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Old 04-09-2019, 08:11 AM   #1
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The Evil Avatar Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review

Title: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Activision
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review

Have sword, will die

From Software really needs no introduction these days, and after making itself a gaming household name with the Soulsborne series of games, it's become a name synonymous with difficult titles. There's no shortage of articles and videos online highlighting the Soulsborne series, and talking at length about how good the games are, and how they had a hand in brining back hardcore challenge to the market. They've spawned a whole heap of clones over the years with varying success, but for the true Souls experience, From Software was always the one to depend on. Now that Dark Souls has supposedly come to an end, and with no sign of Bloodborne 2, From Software has taken a different approach, putting a twist on the traditional Souls gameplay experience, and delivering the latest hardcore challenge from the team – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Taking place in a feudal Japanese setting, Sekiro features new protagonist, Sekiro, or 'The Wolf', a Shinobi who is on a mission to rescue his master, a young noble whose bloodline has the power to bestow undying immortality. Sekiro has such power, meaning he has the ability to resist death. This forms one of the game's main mechanics, as even when killed, Sekiro can rise again to continue his fight – with limitations of course. This is a From game, after all.

Playing in many ways just like a Soulsborne game on the surface, with third person combat and exploration of a large, interconnected world, Sekiro is anything but a simple Souls-like, and after a few mere minutes you'll find From Software has crafted an entirely different challenge, one that has a radically different tempo to Souls or even the faster-paced Bloodborne.

Here, there are no shields, no long distance dodges, no calling for the help of others. Instead, it's just Sekiro, his trusty sword, and your skill and patience. Of course, you do have plenty of other skills to help, including your trusty grappling hook, along with a series of prosthetic weapons and tools that can be added to Sekiro's prosthetic arm.

This arm, an anachronistic tool that can be upgraded multiple times with a variety of weapons, forms one of the games major mechanics, as whilst there's no raft of actual weapons and armour to choose from, as in Dark Souls, the prosthetic is the key to many of the game's tough challenges. Bosses, especially, are where this tool come into play, and bosses will almost always have a specific weakness to one of Sekiro's prosthetic weapons.

Indeed, even levelling up is different here. Unlike Dark Souls and Bloodborne, you can't simply grind away at enemies over and over to earn Souls/Blood echoes to level up and become stronger, so you can have an easier time against that troublesome boss. In Sekiro, the only way to level up in a traditional sense, as in increasing your health and attack power, is to beat bosses and find rare items. There’s no over levelling here, and the onus really is on your ability to learn the movesets and weaknesses of your foes, and for want of a better phrase, “git good.” It really is that simple here, and although there are tactics and certain prosthetic setups you can use to make fights easier, they rarely make a fight a pushover, and all battles require mastery of the game's other main mechanic – blocking and deflecting.

Linked to another game system, posture, blocking and timing deflections are key to surviving in Sekiro. The game encourages toe-to-toe combat, and to succeed here you need to time blocks to coincide with the moment of impact. Do this, and you'll deflect the attack. This adds to your opponents posture meter. Once this meter is filled, you'll break their posture, opening them up for a Shinobi deathblow. This is a one-hit kill for most normal foes, and for bosses, will take away one health bar.

You also have a posture meter, and enemies can also break your stance, opening you up for a powerful retaliation. There are other ways to build up this meter, such as repeated attacks, and the use of prosthetics, but deflecting is often the best way to go, and is a skill you have to master.

Some enemy attacks can't be blocked, and instead you either need to learn special counter techniques, or dodge to avoid them. Sekrio can doge attacks, but not in the exaggerated way you could in Bloodborne. Here, it's much more about timing, and to win fights, it's all about damaging posture of your foes, which dodging and jumping doesn't do. Simply put, if you didn't get it by now, you're going to have to stick it out with enemies in close combat if you're to progress.

To help, there are some perks and skills you can learn that augment your abilities, such as new sword attacks, more spiritual tokens on hand at any one time (these power the prosthetic arm), and status buffing talents, and each prosthetic can be upgraded to be more powerful or open up new abilities. There are also various items you can use, such as a collection of candy that can boost your attack, defence, posture damage, and so on.

To acquire skills and items you'll use two currencies. Experience points are earned as you fight enemies, and once you fill the exp bar, you'll earn a skill point. These are used to learn skills and abilities. Sen is the money of the game, used to buy items from vendors, and is also picked up from enemies and found in chests, or hidden areas. Like the Soulsborne series, dying in the game has an effect on these, but not in the same way. You don't lose all current EXP and money here, instead you'll lose half. There's no getting it back, though, once it's gone, it's gone. That is, unless you receive some hidden aid, a bonus that can come into play to prevent the loss of experience and money. This is directly tied to the immortality system and its effect on in game NPCs. If you surfer a permanent death (you use up all of your available revives), NPCs in the game can contract 'Dragonrot.' This affects the chances of getting hidden aid. You can cure this, but it requires a rare item, and you need to be careful as these items are not abundant.

Now, Sekiro isn't all about combat. Being a Shinobi, Serkio also has stealth at his disposal, and by using a stealthy crouch, his grappling hook, and the environment, you can get the drop on foes and one-hit stealth kill them. This is often a far better approach to take in many areas, and can even help against bosses, taking off one of their multiple health bars in one go, making the fight easier in the process. In fact, exploring stealthy approaches often helps find hidden areas and secrets, so the rewards are often more than just easier combat.

The world of Sekiro is every bit as impressive as any Soulsborne game. The Japanese mountain range filled with pagodas, castles, hidden caves, shrines, and all sorts of other, heavily folklore-inspired locations is excellent, and has that Dark Souls, interconnected structure to it. There's often more than one route into an area, and at any one time you'll have multiple areas you can explore and tackle. So, even if you're stuck on a specific boss, you can always go somewhere else to hopefully find new items, or level up once or twice to help in the current, problem confrontation.

So, you're probably wondering, what about the difficulty? Is this another Dark Souls challenge? The answer here, is no, it's not. This is a challenge that surpasses any of the Souls games, and even Bloodborne. Sekiro is far more difficult in my opinion, and this is because it's all about timing, pure skill, and there's no ability to utilise specific weapons or equipment to greatly assist in a fight. There's also no help here. You can't summon NPCs or other players to help. For the most part, you're on your own, and the only variable here is your prosthetic tool, and your own tactics.

Enemies here also hit a lot harder. You don't have a huge health pool, and you can't pile experience points into making yourself a tank, that's just not an option. Because of this, I feel some will find it to be a huge challenge, more so than any other From title.

Still, the important thing here is From Software's ability to deliver a tough challenge whilst always being fair, and giving the player that sense of, just one more try and I'll get it. Sekiro has that, and no matter how hopeless the situation may be, there will be a strategy or enemy weakness that'll help you.

There are a couple of issues that detract from the otherwise polished release. The camera can become your worst foe in confined spaces, especially if you're locked on to an enemy (the fight near the bottom of the well sticks out as a major example), and some bosses are little more than re-purposed normal foes, but these are only minor sticking points in an otherwise rock solid release.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a very tough game, one that'll no doubt put a lot of people off very quickly. It's unforgiving in a way the Soulsborne series hasn't been before, but still retains fairness. If you're a Soulsborne fan, or you're just looking for a new, and challenging title to get stuck into, Sekiro has what you need.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

The Good
  • Excellent combat mechanics
  • Masterfully crafted world
  • Tough, but fair challenge
The Bad
  • The camera is awful in enclosed spaces
The Ugly
  • Madame Butterfly will haunt your dreams
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Old 04-09-2019, 08:36 AM   #2
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I love this game so much. I'm almost done, and after having run through it, I'm taking my time with the last couple of levels. I wish I could wipe my memory and start over from the beginning.
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Old 04-09-2019, 10:57 AM   #3
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I've been looking hard at this one. Is it better than Dark Souls?
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...playing Rebel Galaxy
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Old 04-09-2019, 10:40 PM   #4
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TOO GODDAMN HARD. Stuck on the first miniboss, General Whateverthefuck. I don't know why I keep buying FROM games when I can't blasted play them. I guess because I love the settings, the look, the stories. But holy hell I can't play them. I think the farthest I got was beating the second boss in Bloodborne, Father Whateverthehell. This one combines Souls difficulty with Ninja Gaiden-like need for perfect reflexes and reaction times.

The only FROM game I ever finished was Enchanted Arms, but no one bought it so they decided to make Demon's Souls out of spite. The rest is history.

The difficulty is only "fair" if you're already a pro gamer with catlike reflexes, a masochistic level of patience, and a copious amount of time on your hands. In other words, average gamers, even VETERAN average gamers, need not apply.
Proud to be perma-banned 5 times on NeoGAF.
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Old 04-10-2019, 03:06 AM   #5
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But is it harder than "King's Field"? In that game, you could die during the first two minutes, just stepping from the barely visible path... Ever since then, From Software games have been my sworn nemesis. And I so wanted to like "Lost Kingdoms"...
Buying games and playing games are two different hobbies.
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Old 04-10-2019, 04:42 AM   #6
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I'm a bit at odds with the cheesing this game allows. Allowing to take a whole (mini)boss health bar by stealth attacking basically makes the fight 50% easier. This even works on some main bosses, some intended, some can be glitched. Then there's the silly deflect spamming that works on several bosses, too (just mash block instead of having to time it corrently).

Then there's the temporary buffs using one-time consumables. If you watch those insane 30 minute speedruns on YouTube, they seem to be way more important than in previous From Software games. Unfortunately, several of those have to be farmed using very boring, no skill requiring routines (resting, backstabbing a nearby enemy, rinse&repeat).

I'm just before the game's "short" ending, but sadly I have to admit I did not really enjoy the boss fights so far. Exploring and fighting "normal" mobs is way more fun.

Using the same warning sign for the 3 kinds of different undeflectable attacks is too much "having to learn the boss moves" for me. And I've finished all the Soul games and Bloodborne. But well, then you take a look at those crazy folks playing the game on YouTube and think "wtf... am I this shit?".

Overall, I don't regard the combat system of Sekiro that different from previous From games. Maybe because I never played those using a tanky build but a nimble evasive one anyway.

I'll probably resort to Cheat Engine for the final part of the game/bosses, as I cba to do more rage boss fights regarding the huge backlog of games I have.

Last edited by steved; 04-10-2019 at 04:54 AM..
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Old 04-10-2019, 09:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by steved View Post
I'll probably resort to Cheat Engine for the final part of the game/bosses, as I cba to do more rage boss fights regarding the huge backlog of games I have.
You cheated not only the game, but yourself.

You didn't grow.
You didn't improve.
You took a shortcut and gained nothing.

You experienced a hollow victory.
Nothing was risked and nothing was gained.

It's sad that you don't know the difference.
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Old 04-12-2019, 07:55 AM   #8
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Having bought the souls series over the years, and realizing my skills to play those games are lackluster, I decided not to buy games from this developer any longer. It's not my gameplay style and that's ok. There are games I can play and enjoy. This isn't one of them. For those that enjoy this type of game, Fantastic. Not all games will appeal to all gamers, and that's ok.

I don't need to wave some flag of pride claiming to be a great gamer by tackling any given title, and I don't appreciate those that degrade others with different opinions. I'll tackle my learning curve trying new characters in Overwatch, and enjoy some old school RPG goodness like Cyberpunk 2077.

There are so many games to choose from, that missing this won't cause me any grief.
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Old 04-12-2019, 08:39 AM   #9
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Sekiro Sold 2 Million Copies In 10 Days
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sekiro, shadows die twice

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