For nearly 10 years now fans of the Soulsborne genre have spent thousands of hours mastering every aspect of each new entry in the series; Sekiro is no different. From the beautifully crafted world to the excessively difficult boss fights, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a great addition to the growing collection of soulsborne games. As a disclaimer, at the time of this review, I have not completed the game so I will only be reviewing the non-story parts of the game as I have experienced them.
You playthrough the game as a shinobi who is referred to as The Young Wolf or wolf. Shinobi is simply the term given to a male ninja.
Sekiro, like most of the games in the Souls series is not a game for those who lack patience. While games in the Soulsborne collection would punish you for being overly aggressive; Sekiro does the opposite. That being said, it without a doubt has the quickest pace of all the Soulsborne games. With this, and the addition of stealth, FromSoftware has given us new ways to explore the world.
One of the biggest differences Sekiro has when compared to the Dark Souls series is that your character is no longer tied to the ground, thanks to the addition of the grappling hook. This item allows your character to pull himself onto rooftops, tree branches or ledges that would otherwise be inaccessible; using these positions can set you up to ambush your unsuspecting enemies. Speaking of ambushing, stealth can change the way you play the game entirely. While sneaking up on a general samurai can allow you to hit him with a sneak attack, cutting his health in half, doing the same to lower level enemies will result in an instant kill. Sekiro has also swapped out the stamina bar for a posture system. Hitting an enemy enough times will fill this bar and cause it to glow red at which point you will be granted with the opportunity to land a “Deathblow”. The same thing can happen to you if you are hit too many times; so knowing when you dodge an attack rather than try and deflect it is an important lesson to learn early on. Your shinobi is also equipped with a sort of Go-Go Gadget style arsenal of prosthetic tools; tapping the Y or Triangle button allows you to quickly switch between the 3 tools you have equipped depending on what the scenario calls for. All these factors combined allow the player to approach each encounter differently. None of these factors will make the game easier on its own, only when using every tool at your disposal will you have any hope of mastering the ways of the shinobi. Up to this point I haven’t spent a lot of time with the Soulsborne games, but these additions helped me feel more comfortable and welcomed in this genre than any other game in the entire line up.
If the team at FromSoftware has mastered one thing it’s crafting a living, breathing world. Small things such as the ability to listen in on enemy troops to gain an advantage in a certain fight make the world feel just a bit more believable. The addition of Dragon Rot (I’ll touch more on this later), which has a chance to affect any NPC that you interact with, also makes the game feel more alive; its an added layer of difficulty that the other Soulsborne titles don’t have.
Unlike the other games in the Soulsborne collection, Sekiro gives you the option to die or resurrect; both have their pros and cons. If you choose to die there is a chance that you will lose a small amount of sen (in-game currency) and experience, I say chance because Sekiro also adds a feature called “Unseen Aid”, and the higher the percentage of unseen aid you have the less likely you are to lose sen and XP upon death. If you choose to resurrect you will come back to life in the exact spot that you died with a small amount of health. While you start with only one chance the amount of times you can resurrect yourself eventually grows, but if you resurrect too many times then an NPC you have talked to will succumb to Dragon Rot; which is an in-game sickness that will decrease the amount of unseen aid you have. If you choose to return from the dead you won’t be able to do so again until after you have killed enough enemies, it usually only takes landing a deathblow on a boss of some kind or killing several smaller enemies. The Dragon Rot can be reversed by finding or buying a very rare item, using this item clears the sickness from all infected individuals.
Sekiro is not for everyone. It is extremely difficult and unforgiving. However, the feeling of beating a boss in a game this difficult is absolutely worth ever new swear word you invent while playing it. FromSoftware has once again created a masterpiece. I look forward to seeing if this series continues or if it will only be this one entry. As it stands, Sekiro is my game of the year for 2019.