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

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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”

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