Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review


Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the newest title developed by FromSoftware, the same studio known for the Dark Souls titles and 2014’s Bloodborne. Sekiro takes a lot of the lessons learned from the ‘Soulsborne’ games and melds that with plenty of new systems to create a brand new world full of great set pieces, well designed characters and a combat system that is simultaneously fun, satisfying and incredibly challenging.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Hand's On Preview

In Sekiro you don’t create your own custom hero, equipped with their own starting stats and class. Instead you play as a shinobi warrior known as The Wolf on his mission to reclaim and protect his master, a young child known as the Divine Heir, who during his abduction lead to the Wolf losing his arm and waking to find it had been replaced by a Shinobi prosthetic equipped with it’s own set of powers and customisable gadgets.

Sekiro is set in a fictional version of Japan’s Sengoku period and offers a more straight forward story than found in the Souls games. But there’s still plenty of environmental storytelling and additional lore to be found for those that want to go looking for it and discover deeper meaning to things in the world.

Sekiro has done away with the standard rpg and progression elements seen in Dark Souls, instead it uses skill trees to strengthen and gain new abilities for the wolf by spending your collected XP. These new skills don’t make you stronger per se but open the doors to new abilities for the Wolf such as shield breaking strikes and the ability to regain health when you successfully deal a death blow. These abilities go a long way in helping you survive longer in this dangerous world.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Hand's On Preview

The environments are beautiful. Some are lush and decorated with cherry blossom tree’s and bamboo and others are dark, slimy caverns that are unsettling but just as well designed and presented as the vibrant outdoor locations. Along with the creature designs which are also incredible, the art direction of the game has done a fantastic job setting up and developing this world.

The world of Sekiro is beautifully designed, not just visually, but in level design too. Much like Dark Souls, the stages in Sekiro are brilliantly interlinked and full of unlockable areas that once you’ve progressed through and learned the layouts will have you naturally navigating it’s landscapes, knowing where you’re able to retreat to to get out of danger or getting from point A to point B in the quickest, and often safest way possible.

The world is also designed with a lot of verticality in mind. Prosthetic arm can be used as a grappling hook to quickly get from rooftop to rooftop, gain a high vantage point above an enemy for a stealth kill or quickly pull you up to safety when things on the ground get way too chaotic. Because you do have the option to run away and go elsewhere if you run into trouble. Sekiro is a much faster paced game when compared to Dark Souls or Bloodborne and I loved the addition of the grappling hook and the manoeuvring flexibility it offered.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Hand's On Preview

Where Sekiro truly comes into it’s own is with it’s combat. The combat in Sekiro is incredibly challenging and requires all of the finesse and skill you would expect from a system developed around samurai swordplay.

Unlike Dark Souls and Bloodorne that allow you to change your combat play-style by having primary weapons of different types and weights, in Sekiro you’ll primarily be using your samurai sword for all combat along with your prosthetic arm that acts as a secondary weapon, allowing for additional offensive and defensive techniques that can really help pull you out of a tough spot.

As the name of the game suggests, in Sekiro you’re able to resurrect after a death for a second chance. You can use it to get the upper hand on a n enemy that thinks you may be defeated or use it to revive and run to safety. If you revive and are struck down again though you will face a true death, be unable to continue and will have to face the consequences that come with death in Sekiro. Upon each death you will lose half of your collected money and xp toward your next level. After using a revival you won’t be able to resurrect again until you have earned back your revive either by defeating a boss, eliminating a set of enemies or resting at a Sculptor’s Idol.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Hand's On Preview

Choosing to revive and then falling in battle again will spread Dragonrot to enemies and NPC’s in the world which will close off some questlines and lower the percentages of certain bonuses being earned. Much like knowing when to strike, knowing when to resurrect or run away in Sekiro is also built upon it’s own risk and reward system.

This much faster combat system and the ability to resurrect after a death, had many prior to release believing that Sekiro would be an ‘easier’ experience when compared to FromSoftware’s earlier titles, but I can tell you first hand that Sekiro can be incredibly difficult at times and comes with it’s own set of challenges. You’ll certainly be dying more than twice here.

But while it is challenging, the game feels fair. When you die, you typically know what you should have done instead to manouvre out of the way of the attack or perfectly parry an enemy strike. But when you pull off the death blow on an enemy or finally take down a boss that has had you stumped for hours the game is just so bloody satisfying and you feel like you’ve really accomplished something huge.

In Sekiro, both you and each opponent have a health meter as well as a posture meter. During each bout you’re trying to whittle down the enemies posture meter as quickly as possible. You can do this by performing the right techniques at the right time or perfectly parrying among other things. Once you’ve managed to break the enemies posture and cause them to stumble, you’re able to perform the finishing blow that kills them. But just remember they’re also trying to do the same to you, so analysing the patterns of the various enemy types and methodically defending against them is absolutely crucial in Sekiro. If you go running in mindlessly swinging your sword you probably won’t find yourself getting to far through the game.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Hand's On Preview

Sekiro teaches you everything you need to know to succeed in the game. Many enemies, especially the mini-bosses will introduce a new mechanic or attack pattern that will become incredibly useful down the line. It’s just a matter of analysing your foe, learning their moveset, understand what the game is trying to tell you about how to defeat them and then try to achieve that without being torn to a bloody mess. Once again this comes back to the systems being hard but fair.

It’s hard to find specific technical or design flaws in Sekiro. A lot of care has gone into developing this world and it’s systems. If there was one minor gripe, and I do mean minor it’s that I occasionally ran into instances where the frame rate noticably drop when in combat with numerous enemies on screen. Other than that it’s really hard to find issue with what the game presents.

Final Thoughts

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a fantastic new IP from the team at FromSoftware. It’s an incredibly challenging experience set in a beautiful yet twisted rendition of Sengoku Japan. It’s certainly not a game for everyone though. The learning curve can be steep at times and learning the best approach for a boss can be a long stint of trial and error. But those that are up for the challenge and stick with it are in for a real treat.

A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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Played On: PC/PS4

  • + A fantastic new IP with a well developed world
  • + Environment and character designs
  • + Challenging but rewarding combat
  • + Tons of unlockable skills and gadgets to customise the Wolf with

  • - Some framerate drops in chaotic scenes

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