Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review | (PS4/Xbox One/PC)

In many ways, Sekiro Shadows Die Twice feels
like a culmination of FromSoftware’s latest projects. It’s not entirely Dark Souls nor Bloodborne,
rather it’s a combination of both with a faster-paced twist on it all. While it may be a bit more forgiving than
its predecessors, this is no walk in the park, it’s a game that’ll have you yelling and
screaming while making use of that new pause button that oh my gosh, actually freezes the
gameplay. Sekiro Shadows Die Twice puts you in the role
of the Wolf, a samurai warrior tasked with protecting the young royalty bloodline. He’s quickly put to the test when another
samurai comes to kidnap the heir. Tragically for our protagonist, he loses the
duel and ends up with his arm cut off, and what good is a samurai without an arm to hold
their sword. Moments after the attack, the wolf wakes up
in the care of a mechanic who has given him a brand new prosthetic arm. No, it’s not Nico but sort of the same premise
here. This arm not only lets the wolf hold his sword
again but also unlocks a handful of new tools for his fights. New bits can be added to the arm throughout
the story, unlocking new shinobi abilities for the wolf as he seeks to rescue the kidnapped
heir. Ultimately it’s a story of redemption, seeking
out your honor and proving yourself as a capable warrior when just about everything in the
world is trying to kill you and wow are they good at it. The whole story takes place in an alternate
version of late 1500s Sengoku Japan, where the environment and architecture of old Japan
meet the classic fantasy formula of FromSoftware. That’s where a lot of the FromSoftware traditions
end with the story though because Sekiro is a much more linear and generally easily understandable
game. Where Darksouls and Bloodborne could get a
bit ambiguous with its story, leaving you to determine the lore, Sekiro pretty much
tells you up front. It makes the entire narrative easier to follow. Sure the writing isn’t really the star of
Sekiro but as I’m fighting bosses, exploring caves, I know what my objective is and why. There’s still a mix in of environmental
storytelling too for anyone with a wandering eye or a sense curiosity. You get a balance of both. Sekiro Shadows Die Twice feels like a mutation
of everything FromSoftware has established before. The challenge you’ve come to know from FromSoftware
is all here but still slightly different. You’re still exploring a large world that
consist of taking on painful bosses that completely destroy you over and over again. Sculptor’s idols are essentially dark souls
bonfires letting you take a rest and manage your RPG elements. However, a lot of the RPG mechanics have been
simplified for a more approachable experience. You’re no longer worrying about leveling
up, managing armor or anything like that. In Sekiro the katana you start off with is
the same weapon you have throughout the entire game. The XP you earn from defeating enemies isn’t
going towards a leveling system but rather a skill tree that unlocks new attacks for
your katana. It all feels a bit more comprehensible and
ultimately boils down to really focusing on the combat. That’s where a lot of the changes for Sekiro
come into play. Whether I’m fighting an enemy or traversing
ancient Japan, it’s a lot faster feeling. The wolf doesn’t feel like he’s being
weighed by anymore, his quick and nimble. That’s also part in thanks to the wolf’s
amazing prosthetic arm. It may be late 1500s Japan but this thing
feels like it’s from the future. With the press of a button, you can launch
yourself across the map, swing from building to building, you’re basically the Japanese
version of Nero from DMC5. It’s such a 180 from what I’m used to
with FromSoftware games but just as enjoyable. This change in the movement also allows for
some new forms of level design. Areas aren’t just wide but also feature
verticality to them really enticing me to look to every nook and cranny. Rightfully so you’ll be rewarded for exploring,
often stumbling upon a secret item or a hidden boss inside a cave. Going after enemies, you can take on the stealth
approach swinging from building and getting the drop of them. However, you’re still just as able to run
and gun it despite it being a more difficult attempt. Regardless the choice is yours and the tools
needed for it are available to you. Now when in a fight, it sort of feels like
a strategic form of rock paper scissors, only now with swords. You have the classic lock on to an enemy and
deal with attacks as they come at you. Taking on the enemy you get these slight variations
in animation whether is a strike, slash or swipe, different attacks mean different counters. As the player, it’s up to you to learn to
read these moves and react accordingly. Jump for a swipe, parry a strike and guard
a slash. It took a bit for me to get used to but as
I learned to adapt to the animations, I was quickly feeling confident in taking down even
the badest of enemies. That really gives you that sense of satisfaction
you finally take down that boss that’s been eating up your play time. It was challenging but you earned that honor
after defeating them. You’re not only equipped with a katana but
also your crazy awesome prosthetic arm. This thing isn’t just a grapple hook and
traditional hand, it has all sorts of tools for you. As you gather new tools for your arm, your
combat skills will continue to grow. Some of these will let you throw ninja stars
or even fireballs that completely turn the outcome of a battle. It’s not the traditional samurai arsenal
but boy am I happy to have this in Sekiro. Personally, I thought fights in Sekiro were
more challenging than its predecessors but also more forgiving in a sense. As the name of the game suggests, you do die
twice if you choose to at least. You see Sekiro gives you the option to revive
yourself after death, yeah that’s pretty unheard of from this developer. At the bottom left of your screen, you have
these orbs that mark your resurrections, these are the revives you have although you can’t
use them back to back. They’re refilled over time or as you take
down enemies but using them comes with consequences. Essentially using them effects your chance
for unseen aid, a combat buff that happens randomly over time. They can also affect the people around you,
causing NPC in your area to get sicker the more often you revive. It’s with that these revives aren’t necessarily
just get out of free cards. After finishing the about 40-hour campaign
(depending on your skills this can be a good 50 or even 30 you’re a pro), I was met with
a feeling of gratification. It was a damn good challenging campaign that
had me screaming, swearing but equally laughing and smiling with every boss defeated. And I got to do it another time in new game
+ mode, that’s actually where I am now while writing this. It allows for some added replay value with
some hidden bosses to find and some choices in the campaign that I didn’t select the
first time. There’s plenty of content for you to keep
going a full two playthroughs here and hopefully by the end of the first one, you’re much
better skilled for round two. Taking place in an ancient Japan, the vistas
showcased throughout Sekiro are absolutely beautiful. From the traditional Japanese architecture
found throughout every building to the use of colors in the environment, it’s breathtaking. Seeing the blades of grass react as I sneak
through them to get behind an enemy is a great touch. Having the different variations of particle
effects like dust shining against the sunlight and rainfall being soaked up by the wooden
bridges, it all just paints a marvelous picture. It’s like stepping back into the Osaka museum
of housing and living, only way older. Cutscenes also look fantastic! While the in-engine stuff is pretty good,
it’s the pre-rendered cinematic moments that really put the cherry on top some of
these climactic moments in the story. It’s nothing short of a work of art. It’s by no means a flawless picture though. Playing on the base consoles you’ll get
a 1080p picture on the PS4 and Xbox One S with frame rates hovering between 25-30 frames
per second. Performance is a bit more constant on the
base PS4 though. On the enhanced consoles you’ll get a 1800p
upscaled picture on PS4 Pro and a native 1800p on the Xbox One X with frame rates that hover
between 40 to 55 frames per second. Oddly enough the PS4 Pro has a better frame
rate average than the Xbox One X. You can technically force these consoles to
run at 1080p for a better frame rate output but even then I ran into weird issues like
this on the One X where the game literally froze for a second. Yeah, I have no idea what that’s about. I wasn’t able to recreate it but it happened
and so I have to report it. I didn’t get a PC copy to review so while
I wasn’t able to personally test it if you’re aiming for a 1080p 60 experience, PC is definitely
the way to go. It’s apparent that on the console side at
least, Fromsoftware went for a parity release between all the major platforms. Being a game that takes place during a real-time
period heavily influenced a lot of the music for Sekiro. Compositions use a great amount of live recordings
of traditional Japanese instruments such as the shinobu and shamisen. The mixture of classical instruments and ambient
sounds of the environment capture the theme of ancient Japan. Taking place in the Sengoku period, this was
a dark type for the country, one filled with war and conflict in every sight. The wolf isn’t a soldier in shining armor
but a disfigured samurai that’s been withered down over time. The music played throughout Sekiro appropriately
represents those tones with every enemy encounter you face. Sound design is well done, it flows with the
music played in the background masterfully. The chimes of sword crossing and parrying
in combat sync up to the heavy drums. It’s subtle but makes fights in Sekiro feel
much more impactful no matter the size of the enemy you’re facing. Lastly, there’s the voice acting performance
that comes in both Japanese and English. By default the game selects Japanese and so
I took that as the most authentic representation and played in Japanese. For the mild Japanese I know, the performances
were great encompassing the darker tone of the story and the despair these characters
have had to go through. Sekiro is an enchanting showcase of what Fromsoftware
has been doing right for so many years now. Creating a superb fantasy adventure that’ll
have you grinding your teeth as you tell yourself, just one more try at taking down this boss. It has its roots in some of the gameplay formulas
you’ve come to know and love from Bloodborne and Dark Souls, while still feeling like a
completely different game thanks to its fast-paced combat, slightly more forgiving RPG mechanics
and a stunning world to explore. Sure there’s a handful of performance and
visual bugs that could use some work, but in the end, Sekiro is but another example
of why people keep coming back to FromSoftware’s work.

14 thoughts on “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review | (PS4/Xbox One/PC)

  1. Awesome game from From Software the graphics are so beautiful here & since I want to learn more Japanese I would play the voice language in Japanese.

  2. good review Luis! and quite an excellent take on the sengoku era! This game is honestly a breath of fresh air! it scratches that Tenchu and Darksouls itch all in one!

  3. Great review. I was a bit optimistic about this game but I'll probably wait for a price drop so that I don't have to pay $60 for a frustrating experience that'll take me months, years, centuries to beat lol.

  4. I feel like I don't say this enough, but I really like the flow of your reviews. A cold open with a presentation style that doesn't require full visual attention at all times and lets the narration do the bulk of the work while using the gameplay as an aid rather than the other way around, coupled with short jokes interjections being naturally followed by the rest of the information as if it'd never even happened is how I wish almost every video was. Clean, efficient, and very digestible.

    You've come a long way ๐Ÿ‘

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