From Software is best known for the Souls series of games which have caused more than one person to rage in a fury over how hard they can be. Its newest game starts fresh in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, set in feudal Japan featuring a lone Shinobi seeking to rescue his lost Lord. Will this new game be more of the same or something unique and worth the price of admission? This is our review of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. But really, it’s more like “you’ll die a thousand times”.
Some of the first things that may pop into your head when someone mentions From Software or any of the Souls games is a hard, unforgiving, rewarding experience, epic. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice looks you dead in the eye and says “Yup, we got that.” The game has several features you come to expect from the makers of Dark Souls as well as new features which some may say make the game even more difficult than previous games from the developer. The game brings several mechanics you may be familiar with. There are bonfires (shrines in this case) for resting and leveling, brutal combat with deadly boss fights, a way to eventually level up aspects of your character, items that can help you or hinder others, a beautiful environment with hidden secrets and short cuts strewn throughout and a memorable cast of characters that pair well with this epic story.
Where Sekiro differs is what makes all the difference in the world. While you can create customized characters with various stats that you level up for an incredible amount of build variety, in Sekiro you play the same person everyone else does. In Dark Souls the mix of different builds allowed for sometimes overpowered players that could find certain parts of the world more relaxed than others, but now you have to deal with you are given and use the new mechanics to gain victory. Stealth can play a big part in Sekiro either by sneaking past enemies you don’t wish to fight or to get in close for that devastating sneak attack. Here, one slash of your blade can kill most anything if adequately planned.
The combat does have the blocks, parries, dodges, and attacks you would expect, but it’s played out differently thanks to the new stat Posture. Posture can build in various ways, taking damage, blocking, not blocking correctly, etc. When this gets full on an enemy character, this allows you to go in for a killing blow. Yes, there is health in the game, but getting that death blow is slightly more satisfying and can be rewarding depending on your skills.
This fighting at its basic level is what gives Sekiro its greatest strength and for some its greatest weakness. It takes time and patience to understand the combat which evolves with the addition of new skills. Baddie thrusting a spear at you? Stomp your foot on it and gut them while you’re at. And because of the Shinobi Arm which offers up even more ways to fight (yes, I did pop a flamethrower out of my arm). Add all of that together with stealth, various ninja skills and vertical movement afforded in the game, and you end up with one hell of a wild ride.
If combat is the grand main course of Sekiro, then it is served well with its other side dishes that shine brightly. The setting and story are top notches and I felt more involved with these characters than I have while I played Dark Souls. The world itself is beautiful, sometimes hauntingly so with the otherworldly creatures that can rear their ghastly head occasionally. There is a particular joy in traversing tree limbs to get to hidden spots for either valuable items or to present yourself with a new shortcut that saves travel time. The resurrection system introduced brings with it its own story and system that helps to set Sekiro apart from other games with its flavor. The voice acting is top notch for both the English and Japanese actors and adds to the depth of the characters. While the music helps to bring even more life to this world of darkness and beauty.
Overall Sekiro: Shadows Dies Twice marks another remarkable triumph for From Software with bringing another hard game to the market that is part of a new and beautiful world. Make no mistake though; it’s hard. I do ok in Dark Souls and feel I'll eventually beat that, but I’m not sure how long it will take me to finish this game.
I'm looking forward to it though, and the challenge is worth it for that rush of feeling you get as you finally down that hard boss and move on to see what other way Sekiro will make you rethink how to play the game. If you enjoyed The Souls series of games then it’s worth your time and money, but understand this won’t be a comfortable ride.
- Combat that is diverse and makes you think
- Skills and unique tools for your arm that can change up conflict
- Stealth for getting deadly kills or sneaking around enemies
- Strong characters set in a beautiful world at war
- Voice acting in JP and EN that breathes life into both friend and foe
- It’s brutally hard, and this could be enough to shy people away
Note: A key was provided for the PC version of the game for review purposes.