Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - PS4 Review
Posted on: 2019-04-08
Another infuriatingly difficult game by From Software.
From Software are the video game developers that make me invent new ways of breaking my controller with their insanely difficult games. The last time I reviewed one of their games here on 365Bristol was their gothic horror adventure Bloodborne back in 2015, and I enjoyed it a lot despite the difficulty. Now that I’m older, wiser and a veteran of video games I thought I could conquer this game, but it comprehensively beat me and I can almost hear the director laughing at me as I go through my third PS4 controller. Did that ruin my overall enjoyment? Of course not, as what we have here is an expertly crafted action game, with tight controls and tough but fair difficulty.
Sekiro is about a Shinobi simply named Wolf, as a child he was orphaned and was found in a sea of corpses on the dying embers of a battle. He was taken in by an old Shinobi, where he learns the way of the Shinobi and grows to be a great warrior. It is one moment where he goes on a revenge mission where he is tasked with guarding a royal family member, where he fails and he loses his arm in a fight where it is cut clean off. The story is rather involved for a From Software game, because usually they don’t bother with cinematic scenes and dialogue and let the environments do the talking. However you don’t create your own character in this game, Wolf is an already established character and has his backstory written in stone so it makes sense to have a more elaborate plot.
The gameplay is where it brought me immense tears of joy and anger, but when you get to grips with the hard but fair difficulty you yourself feel like an expertly trained ninja as you sneak through and pierce people’s throats like coke cans. Unlike Dark Souls or Bloodborne, you no longer have a stamina bar, instead you have posture bar. How this works is that every time you swing your sword or deflect a blow it fills, so if it is full you or your enemy will stagger and lose posture where you can deliver a deathblow to your foe. This is great as it keeps you on your toes, as you and the enemy are on equal footing in a fight so you it makes you pay attention to wind up and cooldown times with attacks. This game is very fast, but taking your time and analysing enemy movements is crucial to winning fights because swinging blindly is a good way of losing the top half of your body.
The game does emphasise stealth because you are Shinobi warrior, so taking the silent approach is key. This can be great for clearing out a small handful of normal throwaway enemies, or it can be a strategy for depleting a mini boss’s health bar. Plus the stealth mechanics work really well, I feel like a god sneaking through various sections picking off enemies one by one like after eight mints where I would then retreat to the shadows. It really does feel like a spiritual successor to the Tenchu, with great stealth and backbreaking difficulty.
The only issue that I had with the game stems from most From Software titles, and that is the questionable hit detection. There were moments in this game when I thought I had dodge an enemy attack, where they would then home into my position pick me up and throw me off a cliff like a defiled corpse. It generally happened with boss fights, but it didn’t happen too often to sour my experience.
The presentation is fantastic; From Software has captured the atmosphere of Feudal Japan perfectly. You have the frost-laden mountains at the start of the game with huge bottomless chasms, to beautiful bamboo forests where things lurk to kill you, both human and monsters. It all looks great, with very little performances issues even on my base PlayStation 4.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a game that will test even the most seasoned gamer, it is very hard but it’s not unfair. Yes, there are times where it does feel like you are trying to punch down a brick wall, but it is rewarding when the wall falls and take down each challenge one step at a time. It has tightly design combat, where it is fast and fluid that requires quick reflexes and patience. Once you conquer this game, you feel this immense amount of satisfaction, and it is worth it for that alone.
Sam has lived in Bristol all his life. A keen cyclist he speeds around the city but video games are his bread and butter. Whether the old Nes and Snes games or the XBox One and Playstation releases he loves them all. Sam runs his own gaming blog called Bristolian Gamer where he had been reviewing indie games, doing retro reviews and venting his anger at the industry when it does wrong since 2010. Sam joined the 365Bristol team in December 2014.