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Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice Hands-on Impressions

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Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice Demo was available to play in Activision’s show booth alongside Destiny 2!!

Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice was revealed some time ago at E3. When I saw the E3 trailer, I felt……indifferent. To me, what the trailer showed was simply a more actionized samurai version of Dark Souls, and a lot of people who saw it too also probably did thought the same. But hooo boy, how wrong we are, it’s not just a more actionized samurai version of Dark Souls, it’s a more actionized NINJA version of Dark Souls and more than we (or at least I) thought it would be.

As the demo starts, you’re directly treated to controlling Sekiro, no cutscenes, no narration whatsoever, only you the player and tutorial title cards. In this first segment, you’re basically put in a safe area where you can properly try out all the controls, even as Dark Souls veterans, there’s no shame in learning how to control your character. After that there’s an area where there are some enemies, and areas where they basically let you experience the basic systems in the game. Still, being a FromSoftware game, you will die a lot, though on the other hand you also get more and more familiar to the area the more times you die, following true FromSoft tradition.

Now, if I have to describe the gameplay of Sekiro, I would have to say it’s quite a bit like it has classic Assassin’s Creed mixed into the Bloodborne formula with a little extra topping here and there. At its core, the game has 2 basic systems which is the execution mechanic and what can be described simply as a blocking gauge (because I forgot what they called it). Basically, both you and the enemy has both your regular old health system and a block gauge. You can just hit them normally to death but there’s a quicker way by using the block gauge. The block gauge basically allows you and the enemies to block and if anyone’s gauge is depleted, they are put in a staggered state where they can be executed, ignoring the health bar. Some of the ways to deplete the gauge involves hitting them until the gauge yields, or parrying them by pressing the block button at the right moment. Another is basically not allowing the gauge to fill up in the first place by catching them unawares.

Now you might be thinking “Unaware? Like stealth?”, and yes, I am saying that it is stealth. The demo (and probably the full game later on) gives you several ways to approach a situation, and they include both stealth and going in swords blazing. The demo manages to nail this perfectly in the (many) times I died and restarted from the beginning. I found myself trying to approach an area both stealthily and going in an all out brawl. Sure going stealth is more efficient and less tiresome, but you thrill seekers out there definitely understand the fun of going in a life or death battle even if you’ll just come back to life, right?

These used to be in style back then

Not only did they handle the possibilities of the players’ angles of approaches, but they manage to do so while still also making it comfortable to play in such a way. Let me explain.

Overall, moving around in this game feels almost as smooth as Uncharted 4, Sekiro feels really light to control, and if you’re a stealthier kind of person he’s quite fast even when crouched so you can go from target to target quickly. Moving around the level feels like a breeze, you can use the grappling hook to go to higher areas and you can jump, which has its specific jump button rather than the run and jump thing the Souls series was always doing, and hold on to ledges and then silently execute enemies. You can even hide under tall grasses by crouching (which has it’s own button) or hug the wall for the same purpose.

Sekiro’s mobility is far better than any previous FromSoft games I have ever tried but in battle this is also true with dodges and parries being very responsive, allowing you safe respite from the enemies’ attacks and your own attacks being perfect for punishing mistakes the enemy does. Battles are quite challenging as well, as every entity in the game generally fights on equal grounds thanks to the block gauge. The executions themselves are quite a sight to behold, with animations and sound effects woven perfectly to create the amazing sight that it is for you and the other enemies to watch. Even just watching yourself clashing swords with an enemy feels amazing. Somehow even better is the tension that is in the air as you and the enemy stand ready facing each other, just like the samurai in the movies.

Sekiro amazed me, after the downer that was Darksiders III and the incredibly slow moving line of Sekiro, I spent my time playing the demo starting with a flat-faced indifference which turned a grin that grows into a wide, bright-eyed smile as I learned of the mechanics of the game little by little and how good every action I do in-game feels. If Devil May Cry V never have existed, Sekiro would be the game on top of my wishlist for future upcoming games.

-F- out!!