Sekiro, Shadows Die Twice – An Infuriating Journey Towards Glory

When you were young, did you imagine yourself as a silent ninja, climbing on buildings, running swiftly to dispose of imaginary enemies or monsters? Sekiro brings you exactly that kind of lethal and quick gameplay, where a true shinobi will have to be precise against their enemies, to achieve victory upon an extraordinary variety of enemies and powerful, magnificent foes of legend. A couple of keyboards completely destroyed and a mouse or two thrown against the wall are just normal, casualties of being a virtual shinobi nowadays. Spoilers ahead!

Synopsis

As an infant, Wolf was adopted by a ninja who taught him everything he knew. The Iron Code was imbued on him and Wolf was then placed as bodyguard of Kuro, the Divine Heir with a bloodline that said would turn people into immortals.

In the land of Ashina, General Genichiro was foreseeing an impending assault from their enemies since their Lord Isshin was already old and sick. He abducted Kuro in order to force him under his oath of immortality so that he could protect the clan. Wolf would then come to his master’s rescue and do everything in his reach to get him to safety.

Analysis

It had been a while for me since I had the freedom in a virtual environment that Sekiro so offers. The movements, the control I have over them is just so… Fluid. It’s amazing run around Ashina, climbing, falling, venturing through corridors and roofs, stumble upon an enemy unaware of our presence and instantly kill him, spraying his blood on the wall and surface. It’s exciting to say the least, and even when you die countless times and you still have to kill those same enemies, because when you die or rest in this game all enemies respawn, there’s still that devilish satisfaction as you spill their blood once again.

As an enthusiast of stories, be them more realistic, with a huge or slight touch of fantasy, I do appreciate anything I come across. The game does have multiple endings and a lot of secrets to uncover, but I don’t think the story is a strong point in Sekiro. It’s pretty much linear, without much development in the main direction of the story, nor its characters as well. The story can be very well resumed into the next paragraphs:

  • Wolf returns to life and rescues Kuro, only to be maimed by Genichiro.
  • Wolf returns to life again with the help of a Sculpter who placed a prosthetic arm on him.
  • Wolf goes through Ashina and uncovers a flashback story which explains how he became bound to the Divine Heir (Kuro).
  • Wolf saves Kuro at Ashina Castle, defeating Genichiro this time but he survives.
  • Wolf embarks on a journey to gather ingredients to sever the ties of immortality.
  • Wolf now faces his father and has a decision to make.
  • Whatever decision he does, he then manages to either sever the ties of immortality or becomes a demon.

Storywise that’s pretty much, but of course, there’s a lot of enemies and bosses in between some of those points.

Despite the lack of depth within the story, the gameplay is what truly makes this game fabulous. Basically it consists about parrying, dodging and deflecting the enemies attacks so that you can attack when an opening occurs, all the while using a special ability from the talent trees or the prosthetic tool which includes, a wide variety of gadgets such as fireworks, a protecting hat, an axe and much more. These all add a bit of complexity to the game, in the sense to ease it up, but practically none is a must to have in order to complete the game, so its entirely possible that you end up completing it without having them all, as it happened to me. Still, some are indeed a must for certain sequences and indeed give you an edge to defeat the boss in question, like the shurikens against Lady Butterfly, or the Fireworks against Gyoubu Oniwa.

The music of this game is spot on, adding a sense of suspense, action, discovery and even dread as you venture through the various locations of Ashina, or in battle against the formidable enemies that you will encounter, all of that with an incredible touch of the Japanese instruments that we’re so used to hear from that period of time.

TL;DR

Sekiro is, without a doubt, the most challenging game I’ve ever played, and one of the most responsive ones as well. The controls are easy to pick up with, we just need to time them better as we progress through the game, as we murder pretty much everything in our path in a most gruesome, but effective fashion towards the main objective. The frenetic pace at which we slice through enemies is addictive and only ever broken if we mess up, sometimes allowing one of the simplest, most basic enemies, to cut us through, almost killing us because we didn’t deflect, block or dodge its attack.

The game is unforgivably difficult, and it is certain that you’ll need a couple of dozen or more tries to defeat some of the hardest bosses. Lady Butterfly, how I loath you… There are a lot of strategies to be employed for each boss, thus easing the process to conquer them, some of which you may gather the necessary upgrades for you ninja tool, or some are itens that are indeed rare and are of limited use, more so than the resource for prosthetic ninja tool that is.

If you’re into action and a little bit of stealth, Sekiro is without a doubt, a challenging game for you where you’ll feel like the protagonist of a movie or anime, but in this case, you will master the mechanics of the game after many, many deaths. Shadows may die twice, but the player will die a lot more.

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