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Game review: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a punishing experience

01 Apr 2019
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Developer FromSoftware is no stranger to the video game industry as the studio has brought us the Dark Souls trilogy and Bloodborne over the last few years. Now the talented developer is bringing us a new IP called Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

If you have heard of FromSoftware before, you'll probably already know how difficult their games usually are. I played both Dark Souls and Bloodborne a few years ago and sadly never had the chance to finish either game.

The only game of this genre that I managed to eventually complete was Team Ninja’s awesome Nioh game released back in 2017. Not only did I complete the game, but I got the platinum trophy for it.

As for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, there are differing opinions about the game’s difficulty. Some people feel it's easier than Dark Souls while other people say it's the hardest game in the genre right now.

If you have never played any games of this genre before, you'll be in for a rude awakening. Not only are bosses really difficult to slay, but normal enemies are also hard for you to kill as well. You really need to be an expert with the game's controls if you want to succeed in these types of games.

Whereas in Dark Souls and Bloodborne you have to learn to dodge before you attack, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice utilises a different strategy. Here in this game, the main thing you need to learn quickly is to know how to block and parry enemy attacks.

All enemies and bosses have a posture meter in Sekiro and it's your main goal to block and parry to fill this meter up. By filling the meter up, you will gain an opportunity to strike the enemy down to empty their life bar. It goes without saying that you need good skills and timing in order to be successful in this game.

What I like most about Sekiro’s combat system is that it makes you think whenever you are in battle. If you just button mash all of the time, you won’t be able to properly kill the enemies and bosses in this game.

Since you are playing as a Shinobi warrior in Feudal Japan, there's more to the combat than just facing enemies head on. Unlike in Dark Souls and Bloodborne, this game also gives you the opportunity to stealthily kill bad guys. The cool thing about stealth is that you can also sneak up behind some bosses and mini bosses too to give you an early advantage in battle.

As you progress further in the game, you'll gain access to more items and skills to aid you in your journey. Two of the more useful items I used in the game included a handy battle axe as well as firecrackers to distract enemies.

However the most useful device of the entire game is the main character's grappling hook. You can use this hook to traverse through locations or even find new areas to scout out your enemies. The hook is really helpful and made travelling around the open world more fun than other games in this genre.

Graphically, exploring Japan in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a delight because you can visit a myriad amount of environments throughout your journey. The game is open world from the start too so you can pretty much tackle enemies and bosses in any order you want. There is even a moment in the game where you can go back in time to face enemies from the past too!

Much like other games of this genre, death is something you want to avoid because you will lose half of your money and also your XP. Money and XP is important mainly because you need both of them in order to upgrade skills from your skill tree. Leveling up is almost an essential thing you need to do because facing the bosses without any upgrades is suicide in most cases. 

The only generous thing this game offers is an opportunity for a second chance. If you die once, you can somewhat resurrect on the spot to try again. However if you die for a further second time, that’s when you lose your progress and have to start from the next save point. 

Save points are also very important for you to find because the game does not have auto saving or automatic checkpoints. You can also fast travel using the save points to tackle any enemies or locations you may have missed out the first time you’re out exploring. 

As much as I liked playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the only negative thing I can say about it is that this game isn’t for everyone. The main reason I got so far in the game is because of my experience playing Nioh two years ago. 

If you are a very casual gamer, it goes without saying you will have a very hard time enjoying this game because death will come to you very quickly. If you plan on buying this game, be prepared to be in for the challenge of your life.

Overall, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a very hard game, but it’s really rewarding and satisfying once you understand the core mechanics. Just make sure to be patient because blindly hacking and slashing won’t get you very far!

Verdict: 9.0/10