Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. From Software (2019) PlayStation 4

I’ve played Sekiro for about 2 months now and after several false starts, a few rage quits and more than my fair share of childish meltdowns I finally beat the game on the easy ending and despite this, am slightly pleased with myself. It isn’t retro, it isn’t a revisit, but it is a game I took the effort to complete before writing down my feelings about the game. 

Gameplay

Well I managed to beat the game without gitting gud as I figured a way to cheese almost every boss. But more on that later.

Sekiro is an action rpg stealth-athon, and it is absolutely nothing like Dark Souls and if you want to read a review about Dark Souls, I recommend those Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3, Bloodborne. In Sekiro you have style and finesse while moving. Jumping is fluid too and the game doesn’t actively try to kill you by falling off ledges constantly. To aide in the movement you get a grappling hook allowing you to zip around the map avoiding head-on encounters. These improvements in movement don’t make the game easier than as rather than being a reinforced concrete wall you slowly headbutt into dust while learning the game mechanics, having to read wikis, item descriptions and other detritus scattered around the level, instead, you headbutt a titanium plated wall while being sodomised with a broom-handle while getting blatted in the face by bricks in the combat.

Looming on a roof top like a ninja Batman is actually stealthy

In a lot of ways Sekiro is the Triple A version of a Dark Souls game, you get a tutorial that tells you the moves, including a tedious hand-holding tutorial that gets subsequently more annoying on subsequent playthroughs, and you even get advice from NPCs such as “you need to go this way“.

After the tutorial is over though. FUCK YOU. Smashed in the face by a brick. This is where one of the key features of Sekiro will come into play and is sorta given away in the title. You urrrm, can die twice and resurrection. This skill is useful and can be a bit of a get out of jail free card on none-bosses, as using resurrect will allow you to hopefully run off, lick your wounds and return at full strength (bosses won’t let you casually teleport away) Or you can go for full death and glory in the hope you have enough health left to finish the enemy off. You are given up to three resurrects (health and resurrects are restored when resting at bonfires Idols) however their is a pretty long cool down on using the resurrect. If you go about your business after a death you’ll have to wait a good chunk of time before the next one becomes available. It means versus a boss you will have to spend an inordinate amount of time Benny Hill-ing around the stage avoiding the boss hoping you get that next resurrect power before going in for the next round off swishy sword stabby action. Then you get hit in the face by a brick and die.

some of the aforementioned stabby action

You see their is no forgiveness in Sekiro. To win you need to learn to deflect and the timing for this can be somewhat of a chore. In several playthroughs of each SoulsBorne game I never perfected deflect, and in each of those games there was a way round it. Which was dodge roll away, here, it is deflect or take 300 bricks to the face.

Other game mechanics

Rather than each enemy having just a health bar that you chip away at till they die, they’ll also have a posture meter. If you damage the enemy, or deflect their attack you will either deal health damage or posture damage. Chipping away at health will kill them, but breaking their posture will allow for a deathblow, where you instantly kill the enemy regardless of the amount of health they have. So if you learn how to deflect you’ll be able to piss through almost every boss in seconds and if you don’t. BRICK TO THE FACE!. To add further depth to the combat some enemies have moves which cannot be parried. So you will need to learn to counter these, stomping on the thrust, leaping over the sweep, or run the fuck away from the impossibly large range of the grabs (FUCK YOU CHAINED OGRE AND YOUR BULLSHIT HIT DETECTION), these unblockables can be awkward to learn at first as most characters are wearing flowing dressing gowns so it isn’t always easy to tell between a lunge or sweep, but you’ll get there. Eventually. Hopefully. Probably not. BRICK TO THE FACE!.

It’s raining blood, hallelujah!

Further to this the bosses and other mini-boss enemies will have more than one health bar. These can be quickly removed using stealth attacks, but 1 or more of those health bars will always require you to git good, and parry metal bricks to the face.

As as you level up you buy skills. Some of these are one off moves that use up a finite of grind heavy “Spirit Emblems”, that deal damage to your enemy. Or they are latent skills, such as make stealth better. And makes stealth even better, and makes stealth even super duper better which means that as you level up you become much harder to detect. In early levels enemies will hear you scratching your arse behind a bush 20 meters away and brick you in the face. Once you get some of the skills learnt you can basically walk up to people in their peripheral vision and then stab them in the fucking face without them being able to spot you. Teaches ’em right for bricking me in the face the bastards, but does add to the slightly lazy Triple A vibe that runs throughout.

I call Shadow lunge the “get skill win game” move.

Unlike the other SoulsBorne games you don’t drop all the cash/experience you are carrying. Instead, you lose a flat 50% of the spirit (experience) and Sen (money) you’re carrying on death. Levelling is handy in this respect is closer to a traditional RPG and much less punishing than Dark Souls as you can only lose points towards the skill point you’re currently working on. Each time you level you get one point to spend on skills, once the point is achieved it can’t be removed, but if you’re on 99% of a level and die you’ll lose 50% of that experience. Which is a sodding sod! So spend often, and spend wise.

So if you haven’t spent it, it is gone for good. So fucking do one when you resurrect and get yourself to an Idol. All things considered Wolf/Sekiro is a bit of a wuss when it comes to bricks to the face as even regular bum fuck enemies will lob several bricks in your face if you’re not paying attention.

unusually for a stealth focused game, it isn’t boring

Bosses

Sekiro’s Bosses fall into two categories and I like one and dislike the other, so let’s see if you can tell which…

  1. Big cool monsters where you run around them and smack them in the arse and run away before they can whomp a massive brick in your face. You can dodge around them and feel like a ballerina filled with poise and grace.
  2. Generic dudes in armour that will lob several hundred bricks in your face a second, have massive waffle-stomping attacks and require pinpoint perfection deflects to deal any sort of damage to them.

Sekiro really mixes up the creativity, as the fun bosses such as the Guardian Ape that literally lobs shit at you is hilarious, with a great plot twist. But the rest do tend to be a dude(s) in a different set of armour. Expect to see at least 25 dudes in armour (some are ladies, for “variety”).

This guy was surprisingly easy

It isn’t all bad though as you get some puzzle bosses such as the Folding Screen Monkeys where, like the Bed of Chaos (but much less cuntish than the Bed of Chaos), you have to look around the arena and figure out the attack.

Gankfest bosses with twatty bastards hanging around to get in the way like Capra Demon, as well as a few Zelda Lightning Tennis bosses where they lob lightning at you and you have to return it to deal massive stamina and posture damage.

Not sure if this counted as a boss

But despite theses flurries of creativity in boss design there are a lot of reskins and duplicates. You’ll fight one bloke twice, and depending on which ending you’re going for you’ll fight him a third, another four or so will be fought at least twice. This is before you account for pallette swapped mini-bosses (or just a name change) that you’ll come across twice. It is a little bit of a let down to be honest and it is 5 games later and From Software still haven’t topped the Vagina Dragon, but it isn’t just that, it is if I were to rank all SoulsBorne: Die Twice bosses in order the majority of bosses here would be below the generic dudes in armour from Dark Souls II, and GOD I hate Dark Souls II. I don’t hate Sekiro though, I just find the bosses on the whole to be a bit “meh”. Thankfully the story makes up for the bosses though.

Lady Butterfly get a special mention for being the boss I died to most. She is a later game boss, that can be fought early. She is a little like the Dancer of the Boreal Valley, you need precise movement otherwise it’ll be bricks to the face.

FUVK YOU BIATCH!

Story

Summit about Dragonblood. Go play the game and find out. It is actually pretty simple, and the story is presented to you as you progress. There is a twist where you make a decision, so I’ll let you play and see for yourself.

Picture is unrelated really…

How to Cheese 101

Ok so, I cheesed almost every boss. I never figured out how to deflect since you either need split second precision or a weird rhythm to land them correctly, and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get out of dodge roll mode that is so ingrained into me. But the cheese for every single boss is? Run around the boss at medium range. Too close and they’ll hit you. Too long and they’ll just stand there waiting for you to stop being a nob. No, mid distance is best. You bait out the hard moves with slow recovery times, and as you’ll be sprinting as soon as an attack misses you dash in, hit once, and run away.  The other option is to exploit the often shonkey AI and let them kill themselves.

I crouched on a log and the boss poisoned himself to death…

 

It was the only way I could kill Lady Butterfly, and once I perfected it on the first Genichiro Ashina fight I never bothered with deflect again. So spending roughly 20 hours stuck getting to past the 1st two real bosses, I then pissed through the rest of the game in around 5 hours only dying a handful of times on each boss as I learnt the movesets before cheesing them good.

Just run around and let them come at you…

Conclusion

I’m not down on Sekiro, I liked the difficulty, I liked the story, I loved the setting. And to be honest the only thing that stops Sekiro joining my favourite games evur list is the boss design. If there were 20 cool as fuck bosses it would rank as one of my favourite games, as it is, there are around 15 bosses and over 20 minibosses. Between those 35 nearly 30 of them are generic dudes (or dudettes) in armour. The setting is lovely, and while the story is presented to you and there is depth to the world like in the previous games I can’t help shift the lack of HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT, WHAT’S IT DOING NOW, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP MOMMY that Dark Souls 1 and Bloodborne had.

So give it a go but remember it is hard, and you’ll need patience or a knack for this style game to get through it. But, do what I did and cheese the bosses and ignore the parry deflect skill that is supposedly required for beating the game.

Pros: Platforming. some great boss design, no multiplayer

Cons: Story driven means you can’t choose a character class, reskin bosses, some bland boss design, AI can be shonkey

86%

Back in the Day:

Sekiro scored well, with scores commonly at 9/10 but a fair few in the mid 90s. Though some crybaby journalists had a good whinge about there not being an “easy mode”

Also Available on: PC, Xbox One

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I'm awesome. I write about videogames occasionally but spend most time painting and playing Warhammer in varying formats.

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Posted in Playstation 4
4 comments on “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. From Software (2019) PlayStation 4
  1. dreager1 says:

    I definitely like the idea of Sekiro. Having just about anything be potentially deadly is always cool. I remember seeing a streamer get tricked into walking into a campfire and staying there for a few seconds before realizing just how deadly it was. Good that you found the cheese though. I always say, if you can’t find a way to break the level, just cheese it!

    Liked by 1 person

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