"In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice you are the “one-armed wolf”, a disgraced and disfigured warrior rescued from the brink of death. Bound to protect a young lord who is the descendant of an ancient bloodline, you become the target of many vicious enemies, including the dangerous Ashina clan. When the young lord is captured, nothing will stop you on a perilous quest to regain your honor, not even death itself."
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 some of From Software’s overly cryptic sensibilities 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.
Untethered from the expectations that come with a Dark Souls or Bloodborne game, FromSoftware was able to create a game that maintains the studio’s unique identity while allowing them to explore interesting new mechanics and ways of telling the story. Sekiro is challenging, but fair—a game with the goal of allowing the player to grow, rather than the avatar. It blends mechanics and narrative in a way that is too rare in games today, allowing for a deep level of immersion that begs for just one more clash of blades no matter how difficult the encounters get. Seeing each one to its bloody finish is well worth the trials it takes to get there.
Sekiro’s story moves in strange and compelling ways that defy the initial adherence to the trappings of feudal Japan, and allows the player to discover multiple endings and confrontations depending on choices and secrets. It’s a challenging journey through a weird and wondrous world that forces you to learn and master its punishing combat to succeed. However, the sweet thrill of victory keeps you pushing forward despite myriad disheartening deaths. Sekiro is one of the most difficult games I have ever played, but for those seeking adventure, exploration, and a truly realized ninja fantasy, the trek is worth the high demands.
I have to put in a lot of work and effort to meet Sekiro on its own terms, but what might feel ponderous in a lesser game becomes rewarding in one created with this much care. Sekiro meets me with just as much effort and enthusiasm as I’ve put into it. It lets me know I’m capable and skilled, and that I can figure it out.
And then it hands me my ass again.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a truly new expression of the design philosophy that FromSoftware has spent years refining. Shifting gears a bit in the setting, story, and gameplay, the spirit of Dark Souls is still clearly the driving factor here. Fans will eat up every single second of tense combat, lore-rich environments, challenging and puzzle-like boss battles, and stealth-killing enemies from above. But those who aren’t looking to spend hours expertly perfecting their combat skills might find some serious frustration throughout. With less of a boss-battle focus and a better target-lock this would be ninja gaming perfection. Even with that though, it’s pretty damn close.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an incredible blend of story, gameplay and world design. I don't think it trumps Bloodborne, personally, but it may well be the next best game that FromSoftware has created. It definitely has the most experimental aspects and rises above so many of its peers because it dares to punish you for not paying attention. As ever, the elation you find when overcoming a challenge is unparalleled. This is one for the masochists and the hard-headed, but it will welcome any who have the patience to learn it. Sekiro is bloody brilliant.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice manages to live up to its monstrously high expectations in nearly every way. Its high-risk combat system is as satisfying as it is punishing, and its level design begs you to explore every inch of the world. While its locations and enemies aren’t as varied as in previous From Software games, you’ll hardly notice when you’re locking swords with opponents across several beautiful settings. Sekiro tells an intriguing tale about loyalty and mortality packed with surprises and easy-to-miss side stories.