Review: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is another outstanding game from From Software that will challenge veteran players more than ever before

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From Software have in the last few years established themselves as one of the gaming industry’s most reliable developers. Following the runaway success of Dark Souls in 2011, they have gone on to produce sequels and successors that consistently offer challenging yet fair experiences. With the release of Dark Souls 3 in 2016, director Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team took a step back to begin work on a new game, and after three years of silence, finally released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Sekiro can be loosely considered a successor to the Dark Souls and Bloodborne games, in that it shares some similarities in design, with tough difficulty, hidden lore and immaculate world-building. But, the game also strides a new path, with a brand new Japanese setting, a brand new story and a big mix-up to established gameplay mechanics. Long-gone is the dodge/block and attack strategy utilised in past games, replaced here by a focus on deflecting attacks with your katana, making fights feel more like a duel between two fierce warriors. This is done in order to lower an opponents posture, rather than their healthbar, which once depleted will leave them open to a ‘shinobi deathblow’, an attack which will instantly kill them. At its best, the new combat system is enthralling, encouraging you to clash swords with the lands most legendary swordsman and extraordinary beasts, only requiring dodging when attacks are deemed too perilous. Add in the unique abilities presented with use of the shinobi prosthetic, a multi-tool prosthetic arm with different attachments for different scenarios, and this is easily the most deep and complex gameplay From Software are yet to craft.

The game takes place in the Sengoku period of Japanese history, and tells the fictional tale of the one-armed wolf, a shinobi who loses his arm in a duel and must recover in order to rescue and protect his lord, Kuro. From this basic premise, the game evolves from one steeped in historical context to one with the magical and mystical elements that were so commonplace in the studio’s previous games. The world presented here is a beautiful one, with stunning art-direction and a remarkable soundtrack that perfectly reflects the time-period with a fantastical twist.

In many ways the game can be considered a more streamlined experience than Dark Souls, with the RPG elements stripped back and the story presented to the player in a very up-front way that makes the game much easier to digest at times. But, this can also be to the game’s detriment, as once the credits finally role, there seems to be little reason to play it again. Outside of the four separate endings that can be achieved, and the few secret/optional bosses, nothing is driving me to play it again. This comes as a considerable disappointment, given the myriad of different weapons and playstyles usable in prior games, that gave its community so much reason to come back. This is perhaps the game’s biggest flaw.

So, is it hard? You bet it is! The game is just as hard as the games that came before it, but in a very different way. Those who have played the Souls series before will undoubtedly find this much harder than a complete newcomer to these games. This is because the game asks you to un-learn some of the fundamental skills those old games taught you, and only once you fully embrace Sekiro’s new style will the game finally click into place. For me, there was a boss about a third of the way into the game that took me literal days to complete, but by the time I finally did beat it, I felt not only ecstatic but also like I had finally got to grips with the combat, after which the game seemed to fall into place.

Sekiro is a game that fully embraces its tough as nails difficulty and wonderful design, mired only by its lack of replayability. It is certainly worth a go, especially if you are a fan of Dark Souls or Bloodborne and fancy challenging yourself all over again!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is out now on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

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Biomed student. Excessively lazy fan of all things Game of Thrones. Sometimes watches other stuff and plays video games.

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