Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – Thoughts and Impressions

It’s almost as if FromSoftware makes games for the sadist in all of us. They have made their name in the industry by creating some of the most difficult titles in gaming. But heres the thing; none of their games are unfair to the player, you’re given the tools to succeed and if you happen to struggle, it’s because you’re looking for shortcuts. While there were a number of exploits in Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Sekiro feels like a different beast altogether.

If you happen to be a veteran of the Soulsborne series, you’re going to automatically believe that the mechanics present in those games will be present in Sekiro. Familiarity in this case, will actually put you at a disadvantage. Dodging is still a key mechanic, backstabs are still preferable, but facing up with enemies and embracing the emphasis on parrying will make life a lot easier.

Balance is important, playing too passive will allow tougher enemies to break your posture, which is the all important feature needs to be the primary point of emphasis. Playing too aggressive will leave you open to attacks as enemies are able to parry and counter in a similar fashion to the player. Blocking is important, if you tap the guard button just as the opponent lands a blow, it will grant you extra posture damage.

During my playthrough I found that tt is a whole easier to break an enemies posture, especially bosses, than it is trying to whittle down their health. Forcing the action is necessary to bait enemy into a routine, which will help you during multi-phased boss fights. It is a far cry from the combat in the Soulsborne series as bosses had tells that were easily identified and as long as you’re timing was up to snuff, you could poke them to death. In Sekiro, enemies will surprise you with different move sets and may take you off guard with combos that normal enemies wouldn’t generally have.

As challenging as the combat is, breaking past habits created by other FromSoftware games will probably be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Understanding that jumping over sweeping attacks, dodging into thrusts, and jumping from grabs seems easy to grasp, but applying this during combat is difficult at times. You’re used to moving away from danger instead of moving toward it and that requires you to completely alter your style of play.

Once you finally accept these concepts and apply them during combat, you’ll come to appreciate Sekiro that much more. You can pick off enemies using the stealth mechanics prominently featured and the game is fairly forgiving as you can reset situations in case you’re ever caught. As the Wolf, you can grapple to higher areas and give yourself a better view so that you can strategize. You’re also given various prosthetic attachments and shinobi abilities that will aid you during battle. Seriously, invest in your skills early, it makes encounters easier to handle.

Like previous FromSoftware titles, you’re given the tools to succeed. It is incumbent upon the player to master them so that the path forward is manageable. Obviously, you will die, a lot, but you’re given the chance to resurrect yourself and doing so will allow you a second chance, but sometimes you’re better off resetting. I found that in difficult boss fights, making through the first phase or two without dying is paramount because that second or third phase is where shit hits the fan.

Bosses will throw everything at you and you might find yourself throwing your controller in frustration. But, as in the Soulsborne series, dying has its benefits. I’ve honestly stopped looking at the health of the enemy as I focus on breaking posture as quickly as possible. Regardless of their health bar, if you break an enemies posture, you immediately follow up with a deathblow and that will help ease the stress of difficult fights. This is especially true when you attain the ability to gain health from a deathblow, it allows you to save your health gourds for when things get really sticky.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that developer FromSoftware doesn’t make titles for everyone and ultimately, Sekiro is no different. Their games are made for fans of the hardcore genre, those who want a challenge on par with nothing else on the market. No need for hand holding here, though you can make the game harder if you so choose, success is based upon how quickly you learn the games nuances and apply it to what is in front of you. Sekiro will frustrate you, that’s a given, but when defeating a boss feels like an accomplishment comparable to finishing certain games, then you know you have something special on your hands.

I look forward to seeing what else this games has to offer…besides rage.

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