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- [Brandin] Within the first minutes
of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, there's no missing the fact
that From Software has built its shinobi-focused adventure
from the DNA of the Souls and Bloodborne series.
But this new mutated strain
is as much its own stealth-action experience,
one that's more focused, cohesive,
and in some ways forgiving,
despite retaining its predecessors' trademark difficulty.
As I rolled credits after 50 hours
of pressurized blood geyser executions,
fantastical monster fights, split-second swordsmanship,
and secret-filled areas,
I'm left with a deep appreciation for this amazing journey
and the skills it demands to master it.
To any Souls veteran, Sekiro's timing-based lock-on combat
of strikes and slashes is familiar,
as is the way you weave through the same
excellently designed levels that snake,
interconnect, and double back on themselves
to reveal new shortcuts
between little bastions of safety to resupply.
But Sekiro is immediately its own beast,
thanks to a Swiss army knife of prosthetic arms
strapped to the titular shinobi.
Part grappling hook, part gadget kit, part weapon,
and all useful,
this new mobility reinforces the steal elements of Sekiro,
allowing you to get into advantageous positions
for silent assassinations, quickly escape danger,
and explore varied mythical environments
of this vast and vertically-designed world.
Whether springing between castle rooftops,
zipping through forest branches, or scaling sheer cliffs,
there's a refreshing sense of freedom
in just getting around.
And that freedom extends beyond death.
The ability to resurrect yourself once per rest
allows you another shot at finishing a close fight,
but you risk spreading a divine sickness
amongst the NPCs of the world if you end up dying again.
There's a deep strategy to knowing when to resurrect
and when to let it go and lose half your earnings,
but the opportunity to get up and just run away
is a literal lifesaver in a game where one small mistake
could cost you everything.
And a lack of From Software's signature multiplayer
means you can actually pause Sekiro at your leisure,
which is its own sort of freedom.
(mystical music)
When you're not skulking around to score easy
and stylishly gory execution animations,
the emphasis is on skill-based swordsmanship
that requires a mastery
of an excellent new rock-paper-scissors countering system.
Peppered into the standard fare of attacks
are specific thrusts, sweeps, and grapples
that are difficult, if not impossible,
to simply block or dodge.
But these come with the fairness of telegraphed animations,
giving you half a breath
to recognize what's coming and react.
Thrusts must be deflected or redirected,
sweeps must be jumped, and grapples must be sidestepped
for a regularly thrilling exchange
of precision timing and tactics.
There is a steep learning curve to mastering this,
but once I overwrote my reactionary muscle memory,
I found a simple beauty in being able to stand toe to toe
with any enemy.
And in time, Sekiro's combat actually becomes more forgiving
than its predecessors.
Even towering monsters or impossibly lethal assassins
will tip you off to their big attacks.
And on top of just beating your enemies into submission
with raw damage, Sekiro introduces variety
with the idea of posture, composure during a fight.
Dealing damage or blocking and deflecting attacks
all degrade an opponent's posture,
culminating in an instant death blow opportunity
when it's broken.
Which route you take to get the kill matters less
when facing the rank-and-file threats,
but Sekiro constantly throws a variety of unique
and challenging enemies at you
that continue to ratchet up the pressure and complexity.
It becomes a tricky dance of flexibility.
And while there are less than a dozen bosses
with a capital B,
the world is positively lousy with mini-bosses
that serve as skill checks to keep you on your toes.
Relative to its predecessors,
Sekiro's character progression is admirably streamlined.
There are no attributes or numbers to build up.
Your health and attack power only increase
when finding key items
dropped by bosses hidden in the world.
There are no weapons to find or armor to acquire.
You'll use the same katana from start to finish.
Instead, you spend earned experience in a robust,
multi-tiered skill tree that allows you to unlock
passive skills, like a more potent stealth,
or the ability to regain precious health
when performing a death blow, alongside combat maneuvers,
like a powerful posture-breaking strike
or a lightning-fast slashing technique.
There are a staggering number of abilities to unlock,
and incredibly, each one I used felt unique and useful,
if only in specific situations.
Similarly, the prosthetic limb can be outfitted
with a number of different gadgets.
Some seem more universal than others,
like the always-handy shuriken for long-range damage,
or the mist raven feather that lets you phase through
enemy attacks for some lifesaving distance.
Others, like the umbrella that lets you block
incoming projectiles, or the ax that lets you smash shields
to splinters, are vital, but only for their narrow purpose.
These tools also come with their own excellent upgrade tree,
with effects that can be combined with skills
for some truly ingenious combinations and strategies.
(bell rings)
All these efforts support the goal of your undying
one-armed shinobi, to serve, protect,
and endless murder at the behest of your master,
the child Divine Heir, blessed with immortality.
While Sekiro starts out like a work of historical fiction
in a bloody but atmospheric period of Japanese history,
in typical From Software fashion,
it quickly takes a hard turn
into the mystical and supernatural,
telling a serviceable story that's regularly overshadowed
by the dense environmental storytelling at work.
All its sights and sounds create a varied world,
reinforced by a soundtrack that's as calming
as it is haunting.
But Sekiro is a less ambiguous affair
than Souls fans might be used to, as each arm of the journey
is much more clearly outlined
and clues are more freely given.
And though you spend a majority of your time
working through mountainous terrain
or historic castle grounds, occult-infused hamlets,
and blizzard-choked fortress,
and bottomless pits in the earth
are very much a part of the experience,
leaving plenty of room for secrets and mysteries
to be uncovered and pieced together
that should carry over nicely into a New Game Plus.
(mystical music)
- So the noble shinobi stands in our way.
- [Reviewer] Sekiro evolves From Software's formula
into a stylish stealth action-adventure that, naturally,
emphasizes precision and skill in its combat.
It walks the line between deliberate and patient stealth
and breakneck melee combat
against threats both earthly and otherworldly.
Its imaginative and flexible tools
support a more focused experience
that shaves down the Souls games' overly cryptic edges
without losing its air of mystery.
Sekiro is an amazing new twist on a familiar set of ideas
that can stand on its own alongside its predecessors.
For more on Sekiro,
check out the first 16 minutes of gameplay,
our graphics comparison,
and our unboxing of the Collector's Edition.
And for everything else, stick with IGN.
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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review

301 Folder Collection
Jingjiang Li published on June 4, 2019
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