Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the latest game from Demon Souls, Dark Souls and Bloodborne developers FromSoftware released last Friday and I eagerly jumped in excited to play it.
My time with the game — an estimated 10 hours — was a gruelling, rewarding and constant learning experience. It didn’t play like Dark Souls; it didn’t play like Bloodborne, and it lacked several key elements from both those games. Elements that most considered main ingredients in the Soulsborn formula. But I was learning, adapting, and enjoying my time.
After 10 hours though, Sekiro broke something in me and I made a decision to uninstall the game. Yes, I know #gitgud and all that fun stuff, but I have boiled down my feelings for Sekiro and decided I didn’t have time for its shit anymore.
My key frustration grew from the game’s lack of any soft-padding. In Soulsborne titles, there is the ability to somewhat makes things easier for yourself if you get stuck. You can grind some character levels, stick some skill points in HP, Attack, Defense, or whatever you think will help you in your battle, and be able to give yourself the slight edge you needed to survive a boss battle. Although all Soulsborne games do come down to skill, having the option to grind out something to possibly make the battle a little easier was always a nice option and added a level of ease for those not wanting to beat the entire game without ever getting hit. It was a welcome option, especially as it gave you something to do when you wanted a break from bashing against a boss battle over-and-over.
Another thing Sekiro is missing that Soulsborne titles have always included is any online components. In Bloodborne and the Souls games you were able to call in for help from another player if need be, which made playing through a ridiculous boss in co-op an easier option. There was also the option to leave notes on the ground to help other players with useful tips, or trick them into a deathtrap (if you were that kinda person.)
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a singular experience that lacks the RPG elements of previous FromSoft tiles, and has you playing as one protagonist, one set stat-sheet and the only option you have when you’re hitting up against a wall is to practice and get better at the game. But when you’re getting one-hit killed, it can make practising specific boss battle elements hard.
Which sure, I get it, and the game is rewarding. The first mini-boss in the game took me roughly 10 tries and when I finally understood the parrying system it was an “a-ha” moment and at the time, I was looking forward to more like those.
Sekiro though has changed a lot of the Soulsborne systems we knew, introduced a much weaker character and thrown you into a world that is ultimately more brutal than any previous FromSoft games. Grunt enemies 10 hours in are still scary to face because I know that one of them could still knock half my HP down if I’m not careful. Also, not having the amount of HP restoring items we have had in previous games always makes the slightest mistake nearly game ending. Which is where the bonfire or camp system in this game becomes tedious to a point I was sick of it. It’s one thing to ask me to learn a brutal boss system, but another to make me constantly wander through such long areas to get back to the boss after dying. Often areas lead to death if you’re not careful as you’re getting shot from outta nowhere; tackled from the sky or dived on from above. Previous Soulsborne titles didn’t always have checkpoints close to the boss fights, but you’d also usually be able to open a shortcut to the boss, and sprinting past all the enemies was usually pretty easy. If one managed to hit you, whatever, not the end of the world. In Sekiro if any enemy hits you, you might as well walk all the way back to the checkpoint and rest because you NEED that HP more than ever.