Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice // A Journey Through the East.

overall score 99 / Samuryeah
May 13, 19  | reviewed by Not Important (1148)

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice throws Dark Souls fans for a loop, yet stays impressive.

gameplay 98 / story 99 / graphics 99 / sound 99

From Software has done it again, 60$ out of my pocket and a cramp in my hands. Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is not samurai souls as others will have you believe. It is another beast entirely and while it can be argued that Sekiro is significantly less hard than other SoulsBorne games, it’s also worth noting that this game isn’t meant to be another SoulsBorne game. Even though it kind of is.

A One armed Shinobi, A winding, ticking, crackling arm made of wires, bone, and unspeakable hatred. This is the world of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Prepare to die.

Sit down, and let me tell you of the Cursed Lord.

The story of Sekiro Shadows Die Twice or just Sekiro as I will be calling it for brevity is a simple one. You are Wolf, a man who was trained by a famous Shinobi or Ninja named Owl. Orphaned by war, you have been raised by Owl to follow the Iron Code of Shinobi. #1, Respect your Father, and #2 Respect your Lord second to your Father. If anything happens to either, bring them back at the cost of your life. Which, without spoiling much, is the entire premise of the game. This Iron Code makes everything happen and is, in turn, your entire inspiration to become a legendary Shinobi who is worthy of his name. You are put in charge of being the bodyguard of a Lord by the name of Kuro. When he is abducted by his family, who also chops off your arm, the game then begins.

Spoiler Alert.

[spoiler] Unlike From Software’s most famous franchise, Dark Souls, the story is more straight forward and less hidden. What follows the premise I listed above is a fantastical journey into an image of Feudal Japan if every Japanese Mythos was proven true in this world as there are monster Kois, Giant Ogres, Ape Warriors, and a Giant Rope Man. Sekiro’s story tells you instantly that your Lord, Kuro, has this ancient power to bring people back from death. The Dragon’s Curse. The Iron Code and The Dragon’s Curse are the items of the main conflict of Sekiro’s story. As Kuro is abducted by his family who are greedy for immortality, your Iron Code demands that you rescue him. Yet, in order to do so, you have to slash through the military of the own kingdom you are serving. [/spoiler]

Overall, the game has good pacing. You only know as much as you can proceed. The game doesn’t treat you like an idiot, explaining everything through dialogue, but it doesn’t treat you like a genius either. You will still need to put 2 and 2 together. Each character and boss fight is memorable whether or not through annoyance or a friendly or even familial connection. My favorite characters would be the Sculptor as he acts as a better mentor than Owl, and your training buddy who cannot die, similar to you. There are 4 endings, all with specific steps and each will describe the Wolf you are playing as. As for me, I chose the ending that most fans consider to be canon. However, each ending is satisfying. Having 4 ending and multiple save slots make for good replayability.

He was followed by a Wolf with a missing Fang. He too was Cursed.

Sekiro has taken notes from the Soulsborne series as it too is a third person action RPG. Playing Sekiro feels nice and responsive, movement is smooth and somewhat feels like every floor is a smooth carpet. The grappling hook you receive at the beginning of the game for your prosthetic arm is nice and allows for some great mobility. About to die from a fight? Run, climb, grappling hook away. Combat is the core feature of this game and with every other game FromSoft does, they did this one right. Instead of just trying to slaughter enemies until their HP hits 0, you now have to focus on damaging their posture. They too can damage your posture. Posture is essentially your stamina in battle, if you or the enemy runs out, then you or the enemy is susceptible to a death blow. Posture is the core of combat in Sekiro, it does not boil down to how you can get in as much damage at once for some enemies, rather it boils down to what is going to damage their posture the most so you can reach that death blow sooner than later. There are multiple ways to damage posture, attacking, deflecting enemy attacks, or using a Prosthetic Tool. With posture recovering over time, you need to keep the pressure on each enemy to prevent your progress being lost. So along with the caution that Sekiro promotes, it also promotes aggression in order to get things done, similar to Bloodborne.

Speaking of Bloodborne, there is a mechanic in here that is practically ripped from Bloodborne. In Bloodborne, if you wanted to use magic, you had to use your bullets. In Sekiro, if you want to use the multiple tools held within your Prosthetic Arm, you need to use Spirit Emblems. It’s a good way to balance things out as if you were able to use some tools as much as you want, it would make the game easier than it already was. Speaking of the Prosthetic Tools, Sekiro does a good job giving the player a wide array of tools to use, and in a Metroidvania fashion, the player has to find each tool they need or want.

Besides tools, there are Combat Arts, which serve as the skill trees of the game. These skills are arguably essential for success in the game. The most important one, in my opinion, is the Mikiri Counter in which Wolf steps on a weapon that is in the motion of a thrust and ruins the posture of the enemy. These Combat Arts are important to the game as they introduce things that make each enemy less of a nightmare to deal with. Again, combat feels great.

Should you die in combat, half your gold and XP are cut in half, impeding your progress. However, thanks to the Dragon’s Curse, you can resurrect twice (or more if you upgrade it) and either run away or continue the fight. It’s a nice Get out of Jail Free card. I initially disapproved, but I found myself using this crutch more often than not to complete some parts of the game.

The Lord and His Wolf were Misshapen, yet they were all we have.

I can’t find many issues with Sekiro. But here is a tiny list of issues that can be worked around, I.E they possibly only bug me and they won’t bother you.

  1. The Stealth in this game is stupidly easy. The AI is much smarter in direct combat than dealing with a sneaky shinobi.
  2. There are areas in which there is no real difficulty but a rather artificial difficulty as the game is just throwing enemies at you. Which then promotes the workaround of stealth but as I mentioned, Stealth is stupidly easy and not fun.
  3. Some things in the game are not clear, there were points where I could not, for the life of me, figure out where to go. I ended up skipping some areas or going to end game areas earlier than what was intended for me.

That’s it. Again, these are more personal issues than actual faults within the game but I can’t just praise this game without airing what bugs me about it. It wouldn’t be fair.

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is honestly a great game. The story feels like a fairy tale from the Shogun days of Japan, reminiscent of Journey to the West. The combat is fluid, responsive, and with the addition of Combat Arts and Prosthetic Tools adds a lot of elements to the game that brings back the intoxicating feeling the SoulsBorne games give you, that feeling of “Fuck Yeah, I’m the Shit. I’m Badass”. And the character designs are top notch. I fully recommend you buying the game, whether at full price or at a discounted sale price.

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