Personally, I feel like this was the best combat system I’ve seen come out of any From Software game. Which basically means this is the best combat I’ve seen in any action RPG ever. Successfully executing an enemy after a flurry of clashing blocks, parries and counters is just extremely satisfying.
Miyazaki delivers again with the expert world and enemy design. Not only is the game mechanically very solid, but it also has the heart to back it up. Beautiful and pleasantly varied locations make this one of the coolest renditions of feudal japan I’ve ever seen. Enemies also range from peasants, soldiers, skilled samurai, ninjas and expert swordsmen to beasts, animals and even occult supernatural beings.
Play it with HDR on, (if your system allows you): the astounding art direction shines (literally) whenever your blade catches the moonlight and it sparkles in the evening. This game is gorgeous, truly breathtaking and at times utterly gross (in a good way, fleshing our monster of a legend in gruesome detail).
Should You Play It?
I highly recommend this to those who enjoy a challenge along with beautiful graphics and music. Be prepared to die, over and over but each attack you deflect and each spear thrust you counter brings you one step closer to that sweet death blow victory. No wonder it won the title for “best game of the year 2019”.