Live, explore, fight, die. This is a cycle that many Dark Souls players are accustomed too, as developer FromSoftware’s library contains some of the most demanding mainstream titles in the modern era.
Whether its an entry in the cruel and methodically paced Dark Souls series or the frenzied chaos of Bloodborne, FromSoftware always aims to keep users on edge. Enter Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a brand new IP from the developer that aims to radically shake-up the “SoulsBorne” formula in unique ways.
Our demo of Sekrio consisted of first being walked through the portion we would be playing by a spokesperson and then having a chance to try the game ourselves. From the first minute, it was clear that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was going to be a different animal than what many FromSoftware fans were used to. Mobility is a big part of this title, as players can jump, climb, or use their grappling hook to traverse the world.
The latter can only be used in pre-determined locations or against enemies to pull yourself in for a quick kill. In the one location shown to us, there was a generous amount of spots that you could grapple to. It’s easy to use and is great for quickly escaping a losing fight. Verticality is far more important this time around and Sekiro really forces you to stop and evaluate your enemies from afar. Where the added mobility really shines is in setting up sneaky kills against your foes.
Sekiro is making a big push for stealth-based combat, which drastically changes how you approach different situations. Most of the enemies we fought could be instantly killed if you were undetected and tougher foes sustained a substantial amount of damage from a stealth attack. This allows players to quietly thin their opponent’s numbers before taking on tougher foes. Sadly, the A.I. wasn’t that aware and I was able to sneak right by a guard who was less than two feet away from me.
FromSoftware’s marketing manager Yasuhiro Kitao also explained to us that sneaking around will have added benefits for players.
As an example, our Shinobi protagonist has better hearing than ordinary folk, so if you approach stealthily from a distance, you can eavesdrop on certain characters. This may lead to you obtaining information such as enemy weaknesses.
We do worry that stealth kills will trivialize some of the combat, but it’s way too early to say for sure. What we do know, is that Sekiro’s combat feels like a mix between Bloodborne and Team Ninja’s Nioh. Fights can be fast and bloody with only a few quick hits deciding the outcome. Instead of just chipping away at a health bar, players need to focus on whittling down an enemy’s Posture. This can be done by attacking, parrying, and breaking the defense of a foe until you can deliver a death blow.
Because both you and foe can be instantly slain, most one on one sword fights are tense and can often feel like a game of chess. One misplaced step and an enemy can seize an opening to drastically lower your Posture bar. Powerful foes can also perform insta-kill attacks if they connect, but Sekiro does give players a visual warning before they strike.
There were a number of different tools that we could utilize during our playthrough such as a powerful axe, throwing stars, and the ability to set our katana on fire. We asked Kitao about the combat system and if there would be any magical items that players can obtain.
Your right-hand weapon will be the katana. The core combat uses a combination of the katana and Prosthetic Tools that can be switched in real-time. The Prosthetic Tools can also be restructured to add impact force or increase area of effect, for example.
There will be items that you can use in combat. For example, a sugar candy that temporarily raises defense, or a clump of ash you can throw at enemies to stun them.
It’s the resurrection mechanic that really sets Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice apart from other FromSoftware titles. When you die, the game will give you an option to come back to life in the exact spot you met your demise. The catch is that death can be used to lull soldiers into a false sense of security. Enemies will reset their position once you’ve fallen, so coming back to life affords you a chance to either sneak by or backstab them.
Lives are finite, so when, where, and how you die needs to be closely managed. If you are killed too many time it’s back to the checkpoint for you. The representative at the demo explained to us that some opponents will know your faking, so knowing when to die is vital. It’s certainly a unique mechanic and serves as a nice way to help players who are struggling with a certain fight.
The sense of tension surrounding death is something that we think was appreciated in previous titles, and we look forward to realizing this sensation in a different way with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. We plan to share more information about this at a later date.
If there was anything that was constantly being reinforced during my time with Sekiro it’s that this will be a single-player title. FromSoftware is quite committed to delivering a more cohesive and focused story. There is no character customization and multiplayer has been omitted from the game. Sekiro does have a plethora of secrets for users to uncover, but sadly we ran out of time before we could find one. When asked about side quests, Kitao stated:
While the term side quest may not be entirely accurate, you will find various unexpected encounters off the beaten path. We hope players will look forward to exploring every nook and cranny.
With several months left until Sekrio: Shadows Die Twice’s release, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Yet, we cannot help but get excited at the prospect of jumping back into this world. Sekiro is a game that feels both familiar and completely alien – especially to someone who has a lot of experience with the Souls series. There are a lot more moving parts to consider when playing, but at its core, this is the same brutal experience that fans expect.