If you thought From Software was done with the Dark Souls formula, think again. Now under the Activision banner, director Hidetaka Miyazaki is at it again, this time taking us for a ride in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. And from the 40 minutes or so I spent playing the game at Brazil Game Show, all signs point to yet another hit.
Set in feudal Japan, Sekiro plays a lot like Dark Souls and its ilk, but has its own unique flavor. Outside of the obviously different aesthetic, there’s an entirely new mechanic that is a crucial part of its gameplay. The posture system works like a stamina gauge in a fighting game: the more hits you take or even defend, the closer you get to having your posture broken, allowing for enemies to deal even more damage, but the same goes for them, and by using a well timed counter after filling their posture meter, you’re able to instantly take them out.
Another thing that sets Sekiro apart from other recent From games is the stealth that I got to play around with with the demo. Sneaking behind (or even over) foes proved to be crucial, since it opens them up to be eliminated immediately in the case of weaker enemies, or cause a world of hurt to bigger ones. Approaching these guys is made even easier with the protagonists’ grappling hook that clings to specific surfaces, allowing you to traverse roofs, cliffs and clear fairly huge distances quickly, as well as his multi-tool prosthetic arm (which seems to be a running theme in these BGS games, honestly). The area the demo was set in was a fairly big walled off mansion like location filled that helped convey the sense of movement given by that arm, and it had all sorts of grunts to ambush and a few stronger soldiers, including a general, who kicked my ass during my first run through.
Dying isn’t the end in this game. Instead of drawing a big YOU ARE DEAD on screen the first time you die, you’re instead given the choice to instantly pop back up to your feet and continue where you left off once, without resupplying any of your used items. That’s where the ‘die twice’ in the game’s name comes from. You can gamble with your time and get another chance at the expense of your equipment, or simply give up and pick up from the closest shrine you activated, Sekiro’s equivalent to bonfires.
Since I had the chance to play the game in two separate times at BGS, I had the opportunity to think about my approach, which gave me ample time to consider my options. By the second time I started the demo off yesterday, I figured out the path to the demo’s boss, a corrupted monk armed with a bladed spear. But before that, I dealt with a big surprise. Literally. A gigantic snake tore through the canyon wall that I was traversing and knocked me off of the ledge a couple of times.
By the time I got to the boss, I had a few minutes left in the demo, and that fight proved to be a breathless bout that I only lost due to my nervousness and excitement of playing the game hurriedly at the show floor. Still, I managed to almost break the monk’s posture, but had a tough time figuring the timing for when to attack since his attack patterns were really difficult to read, even more so his reach.
When this second run through the demo ended, I was sure that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be worth the wait. With the glut of similar games set in ancient Japan that are coming out next year, Sekiro will have its work cut out trying to carve a way into player’s wallets. I for one am already way into the idea of seeing how different the developers’ takes will be for all three of these games in 2019.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will slash PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 22nd of next year.