It turns out shadows die a lot more than just twice.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest title by FromSoftware, the developer behind other notoriously difficult titles such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Like those games, Sekiro demands a lot from its players, and as a result it’s a game that can lead to soaring highs as you defeat a boss that pummeled you into the ground countless times and devastating lows as you fall to an enemy when its on the verge of death.
Sekiro borrows a lot from its predecessors while carving out its own path.
The combat still relies heavily on studying your opponent and becoming familiar with their move sets. The combat finds a happy medium between the combat of Dark Souls, which demands patience, and Bloodborne which favors aggression. Play it too safe, and you’ll never kill the enemy. Play too aggressively, and you’ll very quickly be cut down.
Sekiro also removes the stamina meter from prior FromSoft games and replaces it with the posture system. The result of this is combat feeling like a deadly dance of clashing swords. By applying pressure to enemies and filling their posture meter, they are left open to a devastating deathblow that instantly kills weaker enemies or takes away one of the deathblow nodes of mini-bosses and bosses. The addition of posture also means an increased focus on deflecting attacks, as deflecting builds posture faster than all out attacking. While Sekiro’s combat is robust and an exciting departure from the formula that FromSoft established in their previous games, the game does unfortunately lack in other aspects. Perhaps as a casualty of FromSoft having extremely obscure narratives and lore that players have to discover on their own in previous titles, the very clear story of Sekiro carries little to no weight, even through its different possible endings.
While I found the story to be mostly boring and inconsequential, the fact remains that FromSoftware still knows how to make a really good game and change up their formula just enough to show that they aren’t just a one trick pony when it comes to design.
I spent many hours with sweaty palms and my heart racing as I fought a difficult boss, screaming with joy as I finally overcame it. FromSoftware are masters of creating an extremely intense and visceral experience that leads to great stories from the players as to how they each took down an individual boss. If anyone was worried about the fate of FromSoftware after they laid the Dark Souls franchise to rest, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is here to cut through those doubts.