Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the upcoming action-adventure title from From Software, the venerated studio behind the Soulsbourne games. Recently, more and more video content surrounding Sekiro was emerging, and my once nonchalance towards yet another "Git Gud" title, is now growing.
First off, let me just say that, throughout my thoughts here, I am not slandering any of From Software's titles. The Dark Souls franchise, critically, is phenomenal. The story and lore is incredibly detailed, the gothic art style painted Japanese titles in a different light to what the "mainstream" ideal was for a Japanese title, and the brutal combat has gone on to become one of the most well-known elements in gaming, to the point where any game with a harsh difficulty curve was compared to Dark Souls (much to the disdain of many a Souls fan).
As I began this feature, my colleagues commented, "You are the last person I would expect to say they are excited for Sekiro", and they aren't wrong. My thoughts on Dark Souls was that it was TRASH! No, I am kidding (please don't lynch me) (ed - Stops sharpening pitchfork). Dark Souls was never really on my list of favourite games to play, because, simply, I was too impatient with the combat. Dark Souls is a game that punishes you for not taking your time with the combat; you had to wait for your chance to strike, and sometimes, that chance wasn't even the right chance.
Because of this, I was always being held back by the various enemies I had to face, and I simply lost my temper at all the boss fights (nevermind the fact that I just always lost the boss battles). Even worse, you had to start back at the last bonfire you lit, which could sometimes put you back 45 minutes+, to which I had to face all the previous enemies again. As you can imagine, as this repetitiveness grew, I got more and more frustrated. At this point, I was no longer enjoying myself, or the challenge ahead of me, and I was simply playing the game out of spite, which is not actually what gaming is about.
You are probably already thinking, "if that's the case, why are you interested in Sekiro?". Well, good question, because I am still trying to answer that myself. Sekiro doesn't trade its difficulty for ease; it can be repetitive; and the sheer number of mini-bosses throughout, make up for any "ease" you encounter. In fact, if you die, not only do you still have to return to the last save point, but there is a "blood sickness" that spreads further and further to NPC's, effectively bringing an ancient plague on innocents. Well, damn, no pressure dude.
However, there are a few specific elements that I am looking forward to, and I actually enjoyed these same things in the weirdest of places; Assassin's Creed: Odyssey.
First off, the combat system. While combat is still technical, and punishing, it's been shifted from the "wait, wait, wait some more" mentality, to a system that rewards you for being aggressive in combat, and punishes you for playing the way you would in Dark Souls. Now, that's not to say it is a hack-and-slash now, where you just go in guns-blazing - or swords-blazing, rather - but the combat is faster and more intense. Parrying is a massive part of combat in Sekiro, and that's something I do all the time in Odyssey, as well as timing dodges and rolls. The increased tempo, more aggressive style, and emphasis on parrying and dodging, all give you the tools to make your own opportunity for attack, rather than simply waiting for one to open up, making it far more engaging than simply waiting around.
Second of all, the art style and setting of Sekiro just looks absolutely stunning. The ancient Japanese aesthetic, set in a time that blends ancient tradition with mysticism and futuristic concepts, is extremely intriguing for me. Japanese culture has always been fascinating, and while this isn't exactly a 1-to-1 replica, the ideals that Sekiro draws off is incredible. This leads into the art style, with Japanese culture dominating the landscape, influencing so many variations of enemies, as well as dealing with the concept of being a dishonored warrior; an idea that we always see told from a Western perspective.
The third, which continues on from the above, is the narrative being told. The continuous narrative - that is actually voiced - makes for a vastly different experience when compared to the silent protagonists in Dark Souls. Sekiro has his own beliefs, morality, and he speaks to other characters throughout the world. This gives another level of depth to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which was something I felt missing from the Souls series. The story occurs in a bloody and brutal era of Japanese history, the Sengoku period, where you follow the shinobi, Sekiro, as he hunts down a samurai who has kidnapped his lord. A simple premise, which looks to deliver a deep and powerful narrative.
Loves games with deep character development and a rich storyline. Also, shooty-shooties. Loathes microtransactions. Likes to use sarcasm and metaphors.
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