Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
format: PS4, Xbox one, PC release: 22 march 2019 | | publisher: Activision players: 1 developer: Fromsoftware With a fresh take on an old concept, can fromsoftware disrupt the action genre? We get our hands on it to find out once and for all
You can feel it brushing over you in an instant; the winds of change guiding Fromsoftware towards an all-new horizon. We are going to go right ahead and suggest that you check your expectations at the door; after we seized upon the opportunity to get our hands on the studio’s latest endeavour, it’s clear that it has about as much in common with the Soulsborne games as Chromehounds did to Armored Core. The studio – led as ever by the enigmatic Hidetaka Miyazaki – has made no secret of its desire to start afresh. Fromsoftware has, after all, poured much of its creative energy and resources into refining a single design philosophy over the decade. It’s finally time for the studio to do what it does best: free itself from the shackles of an exhausted formula in an effort to fully unleash its imagination and see where that may lead it.
The result is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a stealth-action experience heavily inspired by the myth and legend that helped define the late-16th century Sengoku period of Japan.
You take control of a shinobi dubbed Sekiro, the One-armed Wolf, who is duty-bound to reclaim a young lord that was kidnapped under his charge. To do so, you must step into the heart of the Ashina clan, although completing such a task is far easier said than done, for in this world nothing is quite what it seems.
While previous Fromsoftware action-rpgs have been built around a foundation of slow, cautious play – forcing you to seize upon any opportunities that may present themselves with methodical precision – Sekiro is a stark shift away from this mentality. Here, you must make full use of your shinobi training, utilising more aggressive tactics and decisive actions in combat to progress. The game worked to quickly acclimatise us to this shift by putting us up against a number of sickeningly fast foes. That goes for both the fodder and the named minibosses, enemies that take some degree of perseverance to bring to the ground that we begin to encounter as we push deeper into the castle grounds. It’s funny, as while Sekiro may give us the capacity to evade their attacks with a side-step dodge, it’s little more than a parlour trick in the grand scheme of things.
Sekiro is primarily designed around swordplay – two-handed combat with a katana, to be exact. While dodging is certainly an option should you want to try some slick manipulation of hitboxes, you’ll likely find that this will only get you cut down a little quicker. Instead, this is a game of blocking and parrying. We’ll be perfectly blunt about this too; if you don’t enjoy parrying mechanics then you aren’t going to enjoy Sekiro all that much.
Both Sekiro himself and every enemy that you encounter comes equipped with their very own Posture gauge. This depletes as blows are landed with R1, a standard attack with your sword that transitions seamlessly into combos as you land multiple blows – a powerful charge attack can also be unleashed by holding R1 at any point during a combo, the move differing depending on when you choose to utilise it. Once the Posture gauge is expended entirely it invokes a stun, leaving your foe (or yourself, if you aren’t careful) open to an absolutely crushing Shinobi Deathblow. There’s some
“SEKIRO IS PRIMARILY DESIGNED AROUND SWORDPLAY, TWOHANDED COMBAT WITH A KATANA TO BE EXACT”