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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – Review (In-Progress)
Sekiro was first announced on August 2018 alongside with their trailer which explodes the Dark Souls community soon after knowing Code Vein was announced in June 2018. However, we all know our 3D waifu game getting delayed to an unspecified date in 2019 but our sorrow being lifted as Sekiro officially released on 22nd March 2019. Thus, this is our review on Sekiro:
Casuls Shadows Die Twice.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is From Software’s latest action-adventure game since their departure from the Dark Souls series. The game is set during mid-1500s feudal Japan and introduces a harsh retelling of history from the land of the rising sun.
(I guess this is where praise the sun came from)
Locations in Sekiro are spread out into multiple sections. Some of them include residential rooftops, swampy marshes, and burning villages which all serves a purpose to establish the setting of the game.The land is bleak and dreary. Signs of a fallen empire and a war long past are clearly visible throughout the many wide-open maps the game has to offer. Forgotten warriors and distraught merchants are still present in the world, barely living on their own. Sekiro really manages to create a despairing tone for its setting while at the same time succeeds in building up that curiosity to the players. And it’s this constant hunger to find out the truth that carries the player throughout the entire game.
Gameplay in this game feels similar to that of the Soulsborne series. It’s not an exact copy of the previous games, but the combat and exploration do feel familiar to an extent— and that’s a good thing! I feel like the developers succeeded in presenting us something familiar from the Soulsborne series, while also introducing us to a bunch of new fresh takes on how players approach multiple enemies along their path.
In Sekiro, the game introduces a mechanic called ‘posture’. Every enemy, (including animals for some reason), has posture. And you can either deal some damage by attacking them until their health drops to zero, or you could attack their posture directly, even without injuring them. It’s a weird, yet very effective mechanic that makes Sekiro a unique game on its own.
That being said, a lot of enemies in this game, and yes— even regular ones CAN one-shot you. Which, isn’t really a surprise coming from the same people that made the Dark Souls franchise. The way I see it, it’s sort of a radical way for the developers to introduce the difficulty curve for Sekiro. Players will have to pay attention and take the game seriously, especially early on when healing items and offensive abilities can be really weak.
Aside from that, a thing I’ve noticed in Sekiro is that there are always multiple routes to take as you progress through the game. If you feel like you’re stuck on a particular boss fight, or a certain path filled with tough enemies, you can always try moving onto a second, sometimes even a third path that’s available to you. And I really like that. There’s always other opportunities to find more upgrades, more stealth sections, and more ‘easier’ opponents to encounter throughout the map.
Some areas in the game have multiple enemies and very little opportunities to take them all at once. Because of this, you’ll need to plan your attacks and strategize who to pick off one by one. In a lot of these stealth segments, patience is key. Which is a good thing that they’ve included bunch stuff in the game such as throwable items to catch an enemy’s attention, as well as consumables to make your presence well-hidden. And these are just a few items in Sekiro that can benefit your own personal playstyle throughout the game.
Which brings me to my next point, the skill trees. The upgrades you can get for your skills in this game are very extensive. A lot of them benefit certain parts of your character such as the amount your health potion restores, new attacks and counters for combat, as well as skills that allow you to stay hidden and silent longer if you choose to pursue a stealthier playstyle, should you choose that instead.
The story in Sekiro is complex, for lack of a better word. And it’s not unlike FromSoftware to do this. They tend to make the story for their games as vague, yet intricate as possible. And just like their previous works, you mostly get to understand the story and the lore from reading the many item & weapon descriptions available in the game. Most of what’s actually happening is being told in the background in context.
However, from my point of understanding, the story goes like — I would say that Ashina, the area/country that you play in, was once this great district that lived long and prospers until one day, an Ashina general proposed an idea to mix dragon blood with that of his own soldiers in order to become an even greater force throughout Japan. And as time went by, the general and his soldiers that were affected by this blood became insane and started attacking the local population. This caused Ashina’s downfall and left some of the soldiers to become immortal because of it.
To a certain extent, that’s one of the many charms of the Soulsborne franchise. It doesn’t feed you information like a regular linear storyline would. But instead, talks to you through these little bits of detail found through observing the world, analyzing the character models, as well as really looking closely at the dialogue presented to you. That being said, I am still in the early parts of the game, so there’s a big chance that I still haven’t arrived at the more story-heavy parts of the game.
One of the many things I like about Sekiro is how they manage bosses in the game. Besides the regular bosses, you fight to progress towards the next area, you’ll also encounter mini-bosses throughout the map. And there’s tons of it. The ones that I’ve run into so far all have their own unique attack animations and fighting styles. No two bosses will play out the same way. And this is great because it forces the player to recognize their attacks as well as knowing how to counter them, before attacking them head-on.
I can also appreciate how items and small upgrades are scattered throughout the map. It encourages player exploration and rewards them for moving past the main routes. Players will encounter opportunities to swim in a nearby lake, or to jump off from tall cliffs to find areas you can grapple to, which then reveals even bigger areas. Giving you better rewards, as well as even more alternate paths you can take that can give you a sense of character progression even when you’re not fighting bosses or moving towards the main path.
I truly believe that FromSoft succeeded in creating this new IP from their departure from the Souls series. It was a bold move to invent something from scratch when they could have just continued the series with how big the Soulsborne community is. But I digress.
In the beginning, people were very skeptical when they introduced Bloodborne. And they were extremely satisfied with how the game turned out in the end. The same goes for Sekiro in my opinion. There’s a ton of fun to be had here. The extensive skill trees not only allow players to figure out their own unique playstyles throughout the game, but it also promotes multiple playthroughs for players to try out different skills/abilities for different bosses and stealth segments.
The music is very memorable as well. I’ve yet to listen to all the tracks played in-game, but just the battle music in itself manages to set the overall tone for the game. Without a doubt, the music composer for Sekiro really did an amazing job when creating this unique atmosphere for the game.
On a separate note, Sekiro is one of the best AAA game design that I’ve seen in a while. With no extra armor sets, or even a multiplayer aspect to the game. Everything only takes 17GB of space to install— which is definitely a good thing! Everything is located in few, yet gigantic maps. Without a doubt, this also benefits loading times as well as hardware optimization when rendering multiple objects and background assets at a given time.
All in all, even though Bloodborne was my favorite game from FromSoft, I can feel that Sekiro could easily steal that spot in return. But for now, definitely need to finish the game, ha!
This is a joint review with a great friend who suffers with me through thick and thin
– Daniel Rosli
Review based on PS4 version played on a base PS4. Review copy provided by Playstation Asia