Platform: PS4, PC
Review Platform: PC
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is Activision and FromSoftware’s first collaboration in years, but you’d never guess from the polished localization and gameplay. It doesn’t hurt that Sekiro is absolutely stunning visually as well.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice puts you in control of a character without a name. Referred to as the nameless shinobi, or Wolf, the protagonist is an older, wartorn ninja who works in the service of a Young Lord in order to protect a special bloodline. That bloodline allows the nameless shinobi to resurrect himself from death, which is how the game gets its subtitle.
While Sekiro is not a Soulsbourne game, it does have the same heart of absolutely punishing gameplay. The combat still requires quick reflexes, near-perfect timing, and proper strategy. Much like the Soulsbourne games, Sekiro still inspires the same fierce competitive attitude in players, though there are no multiplayer invasion in Sekiro. Instead, your drive to do better, to level up your weapons and abilities, comes from the AI enemies themselves. Which is, in many ways, a more satisfying experience. No longer can a random stranger enter your game and wreck your progress just for laughs, instead, it’s the world of the game working against you.
And boy, does it work against you.
Every time you die and resurrect yourself mid-fight, the world is impacted in various ways. All of them bad. Things start off simple, where those close to the nameless shinobi becoming ill, but the illness escalates and can have more far-reaching repercussions.
Of course, the only way to avoid this is to die less, but that’s often not an option.
Especially if, like me, you’re particularly bad at playing fragile, stealth characters. It used to be a favorite of mine, to be the assassin, but I’ve spent far too long tanking things in other games to be properly prepared for Sekiro. Even with hours of practice at a press demo event last month, I’m still terrible at playing a super-fragile shinobi. Which adds an extra layer of difficulty, for me personally. However, the rebirth mechanic exists to make up for how fragile Wolf can be. After all, most enemies in the game can one-shot him, even after some serious levelling.
However, I put up with the punishing difficulty because, like most fans of the Souls series, I love games that kick my butt on a regular basis. I’m just competitive enough to work at beating the game’s various enemies and bosses, even though it takes me far more hours than it should to complete even the opening levels.
But if the simple joy of surmounting a major challenge isn’t enough for you, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has a surprisingly touching story. Like most FromSoftware games, the story is told in the silences between dialogue, in the descriptions of items you pick up, and in the background details of the level design. The story you’ll find is as fantastic as it is relatable, and surprisingly touching for a game that seems designed to make you hate the sight of its death screen.
So while there isn’t any multiplayer and it eschews the RPG progression formula, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice still hits many of the same buttons that the Soulsbourne games do. So fans will absolutely have a reason to check it out, and hopefully, stick around to unearth the beautiful story that sits at the heart of all the vicious gameplay.
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