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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review

Rango

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a 3D Action/Adventure title developed by From Software. Originally unveiled at E3 2018, Sekiro is the latest of famed developer From Software’s lineage. Known for their hit titles, such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, their latest entry seeks to continue the tradition of taking place in a dark fantasy world

In Sekiro, you’ll wield a blade to cut down foes in a feudal Japanese setting. While Sekiro takes a fresh approach at a similar concept, its double-edged difficulty will frequently toe the line between a rewarding challenging and frustrating, punishing difficulty. For better or worse, it would not be a stretch to say that Sekiro is quite possibly From Software’s hardest title to date.

Premise

Set in a feudal Japanese land called Ashina, the game starts off with a powerful shinobi warrior encountering a young boy in a war-torn battlefield. Taking him in as his son, he grants the boy a name -“Wolf,.” He orders him to obey his orders and to protect his Lord. The Lord, a young boy named Kuro, holds the Dragon Lineage within him. This blood allows people immortality, which he can grant to Wolf.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

When Kuro is kidnapped, Wolf sets out to find him only to be struck down by a powerful warrior named Genichiro. As he awakens in an Dilapidated Temple, he meets the buddha-carving elder, and the medic, Emma. When you begin to learn of their stories, you set out with one goal in mind: save the Lord you serve.

As Wolf’s journey progresses, he will learn more about the land. Woven through the items and NPC quests, you’ll learn about the lore of Ashina, Wolf’s past, and the secret behind the immortality. Rescuing Kuro comes with more cost than one might prepare for. Such consequences will drastically affect the ending path you take.

Audiovisual

Taking advantage of the PS4’s technical prowess, Sekiro continues the tradition of having beautiful scenery in every area you enter. The icy peaks of Ashina, the swamps of the Sunken Valley, and the Mist Forest all feature their own, unique flavor. As a bonus, Sekiro can run HDR on a PS4 Pro as well, breathing in more life to an already gorgeous game.

Animations are as smooth as you might expect. You’ll face samurai, shinobi, and monsters of all kind. The smooth motions of each sword swing compliment the flash of light when you successfully parry your opponent. The sound effects tell the difference between when you block and when you successfully parry your opponent. Utilizing a Deathblow makes a hard, satisfying sound when you impale your opponent and spill their guts over the field. One boss fight in particular features a bloodbath which, in particular, makes for a beautiful scene.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Composed by Bloodborne and Dark Souls III composer, Yuka Kitamura, the dark score suits each mood wonderfully. Intense boss battles accompany the proud Samurai fighting you. Meanwhile, the eerie and creepy themes of the Headless and Shichimen Warrior might make your blood run cold. As with past Soulsborne titles, sound and music capture the experience perfectly. Plus, given the setting, the touch of oriental flair adds a layer of musical beauty unique to this game as well. This becomes especially prevalent in one area, the Fountainhead Palace.

Gameplay

As with its predecessors, Sekiro utilizes hack-and-slash gameplay and focuses heavily on strong combat elements. You’ll explore large areas, cut down your enemies, and fight powerful bosses. You can use an assortment of items for healing or combat. Plus you’ll encounter Idols to rest, save, upgrade stats, and quick travel.

Much like in Dark Souls, you will interact with NPCs. These include merchants scattered across the world and those with hidden agendas. You’ll access quest lines and encounter hidden items needed to progress. In true Souls style, you can explore nearly everywhere. But your access may be barred until you find the key from another part of the world.

What’s new from Soulsborne?

Soulsborne, officially called that by From Software social media channels, refers to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne. While Bloodborne spun-off from the Souls series, it shares much of its same gameplay and atmospheric element. Hence the name Soulsborne.

To start with, the difference between this and the other titles is that you play as a Shinobi. This means you will rely more on stealth. As Wolf, you can sneak up on enemies to finish them with the instant kill move, the Deathblow. You can hug walls, crouch through patches of grass, hang from ledges, and even swim through rivers. Utilize the grappling hook to travel across large gaps or scale rooftops.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

You only wield one blade in the game. Your katana is enough to take down any enemy type. However, you’ll gain access to different ways to execute your enemies, including those who are tougher to kill. You’ll also find weapons to assist you in such kills, but only under certain conditions.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

In addition, you’ll also gain access to Shinobi Tools and Ninjutsu. The tools include Shuriken, Fireworks, and Flame Vents, while the Ninjutsu includes the ability to manipulate opponents or use smoke bombs to escape after a kill. You’ll also gain access to battle techniques, like Whirlwind Slash, which allows you to strike twice.

Finally, this game places heavy emphasis on Posture. While you no longer have a Stamina meter, you have durability for blocking instead. The more you block or get hit, the more Posture you lose. Once you lost all Posture, you’re briefly stunned. Likewise, you need to wear down the posture of your enemies. Doing so allows you to finish them with a Deathblow. Enemies are no longer based exclusively around whittling down their HP bar. You will need to parry, jump, dodge. Also, dodge moves, such as rolling in Dark Souls, are no longer as invincible as they used to be.

The hardest parts of the game.

Sekiro no longer allows you to summon online players for help. On the flipside, you don’t have to worry about getting invaded, either. You can also pause in this game. However, don’t let it give you the wrong impression. Despite the ability to pause, you will still fight some of the most vicious bosses you have ever faced in gaming.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

In past Souls titles, you could use your shield to block and counter when needed. Your ability to parry was limited to human opponents, but was a quick way to end them thanks to the absurd amount of damage it dealt. Furthermore, you had access to Greatshields and rolls had invincibility frames.

Sekiro does away with that entirely. As mentioned earlier, dodge steps no longer protect you with invincible frames. Blocking drains your durability quickly. You must learn each enemy’s attacks  and parry them with precise timing. Doing so will drain their posture, allowing you to counterattack and eventually land a Deathblow.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

However, not everything can be parried either. With a special marker, enemies will go for a Perilous attack. This is usually a sweep, a grab, or a thrust. While the thrust can be countered with the powerful Mikiri Counter, sweeps must be jumped, while grabs must be dodged entirely. The marker will not tell you which move is coming out. You need to read out your opponent to determine which move is the right way to evade.

With that said, your one saving grace is that you can resurrect once per battle. Hence the subtitle, Shadows Die Twice, resurrection fills your health up halfway. However, enemies can kill you instantly, upon reviving, should you time it poorly. The second death will end you, forcing you to restart the fight upon returning.

Hardest Game Ever?

Considering that you can’t summon, you lack strong defense equipment, you can’t upgrade armor, and you must master the bosses’ attack patterns, learn to parry, and counter precisely, it is not a stretch to say that Sekiro is From Software’s hardest game ever made. For those seeking the ultimate challenge, this is an absolute blessing.

However, for players who enjoy the Soulsborne lore but tend to get destroyed by boss fights, you are in for one of the toughest, most grueling experiences you’ve ever encountered. Perfecting these dodge moves takes time as your reflexes may get you to accidentally input the wrong dodge move. Plus the excruciating wait between load times – after dying, respawning, and returning – just make it worse. Plus, should destroy the first form of a boss, or the “first” boss in a set of two fights, and die, you’ll have to fight them all over again.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sometimes you may accidentally go down an optional path with a boss that’s far beyond your recommended level. Other times bosses are just cruel, killing you instantly. One area in particular you can jump into water and you can’t return to the surface. The stage mini-boss will pelt you with lightning arrows until you die. You must find a hidden path and kill him to continue your progress.

Sekiro does its job as a challenging title. But even compared to the Dark Souls games, it becomes unforgiving and infuriating. Some bosses will require you to cheese them with stick-and-move strategies, while others  require items, like Divine Confetti, to be destroyed. The only thing you can do is persist and continue fighting until you take your enemy down and continue. Nothing feels quite as satisfying as taking a Memory or Prayer Bead and boosting your stats at the next possible Idol. But that feeling ends the next time you fight another, even stronger boss that acts like you never even powered up. With that said, all of these elements will contribute to a perpetual love-hate relationship that will last throughout the game.

Conclusion

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice brings forth the very best in From Software’s ability to excel in combat. Take Dark Souls, but make enemies and the player faster and more aggressive. You lose some of your previous defensive options, but learn to pressure bosses and execute them with style. It’s gorgeous and visceral all at the same time. The Japanese aesthetic makes it all the more beautiful, especially when you’re in a field surrounded by cherry blossoms.

Likewise, Sekiro is as gorgeous as it is demented. It’s an egregiously hard game that forces you to think on your feet. You’ll fight some amazing boss battles against legendary warriors and terrifying monsters. In addition, you’ll explore atop rooftops and assassinate enemies from behind.

You’ll grow with Wolf and form a bond with him. You’ll meet his tough side when meeting strangers and appreciate his gentle, loyal side when talking to young Kuro. Wolf is a man of purpose and iron will and a true badass in and out of combat. Subtle as always, Sekiro keeps its storytelling through NPC lines of dialogue and all the lore you discover.

If you’re a fan of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, this is truly for you. But be warned, you are in for quite possibly the hardest title you have ever played. It will impress you and it will infuriate you to no end. Use every resource you can and master the blade in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Thank you for reading up on our Sekiro review! What do you like most about the game? Let us know in the comments below!

8
Great
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review
Hardest Game Ever
Sekiro brings forth the elements of the Soulsborne series with fresh new element. Grappling to high places, jumping, swimming, and assassinating enemies from above are among the techniques you're capable of. While combat now prioritizes parrying and dodging, you can maintain the pressure on bosses. However, in spite of all its beautiful glory, Sekiro will certainly get on your nerves more than the Dark Souls or Bloodborne titles ever did. Without any co-op assistance and even fewer chances to mess up, this unforgiving title will challenge your skills and patience in an entirely new way.
Pros
Gorgeous Japanese aesthetic.
Fantastic combat elements.
Keeps the Soulsborne formula fresh with new combat options, stealth, and exploration.
Cons
Hard to the point of alienating.
Long loading sequences.

Rango has been gaming since 1993. He loves Action/Adventure, JRPG, and Platforming games the most. When he's not writing reviews, he competes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments.

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