On the 22nd of March 2019, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was released. The following is a summation of my thoughts about 30 hours into playing. I will do a follow up post on my final impressions when I finish the game. If you would like to see me play through it live and judge for yourself, you can do so by clicking on the link below.
Sekiro is fast paced, rife with danger and beautiful. From the fluid often cinematic combat, to the multi tiered area design it will challenge, thrill and test your limits. In this first impressions post I want to focus on a few key aspects of the game, setting, combat and story.
Ancient Japan has long been a soft spot of mine so it should come as no surprise that Sekiro’s landscape appeals to me. It looks beautiful, from ominous wooden towers to serene temples, the visuals combine with the soundtrack to immerse you fully in the areas that you are exploring. Not being in a *fantasy universe* I was concerned that the area diversity would be somewhat lacking, nothing could be further from the truth. From humble villages, to great castles, deep underground or high up in the mountains every area presents you with unique challenges and a distinct impression of progress as you move from one area to the next.
I’ve been hearing rumbles that Sekiro is too hard. In my opinion nothing could be further from the truth. Yes it is challenging but I suspect that a lot of that challenge comes with inexperience. Sekiro contains some of the successful aspects of the SoulsBorne franchise but takes a fundamentally different approach. It is this that I believe to be the stumbling block for the majority of the player base.
Souls games have always been at their most terrifying and frustrating when you do your first playthrough. As the series progressed this lessened somewhat as experience in tackling the environments and enemies accumulated. Sekiro asks us to throw that knowledge out of the window, introducing posture. The posture bar when stacked allows you to execute a Shinobi Deathblow. This is a key factor in the games combat and there are various ways to stack it, including combat tree upgrades, successful parries and prosthetic tools.
The tools are a part of the game that I suspect has caused some players issues. Without the right tool for the job some tasks are simply difficult. Breaking shields without the axe being one that I personally encountered. I would suggest that if players are struggling they should backtrack and check that they haven’t missed anything. If one thing is true of my experience so far it is that the game is far from linear and requires you to be flexible in your approach. These tools allow you to use vastly differing play styles to overcome your opposition and are necessary for smooth progression. Make sure you are checking the places you pass through thoroughly or risk making the game more difficult for yourself.
The story so far is not exactly special by From Software standards. However it feels more immediate, I haven’t felt like I needed to wiki anything or look at item descriptions for story content. As a long time souls veteran one I have done so regardless but found the majority of item descriptions give you more flavour rather than completely new info. It is bleak, with shreds of hope for you to cling to as bosses batter you around the arena and it isn’t the main focus of the game. It’s there to guide you through the game rather than be your reason for playing as the world and combat takes the forefront there.
Is Sekiro difficult? Yes. Although the difficulty can be overcome by adapting to how the game asks to be played. Some bosses have attacks that are poorly telegraphed or one shot you, this can make the experience frustrating. Despite this, if you enjoyed Soulsborne games then you will probably like Sekiro, it has beautiful areas to explore some memorable boss fights and enticing new mechanics. My final thoughts are that I have enjoyed my time with the game immensely and I suspect that this will remain true until the end. So off I go, back to playing!
One final thing! Let me know your impressions of the game either before or after playing in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!