‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’

Elliot Hatch
Managing Editor and Game Reporter

FromSoftware has outdone themselves yet again with “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.” There are many parallels to draw between the Dark Souls and Bloodborne series from the same developer, but the game is not a carbon copy. FromSoftware copied the good from their Soulsborne series and vastly improved it.

Once the game starts, the graphics impress. The scenery is unique and lush from the Ashina Reservoir to the Fountainhead Palace. The game is consistently beautiful with countless places for the protagonist to explore. Each area has a distinct Japanese appearance that blends well with the storyline of the game, including cherry blossom trees and pagodas.

The One-Armed Wolf, the protagonist, is one with the environment. Through the game, you play as a shinobi—a type of Japanese warrior who uses mainly stealth to complete covert operations. Because of the stealth involved, “Sekiro” offers more mobility for the player than previous games by FromSoftware. You are given a “shinobi prosthetic tool,” which has multiple tools within it, to complete your assigned quest. One of these tools is a grapple hook. You can use the grapple hook to traverse vertically. This gives “Sekiro” that greater mobility and allows a more fluid transition from one area to another.

The combat is faster in comparison to FromSoftware’s earlier work. Because the controls differ so much from previous games, the speed can be a challenge to grasp. Former games by FromSoftware had heavier characters, making the lightness of “Sekiro” a bit of a shock. The enemies are easier to kill, but they are also faster and more abundant. This doesn’t mean the game is easier than the Soulsborne series. In fact, with the quick pace of the battle segments and the abundance of the enemies, it certainly has a learning curve.

However, unlike the Soulsborne series, “Sekiro” has a definitive story. FromSoftware usually makes the story more ambiguous. The player goes through most of the game vaguely sure of what’s happening. “Sekiro” is different. You’re told what’s happening and why your quest is important. This gives the player renewed motivation. When the quest is clearly important, it makes the game easier and more appealing to put hours into finishing.

A couple things that do make the game easier to complete is the proximity of the idols, or save places, and the second chance mechanic. Bonfires in the Soulsborne series are so scarce and separated that it’s easy to fear losing progress. “Sekiro” remedies this by placing the idols much closer together, which eliminates that fear and makes it easier to progress with the story. The second chance mechanic is subtly pointed to in the title “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.” You actually get two lives in this game. The first death allows you to revive in the same place you died, allowing you to continue that life. However, dying again causes you to lose half of your money and half your experience.

This game has a lot to offer. Beautiful scenery, incredible combat and a definitive story make for a pretty spectacular game. The only thing “Sekiro” doesn’t have going for it is the foundation FromSoftware has built up prior to it with the Soulsborne series. In the Soulsborne series, you are expected to dodge and block often. Dodging is not nearly as effective in “Sekiro” as it once was. The window of invincibility is much smaller, and the muscle memory acquired from the Soulsborne series can come to be a bad thing here. “Sekiro” requires much more use of blocking than dodging.

FromSoftware has outdone themselves once again, making a game that’s beautiful to look at and challenging to play. Amazingly, it’s unique as well. “Sekiro’”is reminiscent of the Soulsborne series, but holds its own effortlessly.

“Sekiro” deserves a solid 9.5/10.